1. St. Frances
Coach: Jerome Shelton
Last season: 24-4, No. 1
Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion
Outlook: The Panthers are going for a fourth straight championship, and Shelton certainly has enough talent to make things interesting. Angel Reese, who is one of the top wings in the country, returns for her junior year, and even though the Panthers lost fellow All-Metro pick Nia Clouden, they’ve gotten new players and will be tough once more. If Reese keeps improving, and the team comes together, St. Frances will be tough to beat.
2. Roland Park
Coach: Dani Steinbach
Last season: 21-7, No. 3
Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist
Outlook: Steinbach, a former Roland Park player who has been an assistant under longtime coach Scott Buckley the past seven years, takes over. She will have a very strong squad, topped by All-Metro pick Mir McLean, and the Reds bring back five starters. They’ll have three seniors and two juniors for Steinbach and will be a force in the A Conference this year.
Coach: Brad Rees
Last season: 23-6, No. 2
Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist
Outlook: Rees and the Eagles already suffered a big loss with Jessica Booth (ACL) out for the season. But McDonogh should be in the hunt again thanks to players such as Aleah Nelson and others. The Eagles have lost to St. Frances in the conference title game three years in a row and certainly want to stop that streak.
No. 4 Long Reach
Coach: Kelli Cofield
Last season: 21-3, No. 5
Postseason: Class 3A state finalist
Outlook: Four starters and most of the team return this season, including Lyric Swann, who helped lead the way last season. In fact, Long Reach will have eight seniors and a few transfers this season. The Lightning should be one of the area’s top teams again.
No. 5 Institute of Notre Dame
Coach: Rob DuBose
Last season: 21-7, No. 10
Post-season: IAAM B Conference champion
Outlook: IND moves up to the A Conference this season after winning the B Conference last year and should be competitive. DuBose’s team will be led by Eniya Russell, a multi-talented point guard who’s drawing plenty of college interest. IND lost five seniors from last year but DuBose still has plenty of talent to complement Russell.
No. 6 Poly
Coach: Kendall Peace-Able
Last season: 21-6, No. 7
Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist
Outlook: The Engineers will bring back all five starters, and the team should learn from a tough early season nonconference schedule. Dasia Townes will anchor a strong backcourt and this team will be motivated after a tough loss to Long Reach in the Class 3A state semifinal last season.
No. 7 Howard
Coach: Scott Robinson
Last season: 22-2, No. 5
Postseason: Class 4A North Section I semifinalist
Outlook: The Lions will be younger this year with no seniors and just one starter returning. Still, they should improve and come together as the season goes on. Marisa Sanchez-Henry, a junior guard, should lead the way as Howard tries to put everything together.
No. 8 Catonsville
Coach: Mike Mohler
Last season: 23-4, No. 4
Postseason: Lost in Class 4A state championship
Outlook: Mohler knows that the Comets must make up for the loss of all-everything star Jasmine Dickey to graduation. But they won the state crown two years ago and still have plenty of talent left, like guards Gabby Douglas (four-year starter) and Aysia Ferguson and two St. Vincent Pallotti transfers.
No. 9 John Carroll
Coach: Eric Wakefield
Last season: 16-8, No. 8
Postseason: IAAM A Conference second round
Outlook: Wakefield takes over after two years as the assistant coach. Jordan Wakefield is the top returning scorer (15 points per game) and she will be busy. The Patriots want to play with pace and space and keep things busy on offense this season and hopefully go farther in the IAAM playoffs.
No. 10 Western
Coach: Tasha Townsend
Last season: 18-5, No. 9
Postseason: Class 4A North Section I second round
Outlook: Townsend gets two starters back — Vashae Rideout and Destiny Hawkins — and even though the Doves lost six players to graduation, they’ll have lots of talent this season. Townsend is hoping that some good incoming freshmen will help them. The younger players could give them a boost.
No. 11 South River
Coach: Mike Zivic
Last season: 21-4, No. 12
Postseason: Class 4A East Section II finalist
Outlook: The Seahawks should pack some punch this season. Their top three scorers will return, starting with Ashlynn Burrows (16 points per game), and transfer Julia Fitzwater should help. Harley Herndon will also lend a hand as South River will have both offensive talent and experience.
No. 12 Mount de Sales
Coach: Trish Armstrong
Last season: 19-8, No. 13
Postseason: IAAM B Conference finalist
Outlook: They Sailors face another difficult schedule early on, but most good teams deal with that. Four starters will be back, led by Kristen Zaranski, and Mount de Sales should have some good depth this season, which is going to help later in the season.
No. 13 Severna Park
Coach: Kristofer Dean
Last season: 17-9, not ranked
Postseason: Class 4A East Region finalist
Outlook: Last year, they were young, but this year the Falcons have more experience. Dean lost just two seniors and brings back three starters. Guards Rachel Ward and Rachel Spilker will help lead the way, and Severna Park should be even tougher.
No. 14 Pikesville
Coach: Michael Dukes
Last season: 22-3, No. 12
Postseason: Class 1A state semifinalist
Outlook: The Panthers return four starters from last year’s Class 1A state semifinalists, including top scorer Charia Roberts and Teylah Saunders. Pikesville likes to play a fast-paced style, and Dukes said the Panthers will do so again. He also set up a tough early season schedule to help test his team.
No. 15 Coppin Academy
Coach: Ulysses Hardy
Last season: 23-4, not ranked
Postseason: Class 1A state semifinalist
Outlook: Coppin brings back some key players from the team that made it to the state semifinals last year. Kayla Henderson, Nyshea Weaver and Tanae Galloway can help the team score plenty of points, as each averaged in double figures last year. All three are underclassmen, so this team will keep getting better.
Other teams considered: Annapolis Area Christian, City, Manchester Valley, Old Mill, Reservoir, Westminster