Western coach Breezy Bishop is not one to rest on her laurels. She just hopes her team won't rest on its either.
With two first-team All-Metro selections returning from last season's 27-0 squad, the Doves, ranked No. 3 in the nation by Street & Smith's, appear to be a notch above everyone else in the area.
So Bishop is pleased, right? Wrong.
"I don't know if they're hungry," said Bishop, who has compiled a 261-23 record in 17 seasons at Western. "I don't know if they want to go beyond being a good team to an extraordinary team. The jury is still out."
If the Doves lack desire, it is probably their only weakness. Led by 6-foot-2 senior center Dana Johnson and 6-0 sophomore guard Kisha Ford, Western should beat most teams on talent alone.
Western has spent most of the past two seasons ranked No. 1 in the area -- including all of last season -- and it begins this season in the same spot. No. 4 Walbrook again figures to be the Doves' toughest competition in the City-Wide League. Lake Clifton, with four 6-footers, could surprise.
The rest of the teams in The Sun's top 10 appear vulnerable. No. 2 Mount Hebron -- the defending Class 2A state champion -- and No. 3 St. Mary's each have a loss -- the Vikings were routed, 60-26, by Downington (Pa.) during the past weekend and St. Mary's fell to Cardinal O'Hara from Philadelphia in its opener. No. 5 Seton Keough dropped its opener to Mount Hebron and No. 8 Severna Park was beaten by Largo.
Mount Hebron is favored to win its 11th Howard County League title in 13 seasons under coach Dave Greenberg, with Oakland Mills expected to be its top challenger.
Two-time defending Class 4A state champion Broadneck and two-time defending Catholic League champion Seton Keough have dominated their leagues the past two seasons, but that may change this season.
The Anne Arundel County 4A League figures to be more competitive with No. 7 Old Mill, Severna Park, North County -- the product of the merger between Brooklyn Park and Andover -- and Broadneck all expected to contend for the league title. The first big Anne Arundel county game pits Broadneck against Severna Park today.
St. Mary's has finished second to Seton Keough in the Catholic League the past two seasons, having lost all six meetings with the Gators, including the last two Catholic League tournament finals. But with almost everyone back for the Saints, and Seton Keough having lost three starters, St. Mary's may finally be able to overtake the Gators.
Here's a look at the area's top 10 teams:
1. 1. WESTERN: Three starters return for the Doves: Johnson, Ford and 5-7 senior G Keya Woods. Returning sophomores Erika Dailey (5-2 G) and Kelly Evans (6-1 F-G) also started at times last season. Johnson provides Western with a strong inside game, and Ford and Evans are each inside-outside threats. Bishop has three players up from the junior varsity who are 6-0 or taller, but she said her bench is not as strong as last season's due to inexperience.
1. 2. MOUNT HEBRON: Five players that had significant playing time on last season's 23-1 squad return. Senior G Cescili Drake (5-6) averaged 5.0 steals last season and is the leader of the Vikings' trapping defense. Senior G Christy McCauley (5-6), 5-9 senior F Andrea Day and 5-9 sophomore F Sandra Benson also return. Greenberg said the health of 5-1 sophomore G Erica McCauley (Christy's sister) is crucial to the team's success. She played in only 13 games last season due to a back injury, but has showed no sign of injury thus far. Greenberg has a luxury this season -- 6-0 sophomore F Kris Bryant, Mount Hebron's tallest player ever.
1. 3. ST. MARY'S: The Saints return 6-0 senior F Laura Coakley (19.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg) -- and a lot more. Everyone but Sarah Bannat -- who transferred to Broadneck -- returns from last season's 23-6 team. Among them are 5-9 senior F Heather Greenlee (8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and 5-5 junior G Randall Goldsborough (10.0 ppg). Freshman Bridget Smith (5-5) will start at point guard, and St. Mary's coach Carmine Blades said her outside shooting ability will prevent teams from playing defenses designed to stop Coakley and Goldsborough.
1. 4. WALBROOK: Coach Pete Connally summed up the forecast for Walbrook this season: "If we can get a whole season out of [6-5 junior C] Tabitha Chambers, we'll be in good shape. She changes the whole complexion." Chambers has missed the better part of the last two seasons with ligament damage to her knees, but she has had surgery on both knees and Connally said she has been moving well in practice. The Warriors, 15-5 last season, will have a quick backcourt in sophomores Tina Fauntleroy (5-5) and Lakeisha Dukes (5-6).