An early indication of how the girls lacrosse season will go will come when the Seton Keough Shootout showcases a mixed bag of high school powers on Saturday.
Playing in the inaugural round-robin scrimmage will be Severna Park, Broadneck, Centennial, Mount Hebron, St. Mary's and the host Gators.
One question is whether Severna Park, the defending state 4A champion, can weather the loss of all four of its first-team All-Metro players. Should the Falcons stumble, Broadneck may make a move in Anne Arundel County.
Mount Hebron could be the rising power in Howard County now that 4A semifinalist Centennial has graduated much of its talent. Defending state 1A-2A champion Loch Raven returns Christy Dial, The Sun's 1990 Player of the Year, and appears to be the solid pick in Baltimore County -- although Perry Hall and standout sophomore Kerry Johnson could surprise.
The Association of Independent Schools shapes up as a four-way battle between Notre Dame, Bryn Mawr, Severn and Seton-Keough, with Roland Park and Maryvale as outside threats.
Joppatowne in Harford County and Liberty in Carroll also can expect strong seasons.
1. SEVERNA PARK: Winners of 50 straight games since 1987, the six-time state champion Falcons may be vulnerable. "You're beatable every time you step on the field," said second-year head coach Carin Peterson.
Perhaps more so this year. The Falcons, who have won four straight state titles, lost first-team All-Metro players Betsy Elder (Maryland), Erika Mawhorr and Gina Roberts (both Loyola) to graduation. They lost the fourth, senior midfielder Tami Riley, to a probable season-ending knee injury last week.
Severna Park does return a second-team All-Metro choice in Tami Riley's twin, Tina. The versatile senior could play at all field positions. And, "Although this is a very young team, we do have key people in key positions," Peterson said.
Among them are third-year G Sonya Muhly, A Hillary Kuker and D Tonya Simmon, all seniors. Newcomers who must make an impact include sophomores Amy Carnaggio and Lizzie Warfield and freshman Erin Wylde.
2. LOCH RAVEN: Last year, high-scoring Christy Dial moved back to bolster an inexperienced defense. The move paid off as the Raiders swept undefeated (12-0) to the state 1A-2A championship and Dial claimed The Sun's Player of the Year honors.
Now, with the attack needing stability, Dial (29 goals, 17 assists) will return to her regular position. She will be joined by sophomore Michelle DeJuliis, who scored seven goals in the state championship 14-10 victory over Southern-Anne Arundel.
Loch Raven also has a talented center in junior Suzanne Waire. Senior defenders Missy Compton, Heather Bailey and Kim Coleman all matured under fire last year.
3. NOTRE DAME: The Pirates (10-2, 8-1) have lost All-Metro players Megan Boyle and Laura Whalen, but return enough talent to challenge for the Association of Independent Schools title.
Tenth-year coach Mary Bartel lists the team's strengths as "some midfield speed [junior Sharon Langhoff], one or two pretty good shooters [senior Maddie Preis] and a pretty good defense [senior Laura Klaes, senior G Meg Cortezi]."
"We graduated some kids, so it may take one or two games to get going," Bartel said. "But I like to think that everybody in the AIS is in some mode of rebuilding. We should be close to the division top."
4. BRYN MAWR: The Martians lost only one starter, a position "that was easily filled," said coach Pat Becker.
"We have a very balanced attack and defense, with a lot of speed and depth -- more depth than any team I've ever had," said Becker (fifth year, 37-15-2).
Bryn Mawr's 22 players include 12 seniors. Goalie Kristen Prettyman "is the best in the city," Becker said, and senior defense wings Trixie Sabundayo and Krista Parris have plenty of speed and ability.
At center, the Martians will alternate Alexandra Stuehler, a 6-1 senior with a powerful shot, and speedy junior Antre Gibbs.
5. ST. MARY'S: If their host of juniors matures quickly, the Saints (12-7) could fare well against an imposing independent schedule.
"We're going to need game experience, but I would like to be undefeated. A winning record is more than a reasonable expectation," said third-year coach Tina Lewnes (20-10), whose schedule includes five Anne Arundel County 4A schools and Southern-AA, Mount Hebron, John Carroll and Severn.
St. Mary's does have senior experience in attack Mandy Lewis (30-4), midfielder Stefanie Shummer (30-8), defender Dara McNew and goalie Amy Pardo. Junior attack Randall Goldsborough netted 19 goals and nine assists last year.
6. BROADNECK: The Bruins lost first-team All-Metro standout Betsy Given ( 52-22) from last year's state 3A-4A runners-up, but return All-County players A Becca Fink, A Devere Keen, D Michele Meyer and D Krissy Borradaile.
Sophomores Megan McEwan, Karen Chesley and Cheryl Karnes and second-year senior D Laura Gerrior have all looked capable in drills.