Five-time defending champion Oakland Mills heads a list of five girls high school soccer teams aiming for this year's county title.
The other four teams -- Centennial, Hammond, Howard and Wilde Lake -- will be pulling out all the stops to see that the Scorpions don't make it six straight.
Two other schools -- Mount Hebron and Glenelg-- are coming off banner seasons and return most of their players. They hope to join the county's five elite teams, but the jury is stillout.
FOR THE RECORD - In the Sept. 4 girls soccer preview, the section on the Hammond teamincorrectly described player Jackie Rieschick's health. Rieschick was recovering from mononucleosis and is now back with the team.
TheHoward County Sun regrets the error.
This is a season for new coaches at four of the eight high schools -- Oakland Mills, Centennial, Glenelg and Atholton.
OaklandMills' new coach is no stranger -- Nancy Shea coached the Scorpions'junior varsity.
But Oakland Mills' foes are hoping the loss of Coach Cindy Odell might provide the wedge they need to upset the Scorpions. Odell's teams compiled a 123-29-9 record during her 12-year tenure.
The Scorpions graduated three first-team All-County players and two second-team players, giving more hope to potential Scorpion bashers.
But Oakland Mills returns second-team All-County halfback Danette Lemerise. And former star halfback Jenny Walsh has returned from a year in Hawaii to rejoin the team for her senior season. The Scorpions also have many other talented players back.
Centennial lost its veteran coach, Ray Mayrovitz, who died last winter following a fall outside his home. His replacement, Rick Pizarro, hopes the Eagles can win it all, and with 13 lettermen returning they just might.
Second-team All-County forwards Vicki Brunt and Kelly Butler and second-team All-County fullback Jaime Fountaine are back.
Howard High is also a threat to win the title. The Lions are led by three first-team All-County players -- goalie Krista Fulton, fullback Camille Powell and forward Shannon Bagrosky.
Many people think Hammond High should be favored to win the title. The Bears won a state title two years ago but were upset by Patapsco in the regional final last year.
First-team All-County forward Samantha Andersch and fullback Jackie Rieschick lead the Bears, along with second-team All-County halfback Lauren Choate and fullback Kisha Jett.
Wilde Lake will field one ofits most talented teams ever, led by second-team All-County forward Renita Young.
First-year coach Jane Koren is pushing for a quick turnaround after one of Atholton's worst seasons ever -- the Raiders won just one game.
One of the team's strengths will be its front line, led by junior Alison Valentino and freshman StephanieVan Deusen.
The Raiders also show strength down the middle, with senior sweeper Jennifer Brock, senior center-halfback Vanessa Clack and freshman goalie Sara Buckley.
Senior Heather McDonald, at outside midfield, is also talented.
"We are showing a lot of spirit, energy and desire to learn," Koren said. "We need to win some games andbuild confidence."
Atholton defeated Bel Air and Linganore in scrimmages but lost to Middletown.
The Eagles won 10 games last year but came up short in crucialcontests because of an irritating inability to finish off potential goal-scoring plays.
First-year coach Rick Pizarro hopes to correct that problem and lift the Eagles over rival Oakland Mills.
Centennial has plenty of speed up top with returning forwards Vicki Brunt and Kelly Butler. Butler led the county with 18 goals last year, including five against Mount Hebron, and had three assists. Brunt scored 14 goals and made four assists. Mary Ellen Carullo will also play the striker position this year.
Sophomore Jaime Fountaine proved herself an intense and talented competitor last year when she marked several of the county's top players.
Senior Rebecca Joeckel is the backbone of the Eagles defense, however, along with senior returnees Corina Riismandel and Becky Temple.
Centennial always produces outstanding young players. FreshmanShara Boonshaft hopes to make her mark at midfield. Sophomore forward Allison Bielski shows a great talent for producing crossing passes.
"We have a good sense of team play," Pizarro said. "We talk well and move well."
Centennial's reputation as a soccer power created scheduling problems this year, as teams from other counties were reluctant to play the Eagles. As a result, Centennial was forced to schedule two of its five non-league games against other county teams, Oakland Mills and Howard.
The Gladiators posted their best record ever, 5-6-1, but lost Coach Dean Sherridan to the boys football program, where he's an assistant coach.
Junior varsity coach Neil Gwinn has taken Sherridan's place, and he inherits 11 lettermen, including eight seniors.
Senior forward Alex Sellner is one of the team's best players. So is sophomore midfielder Christina Flowers.
Last year the Gladiators lost to eventual state champion Middletown in the regional playoffs. This year Glenelg beat Middletown, 5-2, in ascrimmage.
If the Gladiators can carry that kind of winning play into the regular season, they could surprise some more established county teams.