What do the public school girls soccer coaches have in common again this season? As usual, each has closely scrutinized the Severna Park program, looking for a chink in the Falcons' time-tested armor.
"You can't stay at the top forever," said Severna Park coach Joyce Stefancik. "Everybody will be trying to knock us off."
Many have tried, and failed. The three-time defending state champions have won 40 straight games and are unbeaten in their last 47 outings.
"What Severna Park does never surprises me," said Old Mill coach Bruce Sponsler. "Every year, you hear about them losing more andmore kids. They lose plenty of kids; they just never lose any games."
Severna Park and Old Mill are among the six teams in the 4A League's Friendship Division, joining Annapolis, Chesapeake, Glen Burnie and Meade. Queen Anne's merged with the six remaining county teams --Arundel, Broadneck, North County, Northeast, Southern and South River -- to form the Bay Division.
Among the local private school teams, Archbishop Spalding and St. Mary's will compete in the Catholic League's A Division, while Severn School joins the B Division. The Saints were A Division co-champions with John Carroll last fall.
The following is a closer look at the county girls soccer teams:
For Severna Park to remain the league's elite team, it again must replace a number of standouts who helped the Falcons outscore opponents, 67-5, last year.
Among the seven players gone are keeper Tami Riley, who posted 11 shutouts last season, and her twin sister, fullback Tina Riley -- the Anne Arundel County Sun's Player of the Year. The offense lost strikers Betsy Anderson and Michelle Cope.
"Wehad a little bit of luck last year getting us through an undefeated season. We'll need some more luck this year," said Stefancik, entering her 13th season.
"We have a lot of key positions to rebuild."
Not that Severna Park should tumble to the lower depths of the division. As Sponsler said, the only losses suffered in the Falcons' program involve personnel.
Among the players returning on offense are seniors Cathi Hanson and Nicki Cecere -- an honorable-mention All-State selection, junior Stephanie Roberts and sophomore Erin Wylde.
Junior Amy Carnaggio will replace Tina Riley, and senior Alicia Conine moves from reserve to starter at goalkeeper. The other keeper is junior Kristen Wilson, a novice in the nets.
The defense should receive a boost from freshman Jessica Hines, who Stefancik said shows "a lot of promise, desire and intensity."
Those traits, and many other positives, describe Sponsler's Old Mill team, which won the Region IIchampionship last season before losing to Oakland Mills, 4-2, in the4A-3A state semifinals.
This year's edition looks even better, despite losing six players.
The Patriots pack a powerful one-two punch in senior Teri Lee (11 goals, eight assists) and sophomore Michelle Salmon (17 goals, three assists).
Lee, forward Amy Tolley and fullback Jennifer Bostak are beginning their fourth seasons on the varsity.
Senior goalie Amy Drapalski is back. She started the first eight games last year before an injury forced her to the sidelines. Jackie Bardelli, then a freshman, closed the season in impressive fashion, giving Sponsler two reliable keepers.
Old Mill is seeking its third state title under Sponsler and first since 1987. The Patriots have won three region championships.
"I know there's going to be some tough competition this year," Sponsler said, "but I feel like we'rein as good a shape as we've been in any year to do well and make it to the postseason, and then do well in the postseason."
Another team accustomed to making the playoffs is Broadneck, which fell to Severna Park, 2-0, in last year's region finals.
The Bruins only lost one starter, midfielder Meredith Huffines, but Coach David Lord was forced to juggle his lineup because of injuries.
Senior Ava Tasker is moving to striker -- where she played as a sophomore -- after being a second-team All-State midfielder last season. Senior April Quigley, a sweeper last year, is playing at the midfield with a sprained ankle. Junior stopper Suzy Goodrich may be moved to another position while nursing a knee injury.
And senior Dawn Frederick, another second-team All-State pick, was switched from defense to midfield halfwaythrough last season. She's coming off knee surgery.
"I only started making some of these changes a short time ago, so it's been like starting practice all over again," Lord said last week.
"I expecteda lot more from them during the first two weeks of practice, but they're not doing the things that have to be done to win a region championship. And we're in such a tough region, with Chesapeake and SevernaPark. To get by those teams, you have to do the little things."
Another big season is needed from senior striker Michelle Meyer, who led the Bruins with 13 goals last season, and senior keeper Holly Mowry.