Severna Park's Falcons have ruled state girls soccer since 1988. Now "the vultures are circling," said coach Joyce Stefancik. "This year, they're circling lower and lower."
One of the great runs in state prep history may be nearing its end.
Severna Park has enjoyed a three-year, 47-0-1 streak that includes the last 40 victories in a row, a 229-16 goals-against advantage and three straight state 4A/3A titles.
But the Falcons' fortress seems besieged on all fronts. Stefancik must replace veteran keeper Tami Riley, back Tina Riley and striker Betsy Anderson, the team's leading scorer, to name a few.
Old Mill coach Bruce Sponsler, whose teams won two straight state titles before Severna Park's streak began, sounds a note of caution: "They lose plenty of players; they just never lose any games," he said.
But Sponsler is gearing his talent-laden Patriots, who include flashy sophomore striker Michelle Salmon, for a strong run at Stefancik and company.
Veteran teams at Broadneck (led by midfielder Dawn Frederick), Chesapeake (led by midfielder/striker Becky Thiele) and Meade
(led by striker Amanda Simmons) also figure to contend in Anne Arundel.
Howard County would love to end Anne Arundel's dominance in Class 4A/3A, but perhaps only Centennial has the required firepower.
First-year Centennial coach Rick Pizarro (formerly of Woodlawn) inherits a potent one-two punch in junior strikers Kelly Butler and Vicky Brunt, who combined for 32 goals last year.
This does not mean that Centennial is the best of Howard County, however. At Class 2A Hammond, coach Dave Guetler anticipates "the best team this school has ever had." His nine returning starters include national-class players Samantha Andersch and Jackie Rieschick.
A veteran Perry Hall entry has all of its starters back and shapes up as the class of Baltimore County, although Patapsco (with one of the state's best goalies in Teresa Wrzosek), Franklin (led by strikers Michele Palguta and Stacey Schott), Dulaney (forward Courtney McClelland) are all capable.
C.M. Wright, hit heavily by graduation, hopes to again emerge as the best of Harford County, led by senior keeper Danielle Rivas and senior midfielders Stephanie Burnham and Christie Ream.
The Baltimore Sun Top 10, selected by the staffs of The Sun and The Evening Sun, follows, with last year's records in parentheses.
% 1 Severna Park (16-0)
The Falcons' perch may be shaky, but they are still the team to beat. Nicki Cecere (six goals, five assists), Cathi Hanson (seven goals), Stephanie Roberts and Erin Wylde are proven scorers. A young, but talented midfield/defense features Sally Montgomery, Amy Carnaggio, Carrie Budzinski and Shelley Seivert. Untried senior Alicia Conine must try to replace Tami Riley in goal. However, the Falcons' opponents should be wary: Many of these players were on the lacrosse team that also was considered vulnerable last spring, before Severna Park won its fifth straight state title and seventh in eight years.
2 Hammond (11-3)
Jackie Rieschick, who had 11 goals and five assists despite playing sweeper in nine of 12 games, and striker Samantha Andersch (15 goals, 17 assists) join seven other returning starters, including five sophomores led by midfielder Kacy Williams (six goals). Is coach Dave Guetler sitting on a potential dynasty? He won't go that far: Goalie is something of a question mark and depth is a concern.
3 Centennial (10-3)
High-powered junior strikers Kelly Butler (18 goals) and Vicky Brunt (14 goals) make the Eagles a handful for anybody. But the talent does not end there. Junior midfielder Natalie Rich has the best overall skills on the team, and she can score. Stopper Corina Riismandel leads the backline defense. Becky Joeckel moves from sweeper to goal.
4 St. Mary's (15-3)
The Saints were second-best to John Carroll in each of the last two Catholic League seasons, but that may change. Coach Jerry Tobin has a host of proven players and must only fill a few holes at midfield, where Meg Haslup is waiting to provide stability. Strikers Mo McDonough (24 goals, seven assists) and Randall Goldsborough (nine goals, 10 assists) key a high-powered offense, and sweeper Liz McGonagle leads the defense. St. Mary's received a boost when touted freshman keeper Erin Hon transferred from the Severna Park school district.
5 Old Mill (11-4)
The Patriots are the last team to defeat Severna Park (2-0 in the 1987 region final en route to their second straight state title). Old Mill reached the 1990 4A/3A semifinal, and could go at least that far again as fourth-year players midfielder Amy Tolley, sweeper Jennifer Bostak and striker Teri Lee head a solid nucleus. Sophomores to watch are striker Michelle Salmon (11 goals, two assists) and sweeper Lori Lynch.
6 Broadneck (9-4)