For a change, the Severna Park girls lacrosse team wasn't the prohibitive favorite to win the Class 4A-3A state championship last season.
So much for predictions.
Though their overall winning streak ended at 57 games when Chesapeake posted a 17-16 overtime victory on April 19, the Falcons kept a more important string going -- a fifth straight 4A-3A state title.
Severna Park coach Carin Peterson appreciates how difficult it is tostay ahead of the pack, especially with the growing number of quality programs in the county giving chase.
"Chesapeake, Severna Park, Broadneck and Annapolis -- you pick any of those teams and they couldhave gone to the states last year," she said.
The same appears tobe true this spring. And with the expanded playoff field -- 16 teamswill qualify in the 4A-3A and 2A-1A classifications -- a few other squads can be thrown into the mix, as well.
What follows is a look at the '92 season, which began last week:
If everyone thought Severna Park was young last year, wait until they get alook at the Falcons this spring.
Peterson has just two seniors --midfielder Nicki Cecere and defender Eva Roes -- and the keeper, junior Brandee Snyder, is new to the nets.
"She's the kind you can mold into just about anything," Peterson said of Snyder, who replaces three-year starter Sonya Muhly.
When asked if the influx of youngerplayers concerns her, Peterson said, "It does and it doesn't. They hold their own fate. I'm happy with the talent."
Among the top returnees are attacker Liz Warfield, midfielders Erin Wylde, Nicki Cecere, Stephanie Roberts and Amy Carnaggio, and defender Tracy McGarry.
Broadneck returns its own array of talent, but unlike Severna Park, it also boasts plenty of upperclassmen. The midfield includes one of the county's better players in senior Becca Fink, and the defense sports seniors Michelle Meyer, Liz Piazza, Lisa Pastrana, Dawn Frederickand keepers Paige Bowman and Wendy Baxter.
Frederick is back after sitting out last season with a knee injury.
"There's no one staron our team. We've got some great individual players, but it's the team that makes them so good. We can score all over the place," said first-year coach Leeann Shuck.
Shuck knows about star players, having been one herself. She helped Broadneck to the '87 Class A state title, and was named co-Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year withteammate Laura Elsey, who now serves as one of Shuck's assistants. Both attackers scored 154 points that season to lead the county.
Chesapeake fielded a couple of the county's leading scorers last season, including Diane McBee, who had 74 goals and 17 assists and was named Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year. But she's gone, as is midfielder Julie Smith (51, 11), defender Sherri Malloy and keeper Michele Julian -- all first-team All-County selections who led Chesapeake to a school-record 14 wins and a spot in the 4A-3A finals.
Amongthe returning Cougars is senior Natalie Buritsch (18, seven), who isbeing moved from midfield to attack. The same goes for junior DenisePerrone.
Senior Michele Reese gets the nod in goal, and Coach JimBuchan calls her "perhaps the best athlete we've ever had as a goalie."
The sixth-year coach also said the Cougars should be "strong on the defensive end" with seniors Kara Smith and Cindy Bumgarner and juniors Nicole Merzendorf, Jen Light and Amy Cunningham.
Annapolisappears strong everywhere, with 12 players returning to the varsity.
Among the veterans are senior attackers Cory Harmon (38 goals, 10assists) and Ali Nadich.
"The good thing about our team is that we have a lot of scorers. There's a lot of firepower between Harmon, Nadich, and (sophomore attacker) Cristi Samaras," said third-year coach Sue Chittim.
The Panthers' defense isn't too shabby, either, with senior goalie Carrie Lewis, senior Emily Chones and junior Cory Samaras.
"The three of them together may be the best in the county," Chittim said.
Old Mill is smarting a bit from the loss of prolificscorer Alison Zaetz, but all is not lost.
Zaetz netted 185 goals in four varsity seasons, including 58 last spring, but she wasn't theonly threat. The Patriots return sophomore attacker Michelle Salmon (52 goals) and senior midfielder Suzanne Martin (10), and with seniorErin Kennedy (188 saves) back in goal, coach Bruce Sponsler is understandably upbeat.
"We've got varsity experience right down the middle of the field, which is what you need," he said. "Some other teamsmight be stronger, but we're not weak."
Sponsler is equally happyabout the 58-player turnout -- "enough for three full teams," he said. "The interest is there."
There's plenty of interest at North County, but the talent level has dropped considerably and second-year coach Tom Taylor must rebuild.
He lost 10 starters, including first-team All-County attacker Stephanie Meyer (70 goals, 21 assists). "We're basically an all-new team, starting all over," he said.