Aberdeen coach George Connolly knows the Eagles' program isn't as developed as those at other county schools. But he is closing the gap with hard-working and determined players.
Last season, the Eagles' varsity team went from a 1990 record of 3-17 to 6-13 with only two returning starters and no seniors. The junior varsity team in a .500 performance against county foes, finishing 9-8 overall.
Four members from that junior varsity squad move up to varsity this year. Aberdeen will have six seniors on the team.
Seniors Deanna Johnson, a 5-foot-4 point guard, and 5-6 center Siobhan Kelly are two-year starters expected to lead the Eagles.
Connolly hopes to make a little bit of experience go a long way.
"Last year, we gained some respect," he said. "This year, we're going to try to compete."
Roshelle Brown (5-8 forward), Tanika Brown (5-8 guard/forward), Tanisha Moore (5-7 guard) and Ver-Anita Brown (5-8 forward) are juniors moving up from junior varsity.
"They will give us more depth this year," Connolly said.
Shawna Staten, a 5-10 sophomore, and Sarah Loper, a 5-5 senior, are the Eagles' newcomers.
Connolly expects improvement from returning junior forwards Erna Jones and Stephanie Hooks.
The Eagles lack the height possessed by many county opponents, but plan to counter that with speed. "We're going to play pressure man-to-man defense all over the floor," Connolly said. Bel Air coach Phyllis Hemmes knows her team has a challenging season ahead, but the immediate test for the Bobcats will be to make it through December.
The Bobcats play six straight away games this month and do not have a home game until Jan. 5. This month they play a challenging schedule of three Howard County schools (Atholton, Glenelg and Centennial) and Westminster.
"We can't get any better unless we play better competition," Hemmes said.
If the schedule wasn't trying enough, Hemmes said her team has been troubled by illness and injury.
"Trying to get 10 healthy girls together has been a chore," Hemmes said. "We're worried about getting through December."
The Bobcats lost seven players from last year's 5-11 squad. Returning to lead the Bobcats' offense is senior guard Lisa Thomas, who led the team with 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds last season.
"She can go just about anything," Hemmes said. "She still may get 10-12 points even though other teams double-team her."
Adding some height to the lineup are 5-foot-10 junior center Amy Finlayson and 5-10 forward Allison Bloodsworth, a transfer from Pennsylvania.
"The kids feel good now. They know we have a rebuilding process ahead of us," Hemmes said. "I'd like to break .500 this year and beat North Harford, C. Milton Wright and Fallston just once."
C. Milton Wright
C. Milton Wright returns this year with the hopes of defending its Harford County title -- and chances are good for a sequel to last year's success.
The Class 3A, Region II finalists (19-4) lost two starters to graduation but return with the nucleus of their offense with 6-0 center/forward Stacey Milton.
Milton, a senior, was the first person in school history to make the varsity squad as a freshman. In three years, she has accumulated 753 points and 658 rebounds. She could become the first girls player in school history to score 1,000 points.
"She has the height to play inside and a short-range jumper," said Mustangs coach Gloria Leidlich about the 45.7-percent shooter from the field, who averaged 16.3 points and 12.9 rebounds last season.
Joining Milton in the starting lineup is senior point guard Debbie Keiser, whom Leidlich said is able to dictate the tempo on the court and can find the open player easily.
Leidlich will be looking to 5-8 forward Amanda McCulloch to pull down some rebounds and drive the ball to the basket. McCulloch is also a streak shooter when she finds her rhythm, and she and Keiser can hit the three-pointer.
Senior forward Janna Kreps at 5-9 will be expected to help with rebounding, Leidlich said.
"We're bigger than last year and we're hoping what we lost in height we can pick up in speed and quickness," Leidlich said.
"I can promise you one thing: my team will be fighting every game. We'll make teams work hard to get their win."
Edgewood was classified as one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams at the beginning of last season.
Still, the team finished 12-10, a vast improvement over the prior year's 4-18 record.
The Rams undoubtedly gained valuable experience as the season progressed, and with four returning starters, the team's outlook takes on a new dimension.
It should be among the teams most likely to challenge perennial favorites North Harford, C. Milton Wright and Bel Air for the county title.
The four returning starters are seniors Monica Santana and Kareema Holmes and juniors Erika Pleasant and Nicole Wilson.