Liberty, North Carroll, South Carroll, Westminster enter rebuilding phases Owls have 12 seniors but plenty of inexperience, as do county opponents

March 19, 1997|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

High school sports often run in cycles, and Carroll County girls lacrosse seems to be no different from the rest.

But the interesting thing is that all four teams in the county seem to be at the same point in the cycle this season -- the building/rebuilding mode.

Liberty, North Carroll, South Carroll and Westminster all are trying to move their programs up to a higher level. Each team has talent, but each also has many of the questions inexperience brings.

"I find it runs in cycles for some reason," said Westminster coach Suzanne Peters. "It just seems like certain classes have girls interested in the sport."

Peters' Westminster team had a large number of seniors last year that played a big role in helping it improve from just one win the year before to 5-8.

The Owls lost a lot of seniors from that team, but they have plenty of seniors this season (12). They also have lots of players without experience who will need to step up.

North Carroll is in a similar situation. The Panthers hovered around .500 last year (5-6) with a lot of young players in spots. Coach Denean Koontz has eight seniors this year, but the Panthers still have some questions related to inexperience.

"The past couple of years, it's been all Liberty," said Koontz. "Hopefully, at least we'd like to be competitive with them. I don't think anybody's been within three, four or five goals of them."

Lack of experience could be why some teams may have a better shot at being competitive with Liberty this season.

The Lions (11-4 last year) have won seven straight county titles, but Liberty coach Courtney Vaughn fields the youngest team she's had in a while. Five freshmen, five sophomores, seven juniors and only two seniors will go for Liberty this season.

Vaughn said she knows there'll be some growing pains, but her goal is a strong performance in the playoffs.

"We'll make some youthful mistakes," said Vaughn. "We're not worried about the season. We're worried about the playoffs [because] we're still going to have to beat the best teams in the region to get to the state semifinals."

South Carroll might be the team able to give Liberty its biggest push. The Cavaliers, like everyone else, have several seniors but will need to overcome inexperience in other spots.

Coach Stacy Stem said if her team comes together when the newer players feel comfortable, then they could have a good season.

"I think we'll be very competitive with everyone," said Stem. "I think we'll all be more competitive as a group."

That has been the case for the last several years -- this has been a very balanced county.

Take away Liberty's 11-4 mark last year, and the remaining teams combined for a 17-20 record. Most teams are very close -- and often above .500 -- but since the last few years have been rebuilding ones, that has slipped a bit.

"Out of the four teams in the county, for some reason if you're the last-place team, you're 7-5 or 6-6," said Stem. "I think our league is strong. When I talk to college coaches, I always tell them we're in a competitive league."

The Cavaliers made the state finals four years ago, and Liberty took back-to-back trips in 1994 and 1995. That's when graduation began to hit and since all four teams are now in the same region in Class 3A-4A, only one team can make it out.

But the teams all will be strong. Liberty's prospects look very bright for the next few years, as do South Carroll's. North Carroll and Westminster both have more players coming in ready to learn the sport.

All the coaches say that the recreation program for the sport is blossoming in Carroll County. Stem said her girls coach childrenduring the summer.

"It's a growing sport for women," said Stem. "Look at all of the kids that came out this year for us. We kept 27 on the JV. Kids are starting to play younger."

That interest has reached Francis Scott Key, where the school will field a club-level team this season.

Stacie Stouffer will coach a 21-player squad that is scheduled to play 10 games against Frederick County club teams. The Eagles are set to open the season at home on March 29 versus Linganore.

Stouffer said she hopes to go varsity in a year or two and, like the other coaches, said the sport's popularity is growing.

"Girls are just taking more of an interest," said Stem.

Preseason poll

1. Notre Dame Prep

2. St. Mary's

3. Annapolis

4. Mount Hebron

5. Severna Park

6. St. Paul's

7. Roland Park

8. Dulaney

9. Garrison Forest

10. Broadneck

11. Bryn Mawr

12. Severn

13. North Harford

14. Towson

15. Catonsville

The girls preseason lacrosse poll was picked by The Sun staff.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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