The moment that set the stage for a competitive race for the county championship was in June at Graduation Day.
With the departures of Severna Park defensive standouts Meg Miller and Kim Lawton, a number of schools are lining up for the right to succeed the Falcons as the reigning titlists.
Annapolis leads the pack. The Panthers, Class 4A-3A East Regional finalists who built a 16-2-1 mark, return three first-team All-Metro seniors in attacker Sarah Oliphant (67 goals, 44 assists); midfielder Kristy Dirks (69, 30); and midfielder Acacia Walker (40, 44).
On defense, coach Dave Gehrdes will lean on junior defender Laura Barnes to make life easier for sophomore goalie Cammie Jukowsky.
Don't count out Severna Park just yet. The defending Class 4A-3A state champion, which finished 18-3 last season under coach Carin Peterson, return seven players who scored at least 15 goals last season, including second-team All-Metro midfielder Nicki Barnes (55, 18), who is bound for North Carolina this fall.
But the key may be the play of junior Carrie Hill and sophomore Brooke Shinaberry, both of whom will try to replace Lawton, a first-team All-Metro goalie now playing for Loyola College.
Goaltending won't be a problem for Broadneck, which enjoyed a 12-4 record courtesy of senior goalie Alice Lerian. Coach Karen Tengwall will rely on junior midfielder Brooke Richards (43, 29), and junior attacker Kate Scott (32, 30) will fill the void left by the graduation of County Player of the Year Rachel Shuck, who plays for Loyola.
Offense is a concern for South River, which graduated 11 seniors from last season's 9-4 squad. Coach Kim McNemar, who moves up from the JV position, can count on the senior defensive pair of Raina Edelstein and Jackie Colacicco to steady the Seahawks for a run.
Another program that could make waves is Southern of Harwood. The Bulldogs, who went 11-6 under coach Linda Kilpatrick after losing to powerhouse Mount Hebron in the Class 3A-2A-1A East Regional final, are paced by last year's leading scorer Kristy Manas, senior attack Holly Sis and junior midfielder Lauren Zang.
After a 10-8 campaign with coach Leann Shuck last season, Arundel boasts a wealth of experience in nine returning starters, including the senior trio of midfielder Denise Casey, defender Andrea Gough and goalie Meg Dentler.
Northeast's strength is its depth and experience in the midfield. Seniors Amy Liembach and Erin McGeeney power a midfield that helped Eagles coach Kathy Lewis compile a 7-8 record last season.
North County (3-9) has a trio of standouts in senior attacker Page Macey (44 goals), senior attacker Audra Groh (30) and junior attack Brooke Nowell (18). The key for coach Brian Bowles will be the development of sophomore goalkeeper Kerry DeSanctis, who had significant playing time last year.
Old Mill also went 3-9 last season, and Patriots first-year coach Vern Hines can depend on junior attacker Kate Worthington, senior attacker Tracey Johnson and senior midfielder Jenny Hines to pave the way.
Glen Burnie won two of 14 games last season, but coach Robin Schmidt returns 12 players - including the senior twosome of attackmen Meghan Kelly and Kelly Nangle, and midfielder Lorie Holland - to pace the Gophers.
Inexperience may plague Meade's first-year coach Carrie Vossburg, who returns only four starters - including senior attackman Diana Shepherd and senior defender Mandy Entwistle - from last season's varsity squad.
Coach Cindy Kelly will have Chesapeake ready to surprise some rivals.
Among the private schools, St. Mary's took the biggest hit from graduation, losing 12 players from last year's 14-4 team. But the return of second-team All-Metro junior midfielder Brooke Dieringer (24, 20) and senior attackman Bryer Davis should help ease Saints coach Erika Bristow's worries about contending for an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title.
Severn, coached by Renie Sotiropoulos, will compete with St. Mary's for the crown. Bound for Princeton, second-team All-Metro attacker Lindsey Biles (75, 19) and Virginia-bound midfielder Ashley Dodson are two of the 11 returning Admirals from last year's 9-8-1 team.
Only two years removed from an IAAM B Conference crown, Archbishop Spalding will ride its solid defense to the top of the standings. James Madison-bound goalie Amy Altig and senior defender Jen Marshall seek to improve on last season's 10-6 mark.
Joining Archbishop Spalding is Francis Scott Key, which moves up after winning the IAAM C Conference title last season at 13-2. Leading scorer and junior attackman Beth Bafford, junior defender Rozzie Pappafotias and senior midfielder Allison Davis are three of 13 returning players for coach Pinky Slingluff.
Annapolis Area Christian returns 12 players from last year's 12-6 squad. If senior goalkeeper Grace Smith (.800 save percentage) and senior defender Liz Morrison can limit opponents to fewer than eight goals a game as they did last year, coach Paul Brophy believes the Eagles can reclaim the Capitol Area Lacrosse League championship they won in 1999.
Players to watch
(Severn, senior, attack)
Has scored 116 goals in two years
(Annapolis, senior, midfield)
Led Panthers last season with a team-high 69 goals and 30 assists
(Annapolis, senior, attack)
Registered a county-high 111 points last season