As much as he believes his team's mental maturity should help this season, Winters Mill coach Sal Picataggi knows it's the physical maturity of his boys lacrosse team that will make the biggest difference.
In just its second season at the varsity level, Winters Mill (7-9 last season) will field its first senior class. And although the presence of five seniors alone may not be enough to turn this team into a state contender, Picataggi said the size difference in his players could help the Falcons at least turn the corner.
"We're bigger, we're stronger, we're faster than last year," said Picataggi. "Physically, when you look at our team now, we match up with other teams."
As an example, Winters Mill started a pair of freshman midfielders last year in Nick Leech and Garrett Hill. Although solid skill-wise, the pair had little chance to shine against opposing players who dwarfed them physically, as was the case when the team played Liberty.
"Big, physical midfielders they had," Picataggi said. "Even though we were playing good position defense, they still could run over us. These kids aren't going to get run over this year."
Attackman Jake Larrimore, who was third in the county in scoring with 38 goals and 19 assists, is one of the Falcons' few seniors, and goalie Travis Love returns after starting as a freshman.
Liberty swept the county championships in tennis last year, but coach Bruce Damasio's squad lost a number of key players. However, Damasio is not that concerned because the Lions have plenty of talent returning.
"We'll be there, and we'll be fine," Damasio said. "We have some depth."
They lost county boys Player of the Year David Jackson to graduation - he's now at UMBC. Jackson was 22-4 overall, captured the county title and took second in the region.
The Lions also lost JoJo Schmarje, an exchange student who backed up Jackson at No. 2 singles and went 18-0 before teaming with Amanda DuBay to claim the county's mixed doubles crown.
For the boys, Damasio said they've got talent in doubles and at the top. Seniors Craig Benedict and Chris Brown should fight for Jackson's spot as the Lions again will rely on strong play at No. 1 singles.
Jackson's sister, Debbie, was the county girls Player of the Year and returns for her junior season. Jackson was 20-3 last spring and won the county tournament. She's competing with freshman Brittany Bolster for the No. 1 spot.
Falcons keep faith
Winters Mill's agonizing 58-57 loss to Potomac in the Class 2A state girls basketball semifinals might have been tough to swallow, but it did little to quell the Falcons' ambitions.
In fact, controlling most of the game against the defending state champions before losing it at the end only served to inflame players' desires for a return trip to the state tournament.
"It makes us want to come back next year and do even better," said point guard Allie Drechsler. "We know what it's like now, and we know how it is to play at UMBC [in the state tournament]. We just want to come back even harder."
The Falcons (20-6) should have an excellent chance to do just that.
The team's starting lineup is made up of underclassmen, including top scorers Sierra Saunders, Caitlin Byrne and Drechsler, who each averaged double figures. Jordan Neville, a 5-foot-9 guard who came on strong in the semifinals to score 11 points, is a freshman.
The team will graduate just three of 11 players. "Hopefully, a taste of [playoff success] will help prepare them for the future," said coach Bernie Koontz.
North Carroll senior Tim Wunderlich's versatility in track and field garnered national attention last weekend.
Wunderlich, the reigning county Performer of the Year in indoor and outdoor track during the 2003-04 school year, placed second in the pentathlon.
Wunderlich accumulated 3,666 points by finishing second in the high jump (6 feet, 2.25 inches), third in the shot put (51 feet), seventh in the long jump (20 feet, 5.75 inches) and eighth in both the 60-meter hurdles (8.64 seconds) and 1,000-meter run (2:59.26).
The winner, Daniel Kinsey of Wellsville, Ohio, compiled 3,736 points by placing third in the high jump (6 feet, 1.25 inches), second in the shot put (51 feet, 4.25 inches), fifth in the long jump (21 feet, 3.25 inches), fourth in the hurdles (8.47 seconds) and ninth in the 1,000 (2:59.67).
On the girls side, Century junior Dana Reeser was 21st in the shot put with a throw of 37 feet, 5.75 inches.