Greg Murrell's North Harford girls lacrosse team got off to a strong start this season, beating two ranked opponents in the Anne Arundel Community College tournament last weekend.
The sixth-ranked Hawks pulled out victories over No. 9 Severna Park (7-6) and No. 12 Annapolis (9-7) in the round-robin competition in which each school played two other opponents and no champion was declared. Murrell said the Hawks played competitively in the tournament last year but didn't win both games.
This year, they wanted a sweep.
"Our goal was to win both games simply because our schedule is so difficult," Murrell said. "We didn't want to have two losses."
The schedule doesn't get any easier this week, with North Harford facing No. 13 C. Milton Wright on Friday. The Hawks played the Mustangs tough the past two years, falling 9-7 last year and losing in double overtime in 2003. Murrell is hoping to get over the hump this year against the defending state champions.
"We've been right there with them," Murrell said.
But everything went right in the Anne Arundel tournament. Good transition play and tough defense helped North Harford stay in both games and then rally for wins. The Hawks trailed, 4-3, at halftime in each game, but they controlled play in the second half each time.
Cory Donohoe, Kim Griffin and Katy Lawrence sparked the North Harford offense. Donohoe scored four goals against Annapolis, and Griffin got three in the Severna Park game. Lawrence had three goals and four assists in the two games.
Johanna Gibson helped the Hawks with tough defense in both games. She created the turning point against Annapolis. Gibson broke up a free-position shot and then started a fast break that led to a goal and an 8-6 lead.
Murrell's team has strength at both ends of the field. The Hawks have seven seniors headed to Division I teams next year, and Murrell said they're hoping to make this season a special one.
The biggest problem could be the postseason regional alignments. North Harford has lost to longtime powerhouse and defending state champion Mount Hebron in the region finals each of the past two years - and the top-ranked Howard County school remains in the Hawks' region this spring.
But Murrell is hoping that this senior-laden team can pull off something special this year.
"It's just a real focused group," Murrell said. "They do bring a lot of experience in big games."
The Joppatowne football team has made a number of changes in its schedule for next year.
Coach Bill Waibel said that the Mariners have added four different teams to their 2005 schedule and will be playing only teams that are in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.
The Mariners have added Havre de Grace, Harford Tech, Perryville and North East of Cecil County. Joppatowne beat Perryville in the first round of the 2004 state playoffs, where the Mariners made it to the Class 1A state final before losing to Dunbar and didn't meet Havre de Grace last year.
Joppatowne loses county rivals Aberdeen and John Carroll from its schedule. Waibel said the new schedule will be interesting, especially because the Mariners are playing only UCBAC rivals, but he's sorry to lose a chance to go against a tough private school like John Carroll.
"I think it's a good schedule for us," Waibel said. "But we'll miss John Carroll. We've played them for several years."
In addition, the Mariners will be moving to Class 2A next fall.
The C.M. Wright baseball team didn't play well in its opener last week, drawing a strong team and making costly mistakes.
The Mustangs dropped an 11-0 decision to No. 8 Eastern Tech, wasting a good pitching performance from top starter Mike Roberts and making a number of errors that helped the Mavericks pull away late.
Roberts allowed only two runs and three hits through five innings, holding a tough Eastern Tech lineup in check.
"Roberts threw well," said C.M. Wright coach Bryan Linz. "He struggled a little bit with his control, but they didn't hit him too hard."
But several errors helped Eastern Tech break out and score nine runs in the final two innings. Linz was hoping to play in his school's tournament last weekend, but that was up in the air because of bad weather and poor field conditions.
Eastern Tech apparently had made the Class 2A state finals last year, but had to forfeit its state semifinal win over Liberty because of a rules violation.
The Mustangs' tough early season schedule doesn't get any easier this week. They play Rising Sun tomorrow before facing No. 10 North Harford on Tuesday and No. 14 Fallston on Friday.