Maryland boys’ lacrosse playoff preview


South River and Severna Park are part of the loaded 4A/3A East region where upsets could abound. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

Anchored by the center of the lacrosse universe — Baltimore — which has pulled nearby counties into the game’s orbit for decades longer than most states have even held lacrosse championships, Maryland’s public school lacrosse is tradition laden and talent rich. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state tournament begins Wednesday and promises two weeks of excitement and intrigue as it whittles its three fields to three 2014 state champions. Here’s what Post readers need to know in order to be on top of all the action.

Maryland 4A/3A

4A/3A South

No. 1 seeds: Bel Air, Poly

Contenders: Bel Air (13-2), Dulaney (11-3)

Derek Altobello (right) and Churchill stumbled late in the season but should still challenge for the 4A/3A West region title. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

Upset potential: Franklin (10-4)

Potential games to watch:

• Franklin at Dulaney, region quarterfinal

• Dulaney at Bel Air, region semifinal

• Catonsville at Old Mill, region semifinal

Breakdown:

Bel Air looks ready to emerge from the 4A/3A South region after falling to Howard — now in the 4A/3A North — in the region final last season. Dulaney may be the Bobcats’ most likely challenger, with Franklin posing a similar threat as a No. 3 seed after a season in which the Indians beat everyone mediocre and pushed better teams to close games. Still, Bel Air is the most likely to emerge from this region, and if they do, they may find themselves in a rematch of last year’s 14-7 region final loss to Howard with a berth in the state title game on the line.

4A/3A North:

No. 1 seeds: Howard, Springbrook

Contenders: Howard (14-0), Westminster (14-0)

Upset potential: Springbrook (10-4)

Potential games to watch:

• Linganore at Westminster, region quarterfinals, Sat. May 10

• Westminster at Howard, region semifinals

Breakdown:

Practically, a team from the 4A/3A North’s top half should emerge from the region, as 2013 state champion Westminster and 2013 state semifinalist Howard could meet in a clash of unbeatens in the North region semifinals. The lower half of the region bracket features all Montgomery County teams, several of which — like Springbrook, Blake, and others — had very strong seasons. Still, those teams didn’t see competition on the level of the teams they’ll encounter from the other half of the 4A/3A North bracket.

Westminster enters the tournament 14-0 through a grueling schedule, while Howard enters with the same record after a less telling regular-season resume. Westminster boasts the championship pedigree, but Howard is among the most experienced squads in the tournament with a defense that has not allowed more than six goals in a game, and only yielded that many twice. If defense and senior leadership truly do win championships, this could be Howard’s year.

4A/3A West

No. 1 seeds: Churchill, Wootton

Contenders: Churchill (11-3), Wootton (14-0)

Upset potential: Quince Orchard (11-3), Walter Johnson (11-3)

Potential games to watch:

• Walter Johnson at Churchill, region semifinal

• Quince Orchard at Wootton, region semifinal

• Churchill at Wootton, region final

Breakdown:

Normally, the 4A/3A West region wouldn’t be talked about as holding a potential state champion. The region is made up entirely of Montgomery County teams, and as relative lacrosse newcomers compared to schools near Baltimore or Annapolis, no Montgomery County team has ever won a Maryland state lacrosse championship.

This year, while the ever-increasing depth of Montgomery County still doesn’t populate the 4A/3A West with many teams ready to pull upsets, the region may just feature the most legitimate state title contender the county has ever fielded. Wootton has been largely untested in Montgomery County, its most trying game a 14-6 stomping of Churchill late in the regular season. Though the Bulldogs are the most likely team to face off with Wootton in the region final, Quince Orchard may have the firepower to trip them up. Either way, this region is the Patriots’ to lose, and the 4A/3A West title isn’t the championship they have their sights on this season.

4A/3A East

No. 1 seeds: South River, Huntingtown

Contenders: Arundel (12-2), South River (12-2), Broadneck (10-4)

Upset potential: Annapolis (10-4), Severna Park (6-8), Huntingtown (11-2)

Potential games to watch:

Chesapeake at Arundel, region quarterfinal

• Annapolis at Broadneck, first round

• Severna Park at Arundel, first round

• All of them.

Breakdown :

If the outcome of the 4A/3A West looks like a foregone conclusion, the 4A/3A East is its polar opposite. Even without the upset potential from Southern Maryland teams in the bottom half of the bracket, the 4A/3A East is wide open, loaded with talent, and sure to provide upsets.

The top half of this bracket is made up entirely of Anne Arundel County teams who provided no clarity whatsoever in their regular season matchups. Arundel beat every county foe besides Broadneck, but narrowly edged South River (by score of 7-6), Annapolis (also 7-6) and Severna Park (10-8). That one-goal loss to Arundel was South River’s only in-county loss this season, though Annapolis and Broadneck pushed them to within three goals. Chesapeake and Severna Park both boast talent and experience against teams in the top half of the East bracket, making it the most grueling path to the state final in the entire boys’ tournament. While SMAC teams like Huntingtown and Leonardtown (11-3) built strong regular-season resumes, the East region champion will almost undoubtedly emerge from among the Anne Arundel County teams.

Maryland 3A/2A

3A/2A South

No. 1 seeds: Centennial, River Hill

Contenders: Centennial (9-4), River Hill (7-7), Glenelg (9-6)

Upset potential: Marriotts Ridge (8-6), Mount Hebron (8-6), Reservoir (8-6)

Potential games to watch:

• Mount Hebron at Marriotts Ridge, first round, Wednesday, 5:30 pm

• Glenelg at Centennial, region semifinal

• Centennial vs. River Hill, region final

Breakdown:

No regular-season resume in the 3A/2A South pile sticks out as the clear-cut favorite to emerge from this all-Howard County region. Centennial has the best record, but fell to the fellow No. 1 seed River Hill 7-6 in late April. River Hill, however, lost five Howard County games this season — including four in a row at one point — and needed overtime to avoid another at the hands of Marriotts Ridge. The Mustangs and their archrival Mount Hebron Vikings join Reservoir in a cast of hopeful and capable 3A/2A South disrupters, and all of them are still chasing Glenelg — perennial power and 2013 state finalist — which may be in a “down season,” but still boasts the best state tournament pedigree of any team in the region.

3A/2A North

No. 1 seeds: City, Patapsco

Contenders: Hereford (12-3), Patapsco (7-4), City (10-4)

Upset potential: Dundalk (6-5)

Potential games to watch :

• Hereford at City, region semifinal

• Dundalk at Patapsco, region semifinal

• Hereford at Patapsco, region final

Breakdown:

Last year’s state champion Hereford is one of the more established and strongest public school programs in the state, and with the 2013 title in tow is an easy favorite in the 3A/2A North. City has compiled a strong resume this season, as has Patapsco, but another Hereford/Howard County matchup in the state semifinal (last year Hereford edged Glenelg for a title game berth), seems likely in the state semifinal on the North/South side of the 3A/2A bracket.

3A/2A West

No. 1 seeds: Middletown, Poolesville

Contenders: Middletown (12-2), Urbana (10-4)

Upset potential: Poolesville (10-3), Rockville (8-4)

Potential games to watch:

• Urbana at Middletown, region semifinal

• Rockville at Poolesville, region semifinal

Breakdown:

The Frederick County-built top half of the 3A/2A West bracket should yield the region’s eventual champion, with Middletown seeming the likeliest contender after a 12-2 season in which it beat every would-be region challenger from Frederick County. While the Knights are untested against the Montgomery County teams in the bottom half of the bracket — like revived and revamped Poolesville, for example — they’ve played and beaten a tougher schedule than any other team in the region, and should have no trouble emerging as its champion.

3A/2A East

No. 1 seeds: Kent Island, Northern (Calvert County)

Contenders: Kent Island (13-1), Northern (12-0)

Upset potential: Stephen Decatur (11-3), Calvert (10-2)

Potential games to watch:

• Stephen Decatur at Kent Island, region semifinal

• Calvert at Northern, region semifinal

• Northern vs. Kent Island, region final

Breakdown:

Kent Island is not only one of the best teams in the 3A/2A bracket — the Buccaneers have proven themselves to be one of the state’s strongest public school squads at any classification this season. With wins over Anne Arundel powers Arundel and Severna Park, a blowout of top Howard County team Centennial, and win over MIAA-A school Severn, the Bucs are a 3A/2A state title favorite and should have no trouble emerging from the 3A/2A East region.

To do that, they’ll need to get by Southern Maryland squad Northern, which hasn’t lost a SMAC game in years, and with whom they’ll match up in one of the most highly anticipated games in 3A/2A of the year if both reach the East final.

Maryland 2A/1A

Most teams in the 2A/1A bracket come from the northern part of the state in areas near or north of Baltimore. The only area team in this bracket is Southern (Anne Arundel), which compiled a 6-8 record against much bigger schools in Anne Arundel County, losing many of those games by one or two goals. Battle-tested, the Bulldogs have upset potential in the 2A/1A South region, and open play Wednesday at 5 p.m. at home against Bluford Drew Jemison Academy.

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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