Some teams become synonymous with excellence in a given sport. Mention Elizabeth Seton and local girls soccer afficionados immediately recognize it as the area standard for success.
Seton finished 11-2-1 last season, its worst record in the team's six-year history. Until Holy Cross upended the Roadrunners last October, 2-1, they had never lost a game.
"We were going after our 60th straight victory, but we lost to Holy Cross and then to Wilde Lake," said Coach Maureen Lonergan. "I guess we'll just have to begin a new streak this season."
The addition of two Northern Virginia schools (O'Connell and St. Mary's) makes the Catholic League an eight-team conference. More importantly, these two schools will add much-needed balance.
Despite the presence of the highly-touted newcomers and fast-improving Holy Cross, Seton remains the team to beat.
A beneficiary of top-notch Bowie youth soccer feeder programs, the Roadrunners may not be as physically tough on defense as last season, but should make up any loss in muscle with increased speed and versatility.
"We'll have 16 returning players including seven seniors, but we'll have to see where they'll play and how the pieces best fit. A lot will depend on the new kids and how the others have worked on their game over the summer," said Lonergan.
Other coaches would gladly exchange their problems for Seton's dilemma regarding positioning. Kerry Breslin (fullback/halfback), Erin Colgan (fullback), Kristin Ickrath (halfback), Mary Jacobs (fullback), Bridget McGowan (fullback), Jill McLaughlin (utility) and goalies Debbie Belus and Michelle Springer are established select players, many of whom have played together for years.
This will be a rebuilding year for Holy Cross (7-2), but this campaign might lay the foundation for the best teams in the school's history. The good news is that Coach Sandy Young has four freshmen who played on the Maryland state select team; the bad news is that the seasoning process could be painful as those talented freshmen and other undeclassmen learn the high school ropes.
Senior Kristian Finn, Cindy Herkle and Dana Harveywill provide the necessary stability, but the play of underclassmen Sharon Fegan, Lisa Marcinko, Ann Jacusczak and freshman Katie Torpey will be pivotal to the Tartans' title hopes.
Pallotti (6-5) could contend for the title but must overcome injuries that have sidelined three potential starters.
Midfielder Donna Curry is a three-year all-league selection, who along with fullback Mary Margaret Landi and goalie Donna Payne should make defense their team's strong suit. Coach Bob McDonald has six good strikers, but senior Jennie Fleming and two freshmen Suzanne Campbell and Mary Lou Dovel will start.
Regina (0-10) should be better as Coach Dick Goetzinger regroups around talented returness like four-year starter Loretta Capitello (halfback), Julie Schell (outside wing), Katherine Lamon (outside wing), Anne Dempsey (center forward), and Kelly Ballenger (halfback). If the Raccoons can find more underclassmen help like freshman goalie Joanne Best, they will quickly improve.
Sue Dredger resigned as LaReine's (4-6) coach earlier this summer, and the Royals have not found a replacement despite a stong nucleus led by four-year captain Paula Steinhilber at wing and last year's most valuable player Mary Kay Eskew, at centerhalfback.
Holy Names (6-5), likewise, returns a promising group of experienced performers in CIndy Deffinbaugh (forward), Liz Doyle (wing), Susie Steffes (goalie), and Lourdes Ramos (center halfback).
St. Mary's (5-5) is making the switch from spring to fall soccer and is playing a tougher schedule, but coach Dick Hyde hopes to have a .500 record. TO be successful, he'll need good seasons from Marisa Demeo (midfielder), Cati O'Keefe (striker), Margaret Froelich (fullback), Marialyce Tobin (sweeper), and Mary Beiro (forward).
At O'Connell, Peggy Kirk replaces Rob Lee as coach. Kirk inherits a verteran squad that includes Michelle Kammerer, Dawn Boyce, Katie Murphy, Diane Cobert, Kim Marginot, Kerry Albrittain, Lisa Leasco, Trish Gocha, Monica McTeague and Kristian Streb.
The switch to fall soccer ccould cost O'Connell several players who might prefer to pl;ay other spoprts or select soccer, but Kirk should be able to maneuver the Knights for a championship run at Seton.