A year ago, Groveton High School's girls came within one game of the Northern Regional field hockey title. Fairfax High won and eventually finished second in the state tournament.

Most of Groveton's players are back this fall and so are some of Fort Hunt's. But the schools have merged and that makes the new West Potomac team a challenger for the title.

Forward Ann Rosemond, a Junior Olympic team veteran, wing Mary Ebhardt and Katharine Perry, an all-district goalkeeper, lead the Wolverines.

West Potomac's strength is offense.

"The strength is on the forward line," said Coach Carol Horton. "In fact I'm going to convert some (of the offensive players) to defensive players. I do need some depth on defense."

Horton feels the new team will definitely go to the regional tournament.

"If West Potomac can get their act together, they will be a tough team to beat," said Gloria Green, Hayfield High's coach.

Fairfax (15-2), which lost to Kempsville in the state championship final, will be led by leading scorer Katia Lewis (18 goals). She was a first-team all-district and all-region choice last year.

"We're having a rebuilding year," said Fairfax Coach Starr Karl. "Our goal is to get a berth in the (regional) tournament. Our offense is stronger than the defense. Halfbacks and sweepers are young."

Other returning Rebels are all-district goalie Lisa Perlinn and junior link Traci Byers.

Challenging West Potomac in the Gunston District will be Hayfield (7-3), last year's district runner-up, which has only six of last year's 15 players back. The Hawks are young and have not worked together as a group before this season.

Lee High (7-4) is a strong contender in the district. The Lancers have all their starters and most of last year's team back.

Fullback Cynthia Borden will be the nucleus of the Lancers' defense, and Terri Pugh will control the offense.

Amy Symms, Mount Vernon's leading scorer, will lead the Majors, who are young but should be more competitive than last year's 2-8 team.

In the Northern District, W.T. Woodson returns its entire defense and nine of 11 starters. Pam Massey replaces Kathy Daly at the center halfback position. Senior forward June Harrington runs the Cavaliers' offense. Forward Cindy Kunihiro and fullback Michelle Mazzatenta add strength.

West Springfield was first in district standings after nine games last year, but had to forfeit all games because of an ineligible player. This season center halfback Peggie Martin will lead the defense and the Spartans can expect strong scoring from forward Pam Lynch.

District runner-up Lake Braddock (10-5) returns nine of 11 starters. Leading scorer Teri O'Shea (15 goals) will be the key offensive player and sweeper Kristi Nidiffer will aid the goalkeeper on saves.

District champion Robinson (8-5) is led by senior forwards Kathy Pogharian and Kathy Mizer and sweeper Laura Dohner.

The Rams' offense is strong, but the defense includes mostly first-year varsity players.

Fourth-year goalkeeper Marisa Cuadra leads T.C. Williams (8-5). Titans Coach Shawn Noel feels Cuadra, a first-team, all-district pick three times and first-team, all-region once, will be the top goalkeeper in the district.

Helping out will be senior Casey Barnes, a defensive link.

In the Potomac District, Annandale will challenge Fairfax.

Annandale (10-3), which returns five starters, is led by 6-foot-1 goalkeeper Kathy Rayburn and senior forward Janice Fisher. But the Atoms' defense is inexperienced.

Jefferson (7-7) has most of its team returning. Forwards Crystal Johnson and Chrissy and fullback Ulses Elaina White lead the Colonials.

Stuart (2-8) Falls Church and Chantilly (1-9) hope to win half their games.

In the Great Falls District, Langley, McLean and South Lakes are contenders. District champion Langley (12-2) returns nine seniors, including Siobhan McCarthy, Jennifer Ruth, a 5-foot-10 goalkeeper, and wing Patti Bullock.

South Lakes (8-4) is led by Amy Strobel, Kris Merski and Natalie Greco. Strobel, a center halfback will guide the team offensively and defensively.

McLean (9-3), which lost to Fairfax in the semifinals of the region tournament, will have Ellen Hill and Jennifer Wilson back.

Herndon Coach Ruth LeDane expects the Hornets (4-6) to be stronger with goalkeeper Lisa Murray and sweeper Karen Thranhardt.

Karen Goode, Erica Kushan and Kelli Hughes lead Madison, which finished under .500 last season.

In the Commonwealth District, North Stafford (13-2) won the title last season for the second year in a row. The Wolverines return eight starters and should beat the three other schools that play in the district.

Debbie Lucas and Suzie Clapper lead Stafford, which returns eight starters.

Faquier (0-10) broke a 31-game losing streak two weeks ago by defeating Culpeper, 3-0, for the first time in seven years.