With the graduation of many leading seniors, and the maturation of many underclassmen, new teams appear ready to compete for division honors in Anne Arundel, Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and Howard County high school soccer.

South River finished last season at 6-6, but with eight returning players, the Seahawks should be one of the top teams in the Anne Arundel ABC League. Northeast should also be a strong contender.

Broadneck won the ABC last year but the Bruins have moved up to Class AA.

South River is led by senior halfback Mark Zettle. A team captain, Zettle is a four-year starter. Also returning are junior fullback Dan Snyder, senior fullback Greg Dean and sophomore striker Kyle Campbell. With this nucleus, Coach Greg Carroll thinks South River has "as strong a team as we've ever had."

Although Northeast was 2-9-1 last season, the Eagles should be exciting this season with 14 returning players including eight returning starters. A concentrated effort to bolster the forward line could dictate Northeast's improvement.

Senior Joey Latham is back, but he has been moved from halfback to striker to beef up the Eagles' scoring. Senior Fred Strauss has also been moved from halfback to striker. Senior Don Strauss is returning at halfback. The defense will be led by senior sweeper Paul Weisgerber, but if the front line comes through, the season the play of senior goalie Tony Pente, who was moved this season from halfback, will be another key.

"I'm pretty optimistic because we have so many players coming back," said Coach Brandt Schanberger. "Last year, we took our lumps, but this year, I expect good things from this team."

Old Mill, Meade and Arundel are the pick of the Anne Arundel AA.

Old Mill finished 11-3 last year, but lost to Arundel in the regional finals. Scoring won't be a problem for the Patriots, but stopping it may be.

"Up front, we're basically the same," said Coach Don Hobbs, who has five starters overall returning. Defensively, however, the Patriots graduated four of their five top defensemen.

Leading the squad are brothers Jimmy and Bill Wojciechowski. Both are strikers. Billy had 13 goals last year and Jimmy had six. Also noteworthy are junior halfback John Leatherbarrow and junior sweeper Rob Jenkins, who was moved this year from halfback.

Arundel, which finished 13-2, lost to Rockville, 4-1, in the state semifinals. The Wildcats graduated their leading scorer, Steve Keppler, and will be led this year by senior forwards John Rose, Neal Kursban and Chris Temple, along with senior goalie Pat True.

The last two seasons, the Wildcats have finished the regular season 11-1. Whether they can duplicate that feat is questionable, but the school should be in contention once again for a county title.

Meade was 9-3 last year, tying for first place with Arundel and Old Mill. This year the Mustangs are led by senior forward Rob Lefler, the school's all-time leading scorer with 26 goals including 16 last season.

In the midfield, the Mustangs are led by junior Rob Garrick, junior Adam Silva and senior Matt Peterson. Darius Taylor, a senior fullback, will carry the defense and is "one of the best I've ever seen," said Coach Bill Valcarenghi.

"This is going to be a tough division this year," Valcarenghi said. "But we feel we're going to win our fair share."

Thomas Stone, Lackey and St. Mary's Ryken are the teams to beat in Southern Maryland.

Lackey finished 11-3 last year, won the region title, but then lost to Woodward, 3-1, in the state Class B quarterfinals. The Chargers graduated seven players, five of them starters.

"We need to get ourselves together," said Coach Dave Anderson. "We're playing as individuals now and not as a team."

Leading the Chargers is senior striker Peter Good, who had a team-high 14 goals last season. "He doesn't get the pretty goals, but he gets the ones that count," said Anderson.

Senior fullback Danny Garringer, who scored nine goals, is back as are senior forward Kevin Rocheleau and senior midfielder Ronald Datcher.

Thomas Stone was 7-5 last season, finishing the season with a 7-0 loss to Kennedy in the regional playoffs. The Cougars return six starters, including second team all-SMAC goalie Chris Webb. Webb, a senior, was first team all-SMAC two years ago, but was sidelined part of last year with a broken ankle. Also back is senior sweeper Kevin Gass, a three-year starter, who, according to Coach Tom Parker, has "played every minute of every game for three years."

Parker also has high expectations for a new player, junior forward Farran Vall, an exchange student from Spain. Junior fullback Matt Spillane, Parker calls "our best man-to-man marker," also returns.

St. Mary's Ryken finished 11-1 last season and won the Southern Maryland County title. A private school, and thereby ineligible for postseason competition, the Knights should again be in contention for the county title.

The Knights graduated seven starters and five reserves from last year's squad. They are led by senior forward Jake Heibel and senior halfback Tony Dubler.

Centennial captured the Howard County championship last year, and with 14 returning lettermen, the Eagles are talented enough to repeat.

Centennial, which didn't give up a regular season goal last season, is led by senior fullback Mike Rotsel. Senior fullback Chris Mills and brothers Jeff and Chris Majewski give this team plenty of experience.

"They are two of the most skilled players in Howard County," said Coach Bill Stara said of Jeff, a senior midfielder, and Chris, a junior forward.

Oakland Mills shared the State Class B championship last year with Woodward and has won the trophy five of the last eight years, but it graduated most of its starters from last year's 14-2 team.

The Scorpions, however, have a lot of depth even though their only returning starters are goalie Brian Boussy, senior forward Dante Washington and junior sweeper Chris Love. Among those moving into the Scorpians starting line-up are senior halfback Marc Ramelmeier, senior halfback DeGeorge and junior halfback Wendel Hanes.

"For an Oakland Mills team, this is a a very young squad," said Coach Don Shea. "We only have five seniors where as our team is usually double digits in seniors, but hopefully, we can jell."

Besides his team's need to rebuild, Shea sees the league as very competitive this fall.

"This year our county is really tough, and whoever gets out of our county and into the region, will win the {Class B state} championship," he said.

Wilde Lake finished second in Howard County at 7-4-1. This year, the Wildecats should improve and live up to Shea's assessment with senior forward Pascal Crosley and junior midfielder Chris Williams the mainstays.

"As we become a little more consistent, it will put us in better stead at the end of the season," said Wilde Lake Coach Reg Hahne. "And we hope to make it to the regional finals this year. For us to make it to the finals would be a refreshing change."