Lacrosse is gradually gaining a foothold at area high schools as interest spreads from Baltimore and Annapolis. Anne Arundel and Howard counties have strong teams although Montgomery and Prince George's don't yet have programs and only two Northern Virginia schools play the sport. INDEPENDENTS

Episcopal and Landon are the frontrunners. Episcopal (11-1 last year) returns a good nucleus but has only 20 players. Will Barber, Archer Greea and Mike McGee form a potent midfield and Jack Schutte leads the defense.

Landon coach Rob Bordley fields a junior-dominated squad, 7-6 last season.Skip Henderson scored 37 points as a sophomore and returns at attack. Junior goalie Tiger Joyce drew the attention of college scouts as a sophmore.

W. T. Woodson and Lake Braddock are the first Virginia public schools to pick up the sport. Woodson (7-6) has never had a losing season in four years but returns only a half-dozen players. Lake Braddock (3-6) is in its second varsity season with a roster of veterans.

St. Albans (3-8) expects to be strong at midfield and defense but questionable at attack and goalie, where they lost four-year starter Bob Simmons. Sidwell Friends starts varsity play this season with a good offense but questionable defense. HOWARD COUNTY

Howard and Mount Hebron traditionally dominate the league, but each graduated 17 seniors. Howard (11-2, county and district champ) will rebuild with talent up from the county junior varsity champs. Seniors Tom Cavanaugh and Mike Litchfield anchor the defense and junior Chuck Diehlman should be the top scorer.

Mount Hebron (10-2) will rely on a strong defense as senior Glen Hale and junior Rick Kramer will share goal. Senior Dale Bruce keys the attack and junior Stuart Adamson is tops in the midfield.

Wilde Lake and Glenelg could challenge the top two. Wilde Lake (9-3) lost only four players and should improve around highly regarded senior attackman Tom Garland, who had 30 goals and 17 assists last year. Glenelg (3-8) returns 15 lettermen who remember four one-goal losses. Coach Mike Williams has his best midfield ever and two second-team all-county performers, attackman Mark Cheyne and goalie Steve Murray. Cliff Harris, all-county as a defensemen, moves to midfield.

Atholton and Oakland Mills will both field competitive squads, but are not expected to finish the season on top. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

For the last two years Severna Park has been rated the most talented squad in the league but Annapolis has walked off with the title and a trip to the regional finals, winning two years ago and losing to Dulaney of Baltimore last year.

Annapolis (10-3) expects to be even stronger this year with several veterans returning. Sidney Abernathy was an all-county performer last year with 45 goals. Craig Tucker is an all-county midfielder and Maryland Scholar-Athelete Jeff Styron leads the defense.

Severna Park (11-1) once again is deep in talent. Coach Mike Heck says his backline of defensemen Haywood Miller, Dennis Yeatman and Mike Haushalter and goalie Steve Grace is possibly the best in the state.

Andover and Arundel probably will have to be content to fight it out for third place. Andover (7-7) returns 5 seniors and expects to score much, led by 33-point man Steve Zablotney.

Glen Burnie (3-7) has a veteran squad that should score a lot of points. Northeast (4-8) lost four games by a total of five goals last year but also lost a lot of students to new Chesapeake High. Goalie Jay Gavin was second-team All-County last season.

Brooklyn Park and Southern are likely candidates for the second division. Old Mill will field its first varsity team and new schools Fort Meade and Chesapeake will try to get programs off the ground, although Chesapeake will play only a junior varsity schedule.