How will the new libero position affect matches?

The National Federation of State High School Associations has approved the use of a libero, a defensive specialist who is restricted to perform as a back-row player but may enter the game an unlimited number of times. The libero player, already in use by college and club teams, must be designated as such on the lineup sheet before each game; the player must wear a uniform top that is different from the other members of the team. "A defensive specialist like a libero helps keep the game flowing," said Fauquier Coach Diana Story, whose team will use the position. "And the more defensive plays you make the more opportunity you have to generate offense. So it can bring a lot of continuity to a team."

Can Thomas Johnson break through?

The Patriots have made it to the Maryland state semifinals seven times since 1995, but haven't brought home a championship in that span. Three times Broadneck has knocked them out, including last season. Middle hitters Bethany Springer and Sara Hanlon will play key roles as Coach Jim Dorsch's squad makes another run at the championship.

Will Broadneck bounce back?

The defending 4A state champion opened its season with a pair of losses to out-of-conference powers, Centennial and Huntingtown -- the second by the narrowest of margins, 26-24, to Huntingtown in the fifth game. The losses don't look good on their record, but the experience should prove useful down the line as the Bruins go for a fourth title in five years.