The Bethesda-Chevy Chase team after it won last year’s Maryland 4A title. (Courtesy photo/Guillermo Melendez)

When Bethesda-Chevy Chase lifted the Maryland 4A championship trophy last November, it was hard to imagine any downside to the Barons’ title win. The team had just completed a miraculous run through the postseason, not allowing a single goal in six playoff games. When you’re living in such a joyous present, it’s hard to think about the future.

But the future is here now, and the downside of winning a championship is this: Everyone wants to beat you the following season.

“I don’t think we’ll have a little target on our backs, I think we’ll have a phenomenally huge target on our backs,” Barons Coach Guillermo Melendez said.

It’s especially true for B-CC, as the team’s run to the title game went through some of Maryland’s best teams. Whitman, Churchill, Gaithersburg and Sherwood all had impressive seasons that were ended by B-CC. Now, they have to contend with at least two of those teams again, as Churchill and Whitman are a part of the highly competitive Maryland 4A West.

“The issue is that the 4A West is loaded,” he said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult, as it is every year.”

In the eight years since Melendez took over at B-CC, five teams from the 4A West have won a state title.

B-CC has a rigorous conference schedule with five returning starters. The team lost three players to an academy this offseason, a constant and frustrating threat to any talented high school program.

“It’s next man up,” Melendez said.

The Barons come in at No. 5 in the season’s first rankings.

Note: Records are from last season.

1. Whitman (Last season’s record: 12-2-2) Last ranked: 9

Longtime Vikings Coach Dave Greene has a lot to be excited about this fall: Not only does his team return seven starters from last year but it also began the campaign with a 4-2 win over DeMatha.

2. Gonzaga (17-6-3) LR: 4

The defending WCAC and DCSAA champions are returning junior midfielder Ryan Elie who scored the lone goal in the Eagles’ 1-0 win over Severna Park last week.

3. Landon (15-2-2) LR: 2

The Bears’ first priority this season will be replacing the safety net provided last year by defender Nico Kenary and goalkeeper Alex Freed, both All-Met selections.

4. Churchill (13-3) LR: NR

Forward Aria Ahadpour and midfielder Brian Murphy will play big roles for a team looking to move beyond last year’s sectional finals exit.

5. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (14-3-3) LR: 1

Captains Nathan Messer at forward and Bennett Schwartz in goal will lead the Barons’ title defense.

6. Severna Park (18-1-1) LR: 3

The Falcons made it all the way to last year’s Maryland 4A finals before falling to B-CC, 1-0.

7. Sherwood (17-2-1) LR: 8

The Warriors return eight starters from a 2017 team that finished 17-2-1 and made it to the state semifinals.

8. DeMatha (7-7-2) LR: NR

The Stags will look to reclaim the WCAC this season after falling to Gonzaga twice last year.

9. River Hill (15-2-2) LR: 6

All-state goalkeeper Patrick Sherlock is back to anchor the Hawks, who will have to navigate a tough conference schedule in Howard County.

10. Bowie (15-4) LR: 10

Coach Frantz Deetjen has eight starters back from last year’s 15-5 squad.

On the bubble: Wilson, Meade, Great Mills, St. Albans, Mount Hebron