For the Chesapeake field hockey team, a trip to the state semifinals has become an annual tradition.

The Cougars have been one of the final four teams standing in the Maryland 3A bracket in each of the last four seasons. They earned championships in 2016 and 2017 and finished last season as runners-up.

Three seniors in particular feel the pressure to return to the same heights, Chesapeake Coach Joan Johnson said. Goalkeeper Eve Vickery, midfielder Shelby Bennoit and defender Caitlyn Johnson all were part of the 2016 title-winning team as freshmen, and all would like to cap their careers with another state finals appearance — and preferably, another trophy.

“Of course they want to get back,” Joan Johnson said. “Who wouldn’t? They’re always looking to the end game. Trying to get them to focus on what is in front of them, that’s the trick.”

A new wrinkle made that task more complicated: Chesapeake dropped from Class 3A to Class 2A for the postseason, which groups schools based on enrollment.

The move could prevent the Cougars from getting ahead of themselves. Rather than casting their imaginations forward to a fifth straight showdown with Mount Hebron in the 3A East regional final, they must content themselves with the promise of new and as yet unknown playoff rivals.

On the other hand, such mystery could create its own maddening speculations, so Johnson has tried to keep her team in the here and now with intense practices and spirited team get-togethers, including a trip to an escape room last week.

“When it comes down to it, I trust these girls,” Johnson said. “Everyone one of them is knowledgeable and dedicated. And when our season starts, they’re going to be conditioned, they’re going to be in shape, they’re going to be ready to get out there and go.”

(All records from last season)

1. South River (16-3) Last ranked: 1

The Seahawks capped last season with their third consecutive Maryland 4A title, and they will look to make it four in a row behind senior leader and defensive anchor Caitlin McGuirk.

2. Spalding (14-4) LR: 9

The Cavaliers fell to Baltimore-area Notre Dame Prep in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland semifinals last year, but with 10 returning seniors, they plan to make a title push this fall.

3. Langley (20-3) LR: 7

First-team All-Met selection Maddie McGaughey led the Saxons in goals and assists en route to the Virginia Class 6 state semifinals in 2018, and she seems primed for similar success in her senior season.

4. Good Counsel (14-7) LR: 2

Nine of the starters from last season’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship squad will retake the field for the Falcons, including senior midfielder Lauren Gerold, who scored the first of the team’s goals in the title game, a 2-1 double-overtime win against St. John’s.

5. Fairfax (19-5) LR: 6

Last year, the Rebels failed to win a district title for the first time since 2008, but with eight returning starters, they hope to retake their place atop Virginia’s Patriot District.

6. Chesapeake (12-6) LR: 4

With a loss to C. Milton Wright in the Maryland 3A final last November, the Cougars came up just short of a third straight state title. But with Delaware commit Eve Vickery guarding the net for the fourth season in a row, the Cougars are aiming for another championship.

7. St. John’s (16-1) LR: 3

The Cadets’ three-year streak of WCAC championships ended with a double-overtime loss to Good Counsel in the 2018 conference final. Senior midfielders Lillian Kistner and Ashley Viglione should help St. John’s hit the ground running this season.

No. 8 Woodson (16-2) LR: 8

The Cavaliers already have five wins and 25 goals this season, picking up where they left off after last season’s state quarterfinal run.

No. 9 Arundel (12-5) LR: NR

The Wildcats put themselves on every opponents’ radar last season when they became the only team in the more than two years to beat two-time defending IAAM champion Notre Dame Prep.

No. 10 Patuxent (15-1) LR: 5

Coming off a Maryland 1A title in 2017 and a second-place finish in 2018, a younger group of Panthers will try to find a their own winning formula.

On the bubble: Broadneck (11-4-2), Chantilly(18-4), Riverside (18-2), Severna Park (10-5-1)

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