Goalie Naomi Johnson was a key cog in South River’s Maryland 4A title run a year ago and is back to help lead another talented group of Seahawks this fall. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

For the past four years, the question hasn’t been whether Severna Park and South River will meet in the playoffs, but when they do, who will advance as regional champions. The Falcons have the edge in those meetings (3-1) but the Anne Arundel rivals traded state titles in 2011 and 2012. South River won the championship against Catonsville last year, 6-0.

Severna Park lost 13 seniors but returns Columbia recruit Maeve Doherty at midfield and Emma Slattery at defense. Second-year Coach Ann Andrews is emphasizing offense this season and the addition of Spalding transfer Olivia Reiter at midfield might help.

“She plays like she was brought up in Europe,” says Andrews of Reiter’s creative stick skills. The trick will be seeing if her playing style meshes with Doherty’s smooth, strong field presence.

South River didn’t fare much better with senior losses.

“We lost firepower that had been around for four years,” says first-year Coach Megan Atkinson.

Goalkeeper Naomi Johnson and Maryland-bound midfielder/attack Maddy Ulery are back while talented sophomore Emily Thomas will take on a larger role this season on offense.

Broadneck has a brand new defense to protect goalkeeper Alyssa Thompson, and seniors Regan Littell and Kendall Lupinek bring experience to the midfield.

Starting strong in Virginia

When South County gained a bit of redemption in the form of a 2-1 decision over Westfield on Aug. 28, the Stallions (2-0) took the first baby step towards a perfect season. But last year’s Northern Region runner-ups aren’t the only area squad with nothing but wins in 2013.

Fairfax Coach Amber Beaudoin was hoping her girls would’ve faced a smidge more adversity in early-season matches against Lake Braddock and West Springfield.

Instead, they blanked the Bruins 5-0 in the season opener, before following up with a 4-1 win over the Spartans Friday.

“We lost two big parts of our team, and I wasn’t really expecting that [early success],” Beaudoin said.

With a strong start under their belt, the Rebels (2-0) might just have replaced those “parts” — graduated standouts Sam Zelenack (Towson) and Shannon Cosgrove (Johns Hopkins).

One key void filler, senior Emily Freeman, has already tallied eight points (five goals, three assists) for Fairfax.

Oakton downed Madison in penalty strokes, 0-0 (3-2), on Tuesday to continue a 6-0 start during which they have allowed just one goal. Robinson, too, enjoyed a nearly flawless August, going 5-0-1, with the lone tie coming against Woodbridge in the Under the Lights tournament at Lee High School.

Langley swept last week’s Herndon Invitational, with a trio of shutout, pool-play wins over Yorktown, Battlefield, and Marshall. The Saxons (5-0) host the Cougars Monday in a battle of unbeatens.

Montgomery County looking for leaders

Erika Benke-Murray recognized a few familiar faces in the stands at Walter Johnson’s state semifinal loss to Catonsville last November.

“A lot of Montgomery County coaches were there saying to just bring it home for the county,” Benke-Murray recalls. “It’s competitive during the regular season, but they just want the county to be recognized.”

That’s usually not a problem for 2A 2012 state finalist Poolesville, but larger Montgomery County schools have a tougher time getting past semifinals. Walter Johnson will look to All-Met midfielder Anna Rowthorn-Rapel (Dartmouth) to lead the county in her final year.

Sherwood boats another top offensive power in Gabrielle Yore – a second team All-Met selection– and midfielder Emily Kenul. Blake returns senior Nicole Lertora, but the three-year starter at defense will move to midfield this season.

Glenelg, Atholton stockpile talent

Rachel Day played defense before Martie Dyer took over at Atholton. When the first-year coach noticed Day’s aggressiveness, she switched the senior to forward.

“If they’re a good player, I don’t care what they play,” Dyer said. “I’ll put them where I need them and they’ll learn it.”

The strategy worked. Day was the Raiders’ leading scorer with 21 goals last season en route to Atholton’s first state championship. Six starters from the 3A title team return including Day and junior Jennifer Bleakney, a Division 1 prospect at forward.

Morgan Philie and Stephanie Asher are looking for four at Glenelg — four years starting for the Gladiators and four consecutive state championships. The 2A powerhouse boasts top recruits in Philie, an All-Met selection midfielder and Dartmouth commit, and Richmond-bound goalkeeper Amanda Hoyt. Asher charted 25 goals at forward last year and is joined up front by junior Megan Taylor (21 goals).

Virginia set to pay a visit

Coming soon to a turf field near you: two of the biggest and baddest programs in Virginia high school field hockey.

Friday kicks off the Bulldog Invitational at Westfield, and the invitees have some clout. Mountain View – which knocked off the Bulldogs, 2-1, in last year’s AAA state quarterfinals – makes the trip from Stafford to Chantilly.

Westfield coach Starr Karl saw the tournament as her chance to pencil in the Wildcats for a second take.

“I wanted the opportunity for the girls to play them [Mountain View] again,” Karl said. “I want my kids to learn, and you learn by failing.”

Tabb – a Virginia Beach-area team that’s scooped four of the last five A/AA state titles (the Tigers fell 2-1 to Chancellor in 2012) – highlights the flip side of the tournament’s bracket with locals South County, Lake Braddock and Fairfax. Tournament play runs through Saturday.

Tough slate in ISL

St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes outlasted Bullis in a 1-0 thriller for the Independent School League title last November, but the Saints have a tough docket in 2013, opening with home games against Holy Cross and Good Counsel. Discipline is Bullis Coach Julie Delinsky’s key to getting a young lineup to stay composed in tough game situations. Workhorse junior Jessica Mays will bring her hustle back to center midfield and a pair of senior captains at defense will protect goalkeeper Sarah Holliday.

The Post Top 10

South County proved its mettle with a 2-1 win over Westfield in both teams’ season opener. . . . Langley could be the biggest mover in terms of improvement from 2012. The Saxons are already 5-0. . . . Megan Atkinson takes over for her first year at South River, where Division 1 commits at midfield/attack and goalkeeper will lead the defending 4A state champions. . . . Glenelg looks for its fourth state championship in as many years.

1. South River (17-1-1)

2. Glenelg (17-1)

3. Severna Park (12-4)

4. South County (17-7)

5. Atholton (15-2)

6. Broadneck (12-4)

7. Westfield (20-3)

8. Fairfax (19-2)

9. St. Stephen’s St. Agnes (17-5-1)

10. Walter Johnson (13-2)

Bubble: Langley (2-14-0), Oakton (11-9-0), Bullis (17-1), Poolesville (14-2)

(Final records from 2012)


Standings | Schedule | Rankings

South County tops Westfield, 2-1