and Emma Caulk (D) will also factor into a mix of players high on chemistry on and off the field, something Santos Bates noted as a decided strength.
“We have a lot of returning players, and we were very strong last year, and we’re even stronger this year,” Santos Bates said. “They’re returning not just from last year, but also the year prior to, so some of these girls have been on the team for three or four years, so they have valuable experience.
“They’ve also been playing together since young, rec years,” Santos Bates added. “This team is very different than any other team I’ve had at Queen Anne’s. They play as a team, for their team, and they all work very well together. These players are also specialized in their positions, and that is a huge asset to any team.
“The kids that are playing midfield, have been playing midfield since they were little,” Santos Bates continued. “The kids that are playing right-handed attackmen, have been playing right-handed attackmen since they were little, so it’s a natural flow of this team that has grown older together.”
The end-goal became a little more attainable after three-time defending 2A/1A state champion Manchester Valley bumped up a classification to 3A/2A. The Mavericks knocked out the Lions during each of those seasons, but the clearing in the forest doesn’t mean there aren’t other trees to navigate.
The Lions are just one of a handful of premier programs that will be looking to ascend to the throne now that Manchester Valley no longer factors into the running, which means Santos Bates has her work cut out scouting would-be contenders.
She also said it’s “not a door-die season,” despite the bevy of graduating seniors.
“I feel that it’s definitely a doable season,” Santos Bates said. “I think Manchester leaving, it definitely opens up the door for us, but, there are also teams that Manchester Valley knocked off prior to us seeing them that we now have to learn about.
“We have to learn their strengths and how they play,” Santos Bates continued. “Teams like Century, and Liberty are two teams that Manchester Valley used to see in the playoffs on their side of their bracket that we now have to watch early in the season. We also need to watch Southern, as well.”
The Lions’ equal-opportunity offense was often brilliant in 17-6 and 14-5 wins over Kent Island and Stephen Decatur, respectively, but there are tweaks and adjustments Santos Bates is already looking into.
“As far as us playing them and doing very well against them, there are things that we need to fine-tune moving forward in the season that we saw in the past two games,” Santos Bates said. “It will make us even better when it comes to the Bayside championship as well as the playoffs.”
Queen Anne’s defense and goaltending were also solid against presumably two of the top Bayside schools in recent years, but like any other winning program, there is no resting on the laurels of early season success.
Whereas game planning for the Buccaneers and Seahawks took up much of Santos Bates’ time in recent years, and didn’t allow the team to fully gear up for the region playoffs until those hurdles were cleared, the conditions are now more conducive — and certainly fortuitous — when it comes to painting a long-term picture.
The culture is set, milestone victories are all but expected, platitudes are at a premium, and perhaps for the first time in Santos Bates’ tenure, almost every domino is lined up just a week into the season. The chase is again on for what would be the first-ever state championship for a girls’ lacrosse program from the Eastern Shore.
“Everyone knows what the expectations are,” Santos Bates said. “They know that they need to work hard, and they need to know that they need to do things to make themselves better, as well as make other players better.
“They’re not just doing it for themselves, but they’re doing it for the team,” Santos Bates added. “I think with the experience we’ve had in years past, where we have gotten, I think that’s an expectation of the players who come in. They know it is an expectation, and it is a goal to get back to the state playoffs.
“Getting to the state championship is a bonus, and we’re looking to win it.”
Here’s a look at this year’s local teams:
Kent Island Head coach: Thomas Eveler, 2nd year
Outlook: Kent Island looks to keep building after graduating a large and talented senior class. Mary Gately (Sr., G, 85 saves, AMS 2T), Nina Cifolilli (Sr., A), Caroline Blandford (Jr., M) and Sydney Holtzner (Jr., D, AMS 2T) afford experience at different parts of the field, while underclassmen Cassidy Creighton (So., M) and Blair Goodrich (Fr., M) will also see plenty of playing time.
“Our strength lies in a good balance of talent with skilled players spread across all grades,” Eveler said. “Teamwork and balance will see Kent Island through the most competitive schedule they have faced in years.” Saints Peter and Paul Head coach: Megan Wilbert, 1st year
Outlook: Wilbert, who served second-in-command under Mike Morse in 2016, takes over the program along with assistant coach Nicole Snyder.
Megan Hickey (Sr., CM/A, 51/20, AMS 1T), Caroline Murphy (Jr., A, 55/12, AMS 1T), Jen Douglas (Sr., D, AMS 1T), Julia D’Albora (Jr., D), Sunny Sturmer (Jr., G), Maddie Boehm (Jr., M), Maddy Marciniak (Sr., A/M, 29/12, AMS 2T) and Kate Sovero (Sr., A, 22/36, AMS 2T) headline a returning cast looking to recapture the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference.
“We want to focus the girls more on what they can accomplish as a team and not just try to win the championship,” Wilbert said. “We have a great schedule with lots of challenging teams, and we have the confidence to go into the championship game and win it.”
Gunston Head coach: Jeff Smith, 3rd year
Outlook: The Herons graduated seven, and according to Smith, are a “very, very, very, very young team.”
“The Worcesters and Saints Peter and Pauls and Calvertons of the world are all bigger programs, but the other half of our schedule, there is a little more even competition,” said Smith, who will be flanked by assistant Willy Agee. “Sixty percent of our players are first-time high school players, and every game they’ll get a little bit less green.”
Defender Alice Agee is the team’s only senior, while Joey Smith (Jr., A, 19/34, AMS 2T), Brennan Paddy (Jr., M, 37/12, AMS 1T), Nelly Stup (So., D) and Lilly Judd (Fr., G) were also listed as standouts.
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