When the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association releases its postseason girls lacrosse draw each spring, Tuscarora High School coach Brad Gray cannot wait to see who his team will play.
“With the random draw, you never know who you are going to get,” he said. “Finding out who is always kind of like Christmas Day.”
Every spring, in each of the state's three classifications and four regions within each class, the four best teams are seeded based on their regular season record. Every other team is placed into a random blind draw, regardless of record.
“The draw has its pros and cons,” Gray said. “If you have a favorable matchup, you will probably like it. If you don't, you will likely hate it.”
Gray has reason to be optimistic this spring. For the first time in school history, the Titans finished with a winning record (9-3 in regular season) and secured one of the top-four seeds and a first-round bye in the 3A/2A West Region.
“This is the first year we will host a game as a top team so we are very excited,” Gray said. “It is a big deal, but we have to focus on what lies ahead. If we are lucky enough to [beat Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals] Friday, we will have to go to [No. 1 seed and undefeated Montgomery County program] Damascus. So we have a lot of work to do.”
Tournament play began Wednesday and ended too late to be included in this edition of The Gazette. Check www.mpssaa.org for updated results and schedules.
The Titans, along with the rest of Frederick County's teams, are trying to make their mark among state competition. Historically, local programs have not fared well in the playoffs.
“The county has been extremely equal this year,” Gray said. “But it is no secret that we want to get to that next level. To get there, someone from Frederick needs to beat a good Carroll County team. They are our neighbors and that's what we compare ourselves to.”
Several other coaches agreed.
“I think everybody has done really well improving within the county,” said Urbana coach Sally Watsic, whose team lost a regular season game by just one goal to last year's state runner-up Westminster, a Carroll County power. “In turn, we are getting closer and more competitive against the state's best teams. There wasn't a clear-cut dominant team locally and I think that bodes well for us in the playoffs.”
“Carroll County's Century is always the team to beat in the [Class 3A/2A West] region,” Middletown coach Gretchen Martin said. “Frederick County is improved and our games are tougher. Hopefully, it helps them do better against other teams in the playoffs.”
“Frederick County is much stronger as a whole,” Frederick coach Vince Ahearn said. “Games are a lot more competitive across the board.”
3A/2A West RegionFour Frederick County teams, including two of the county's better teams this spring, reside in the region.
No. 11 Middletown (9-3), traditionally the county's strongest program, finished tied for the region's fourth-best record with Tuscarora and defeated the Titans during the regular season, but fell to the random draw because it played one less game prior to Monday's draw.
“The random draw has always been around so I can't really say if there is a better way,” Martin said. “Regardless, we have to play who we play. We are playing very well right now and should be able to compete with anyone.”
If the favored Knights defeated a much-improved No. 6 Frederick team Wednesday, they would have to travel to No. 3 North Hagerstown in the quarterfinal round.
Eighth-seeded Gov. Thomas Johnson played Rockville in the opening round on Wednesday.
4A/3A North RegionSixth-seeded Urbana (6-6) headlines the county contingent and is joined by No. 11 Linganore (4-8) in the mostly Montgomery County region. Carroll County's Westminster, however, is the No. 2 seed and the favorite to advance through the region.
The Hawks and Lancers played in Wednesday's first round. The winner advanced to play No. 3 Watkins Mill (Montgomery) in the region quarterfinal round scheduled for Friday.
“I feel confident going into regionals, and we are prepared for this time of year,” Watsic said. “We've been up and down, but I think we are becoming more consistent.”
2A/1A West RegionNo. 9 Walkersville (7-5) is joined by No. 8 Brunswick, No. 5 Catoctin and No. 6 Oakdale.
Top-seeded Winters Mill is the favorite to advance to the state tournament.
“It's tough [going against out of county teams],” said Walkersville coach Jessica Sardella, whose team may face Winters Mill in the second round. The Lions won their final four regular season games and six of the final seven. “All you ask is for your players to give 100 percent every game and we are playing well right now.”
South Carroll, which is not a Frederick County school, but is in The Gazette's coverage area, played Boonsboro in the first round.
Private schoolsSt. John's Catholic Prep entered this week's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B conference's tournament as the No. 4 seed. Tournament play is ongoing.