In the Central League, Conestoga is primed to make a run at another title, while the Pioneers also have aspirations at the district and state levels, as well. In the Inter-Ac, Episcopal, with several key returnees, could have its best season ever, while Cardinal O'Hara and Archbishop Prendergast are likely to again battle it out for the Catholic League championship.
Here is a look at area teams.
CONESTOGA. The Pioneers have won the last four league championships, and a fifth appears to be on the way. Conestoga has an excellent returning cast that includes three state qualifiers from last season: senior Amy O'Donnell (500- yard freestyle), and juniors Kerry Budd (200 and 500 individual medley) and Kelly Brennan (100 backstroke and 100 butterfly).
In addition, standout juniors Amy Miller (backstroke), Leigh-Anne Bennett (distance freestyle) and Amy Ford (sprint freestyle) return, while freshman Judy Cianni has shown great promise in several events in preseason practice.
"We have another strong group, but maybe not as much depth as we've had in the past," said coach Rob Kirkby. "Still, our goal remains to win the Central League championship and hopefully compete well at the district and state level, too."
HAVERFORD HIGH. The Fords won three league meets last season and are hoping to at least duplicate that total this season.
"We're going to be about the same as last year," said Zarrilli. ''Hopefully, we can do a little better in the Central League.
The Fords' chances this year lie with seniors Elise deRiel, a state qualifier last season in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles, Alison Dion (100 freestyle) and Sarah Mindick (freestyle relays).
LOWER MERION. First-year coach Julie Sokoloff thinks this could be a big season for the Aces.
"In fact, I think it will be the best team in years," Sokoloff said. ''There are a lot of new kids here who can really swim."
The talented newcomers will be coming into the program at a good time. Lower Merion has one of its strongest contingents of seniors in some time. Kim White, a state qualifier in the 500-yard freestyle, Courtney Brockwell, Suzy Hutchings and Chris Sereni are the leaders of that class.
MARPLE NEWTOWN. New coach Gabrielle Bodle has moved over from Harriton, where she guided the Rams to four wins last season. She hopes to have similar success at Marple, although the Tigers graduated perhaps the area's top swimmer in state backstroke champion Lisa Herbster.
The Tigers return two state qualifiers in senior Jen Green (backstroke) and junior Erin Teeple (backstroke). Sophomore sprint freestyler Emily Furia and senior diver Sandra Robinson, the league champion last season, also should provide a spark for the Tigers.
"I think we'll be pretty good," said Bodle. "I think we'll be able to compete well with the other schools in the Central League."
PENNCREST. The Lions might be a dark horse in the league. Their best swimmer is sophomore Kim Reid, who went to the states last season in the 100- yard breaststroke. First-year coach Mark Keller also is counting on senior Jen Woodward (backstroke), junior Cynthia Nagle (breaststroke), and sophomores Michelle Cornacchia (butterfly), Lauren Dragan (backstroke) and Rebecca Little (distance freestyle).
"Because I'm so new, I'm still evaluating my team," Keller said, "but I think we're going to be competitive in the league. From what I see, we have the makings of a nice team."
RADNOR. Veteran coach Henry Heimenz has another strong group of swimmers. His Raiders finished second in the league last season. Leading the way in 1994-95 are seniors Jen Graham (all-round) and Kristen Fairman (breaststroke); juniors Katherine Poulin (butterfly) and Molly Murphy (diving); and sophomore Meg Costello (sprint freestyle).
"We're going to be younger and not as deep as years past, but I think we'll be competitive in the league again," said Heimenz.
RIDLEY. Kurt Slenn and Kate Jordan are the coaches for Ridley, which is competing in swimming for the first time in school history. Slenn is planning for success.
"I don't know if we can compete with the top teams in the league our first time out, but I hope we can compete with the second-tier teams this year," he said. "Overall, we'd really like to build a nice program. Three, four years down the line, we'd like to be a top team."
Slenn is counting on contributions from seniors Amy Boraske and Nicole Zappone, and freshmen Denise Keller and Libby McKenna.
SPRINGFIELD. First-year coach Pat Tesche also is thinking in a positive way. His team won only a couple of league meets last season, but he expects that to change.
"I hope to make this a better program year in and year out," said Tesche. ''And I'm really optimistic. We have a lot of swimmers who go all year round now, and that will really help us reach our goals."
Tesche is ecstatic over the prospects of his top swimmer, all-round senior Melissa Tyler, who holds eight school individual records.
"She's someone to keep an eye on," said Tesche. "I think she'll have a great senior year." Tesche said he also is looking for leadership from senior co-captain Megan Zulick.
STRATH HAVEN. The Panthers finished in the middle of the pack with a 4-4 league mark last season, but coach Chalky Wright hopes to see his squad improve this season. Leading that effort are seniors Emily Carson (individual medley), Casey Clymer (all-round), Betsy Gerlach (diving) and Kelly McDonald (all-round); juniors Melissa Ewing (distance freestyle) and Karen Sweeney (individual medley); and sophomore Laura Kennedy (breaststroke).
UPPER DARBY. Last season, rookie co-coaches Kathy Delaney and Betty Grube did a great job in drawing interest to girls' swimming at Upper Darby. A record 45 girls came out for the team.
"It's really exciting to see the kids come out like this," said Delaney. ''We think it's going to lead to a more competitive team."
Once again, the squad will be led by Beth Grube, the coach's daughter. As a sophomore last year, she made it to the PIAA Class AAA championships, where she placed third in the 100-yard backstroke.
ARCHBISHOP CARROLL. Former St. James coach Frank Bergin hasn't met with his team long enough to make a preseason assessment, but he thinks the Patriots are an up-and-coming group.
"We have a small squad with limited experience, but I think by the end of the season we will have a lot of kids who will develop into excellent swimmers," he said.
ARCHBISHOP PRENDERGAST. The Pandas relinquished their two-year stranglehold on the Catholic League title last year, finishing second to Cardinal O'Hara. But they hope to win it back this season.
"I think we'll be fighting O'Hara for the championship again," said Prendergast coach Phyllis Berardinelli.
The coach's optimism is related to her key returnees: seniors Missy DeConti (all-round), Regina McCabe (all-round), Jody Faust (breaststroke) and Christa McSorley (breaststroke); junior Gina McGlenchey (distance freestyle); and sophomore Emily Conley (freestyle).
CARDINAL O'HARA. If Prendergast can't wrest back the championship, the Lions are the favorite to repeat. Once again, coach Kevin Speicher has the services of senior all-Catholic freestyler Dawn Leonard, who should dominate this season. Others to whom Speicher is looking for contributions are seniors Lisa Mignogna and Erin Huber, and sophomore Nicole O'Kinsky.
"Our goal is to win the championship again," said Speicher. "I think we'll have a very strong team."
AGNES IRWIN. Vicky Gorman is the new coach at Agnes Irwin. She said that her top point-getters this season will be seniors Sissy Heller and Rachel Moyer, and sophomores Courtney Limekuler, Jocelyn Rimel, and Monica Moyer.
BALDWIN. Thirty-four girls went out for the Baldwin team. But coach Lesley Costello won't have to handle them on her own - Trish Mulligan has been added as an assistant.
There are more than enough good swimmers to teach. The best of them are juniors Lisa Sweet and Julie Viner, and freshmen Ji Park and Kate Viner.
"I think we can win a couple of meets this year," said Costello, whose team lost all its meets last season. "We're looking forward to a good year here."
EPISCOPAL. Once again, Episcopal will be a dominating team. And once again, the Churchmen probably will be settling for second place in their league.
Germantown Academy, the perennial winner in the Inter-Ac, is coming off a season in which it was declared the top independent team in the country.
GA is loaded again, but so is Episcopal.
Episcopal junior Page Pearcey was an independent school all-American in diving last season, and classmate Erica Akuff made all-American for her work in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke.
In addition, veteran coach Edith Rowland has returning senior Suzie Lee, a diver and breaststroker; junior freestylers Jenny Williams and Kristen Tiffan; and sophomore all-rounders Kelly Egan and Anne Kratzinger.
Rowland also has eighth-grade sensation Becky Wood, who competed in the 100-yard backstroke and freestyle in the Eastern Scholastics Athletic Swimming and Diving Championships last season as a seventh grader.
"We'd like to finish a strong second in the league again this year," said Rowland. "We feel it is going to be a very strong year for us."
SHIPLEY. Jen Hutchinson is the coach of Shipley's first swim team in the school's 101-year history. She is counting on senior Susan Edinger, and juniors Carrie Rorer, Cynthia Posner and Laura Hoffman to lead the squad.
"We're very excited to have a team," said Hutchinson. "And it's good to know we're not totally starting from the beginning. A lot of our girls swim all year round in clubs, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they do at Shipley."
HARRITON. New coach Janis Riley is optimistic about her team's chances in the league this year. Riley said that a pair of sister teams - senior Tara and freshman Elise Babbel, and senior Nicole and freshman Kristie Betegh - will be counted on for strong performances. Other key swimmers are senior Sheri Dagowitz, juniors Vivian Imaizumi and Meghann Riley, and freshman Naz Hayagaib.
INTERBORO. Second-year coach Sue Marshall thinks that her team will be improved this season.
"I don't know how that adds up in terms of winning meets, but I think we'll be better," she said.
Some of the Bucs' top swimmers are senior Karen Andruscavage; juniors Stacy McCoy and Jean Sycz; sophomores Rita Kipp, Janelle Marcum, Justine Pearsall, Amanda Cornaglia, Christine Shader and Jen Brogan; and freshmen Mary Ann Stillwell and Caren Shallet.
UPPER MERION. Vikings coach Linda Newhart again has the services of several quality swimmers. Among them are seniors Emily Brown, Scarlett Mantilla, Jessica Neebe, Becky Ruth, Sandy Thompson and Jen Trainor. Freshman Stephanie Chorba also could be a factor.