With the girls soccer season starting Tuesday, here’s a look at each region involving Northern Utah schools, with information on players to watch, region favorites, darkhorse contenders and more.
Two-time defending champion Syracuse returns an unmatched trio of BYU commit junior midfielder Caroline Stringfellow (22 goals, 16 assists), senior forward Ashlyn Hall (20 goals, nine assists) and junior wing Sarah Wynn (seven goals, 20 assists).
The Titans also return senior defender and Northern Arizona University commit Kelsey Steed, senior defender Jenna Kelly, senior Madi Dee and sophomore Claire Colquitt as starters.
Complementing the seven returning starters is a new group of freshmen that head coach Taylor Allen expects to compete for playing time.
“We’ve got some good girls coming in. I’m lucky,” he said.
The likely challengers to Syracuse’s throne this year are Northridge and Davis.
“I think that we’re going to match up really well with Syracuse this year ... until someone knocks off Syracuse, they’re going to be on top, that three-headed monster is way hard to stop,” Northridge coach Wyatt Kennah said.
Northridge, in particular, brings back most of last year’s team that turned a 1-5-1 region record into five-straight wins to get into a play-in game, a win over Weber in said play-in game, then a 1-0 win at top-seeded Hillcrest in the first round of the playoffs.
The Knights lost to eventual state champion Lone Peak 1-0. Their key returning starters: goalkeeper Mariah Dean, defenders Hanna Carlisle, Hallestyn Kap and Makayla Halley, attackers Chloe Cypers, Lauren Call, Sierra Sivulich (last year’s leading scorer), Josie Loock and Ella Sanders.
As a rule of thumb, one can’t count out Davis. The Darts lost BYU-bound Zoe Jacobs but bring back more than half the team, including sophomore forward Annie Haycock (nine goals in 2018), sophomore goalkeeper Taygan Sill, plus midfielders Grace Nicol and Reagan Neuenswander.
Layton lost a lot of seniors but the Lancers are typically good defensively and well-coached.
Layton brings back two of the more underrated players in the region: forward Brynlee Roberts (10 goals in 2018) and holding midfielder Kaitlyn Richins, along with starters Abby Fotheringham and Kylee Richins.
Could Roy also put its name into the hat?
The Royals, new members of the region after finishing second in 5A Region 5 last season and grabbing a home playoff win, bring back senior midfielders Savanna Martinez, Abbie Dalebout and Jaslyn Tapia, senior defender Dylan Dingman and junior striker Kennedy Bodily.
Weber has huge shoes to fill after graduating several seniors. Among those departed are Camryn Karras (now playing at Air Force Academy) and Brinlee Collings (playing at Division-I Colorado College).
The Warriors had several juniors and underclassmen start and get playing time last year, but they will need to find a go-to scorer or scorers.
Fremont missed the playoffs by miles last year but the Silverwolves normally reload every year. Many young players got quality minutes last season as well.
The closest Clearfield came to winning a region game last season was a 2-1 loss to Fremont at home. The Falcons were young last season and are likely slated for improvement.
By virtue of being a defending champion, Viewmont has to be considered one of the better teams in the region.
The Vikings return goalkeeper Lydia Pitt (nine shutouts last year), junior forward Brooke Wersland (five goals), senior defender Bailey Snell and junior midfielders Kennahdy Johnson and McKenna Stacey.
Last year, their defense-first mentality, plus excellent seniors in the midfield, meant they allowed just three goals in 10 region games.
After back-to-back region titles in 4A, Bonneville returns to 5A with a new head coach and what will look like a mostly new team. The Lakers’ new coach is Gavin Garside, who was an assistant under previous head coach Robert McDaniel.
Eight starting spots will be new this season, but Bonneville can rest easy about the three returning starters. Two of them are central defenders Hailey Price and Bree Pedersen, who anchored a defense that allowed just 10 goals in 18 matches a season ago.
The third is midfielder Bailey Hassell, who scored 10 goals last year. The biggest shoes to fill are at goalkeeper and forward.
Box Elder returns a lot of players, both starters and non-starters, from last year’s team that finished tied for second in the region. The Bees’ departed seniors include a Division-I bound midfielder, Mylan Daniels, now at Seattle University.
Farmington, by virtue of being new last year, returns virtually its entire team. But the Phoenix also has a new head coach, Sarah Beecher. Beecher is a Davis High alumnus who briefly played soccer at Dixie State.
Bountiful and Woods Cross both missed the playoffs in 2018. In the regular-season finale, Farmington beat Bountiful to clinch the No. 4 seed as the Braves ended their season with three-straight losses by one goal.
WX started the first half of region play 2-3 last year and looked like a surefire contender. Then the Wildcats lost four of the last five.
The top two teams in this region last year are now in 5A, so conventional logic says third-place Ogden might be one of the favorites this year. When you break it down, the Tigers are one of the favorites anyway.
They return leading goalscorer Kadrey Howell (21 goals), center midfielder Alysia Butters (seven goals, 11 assists) and a host more starters and role players in midfield and defense, including goalkeeper Allison Collinwood.
Juan Diego, by virtue of having several returning players, plus being able to reload every single year, also figures to be one of the top teams.
Ben Lomond returns a handful of starters, including leading scorer Samantha Diaz (13 goals), the next three-highest goalscorers from a year ago, plus the goalkeeper.
Success this year will hinge on how well the Scots can defend, which they struggled at a year ago. Scoring wasn’t so much of a problem for BL in 2018.
REGIONS 11, 13, 2A NORTHERN
Morgan’s the defending 3A state champion and the big benefit for the Trojans is they have most of last year’s team back, so they should be at or near the top in Region 13.
That includes sophomore midfielder Sadie McGreer, who scored the winning penalty kick in the state title game against Judge Memorial.
The remaining five returning starters are senior forward and leading scorer Syd Cragun, senior left back Niyah Cragun, senior keeper Taylor Condie, plus junior midfielder Corrinne Henderson and junior defender Karlie Kotter.
Jesse Esquivel is Bear River’s new head coach after previously serving as an assistant coach for the team.
The Bears finished 2-14 overall and 0-10 in Region 12 (which is now Region 11 after the new realignment), with all 10 losses coming by two or more goals.
St. Joseph and Utah Military Academy’s region changed names from 2A North to 2A Northern. The region still includes typical powerhouse teams Rowland Hall and Waterford, along with last year’s last-place school, North Summit.
The Jayhawks ostensibly return Sam Munson and Kenzie Munson, who both started as freshmen last season. The Thunderbirds enter their third year of competition following a 2-9 campaign last year.