Winning a state championship in any sport is difficult.
Repeating is even more difficult, but more times than not over the past decade a girls soccer team was won back-to-back state titles.
This season, defending state champs Viewmont, Bonneville, Snow Canyon and Waterford will try and join the seven other teams over the past 10 years to win consecutive state titles. It certainly won’t be easy, though, as powerhouse programs like Alta, Timpanogos, Park City and St. Joseph will most definitely be standing in their way.
With region play gearing up this week across the state, here’s a brief look at how things are shaping up in each classification:
Coming off its first state championship in 14 years, the Viewmont Vikings hope a return to the ultra-competitive Region 1 pushes them back into state title contention.
So far, the results have been mixed after the graduation of eight seniors from last year’s 19-1 team. Viewmont dropped a 4-1 preseason game to Brighton two weeks ago, but it kicked off region play last week with victories over Davis and Weber.
Cleaning up the defensive shortcomings that Brighton exposed will be key as the season unfolds, because come playoff time, defense wins championships. Nobody realizes that more than Viewmont after its outstanding playoff run in 2012, which included wins over Weber, Davis, Lone Peak and then No. 1 Alta in the championship game.
“With an exciting and challenging schedule to be played this season, the return of several significant contributors, and a roster full of young talent, we expect this season to be another year full of excitement and promise for the Vikings,” said Tate.
Viewmont may be the defending champ, but Alta is still the team everyone is gunning for.
Led by BYU commits Bizzy Phillips and Madie Lyons, the Hawks are off to a 3-0 start this season with 21 goals scored and zero surrendered. Alta features arguably the most dynamic team in the state and will be tough to beat.
Coming off a disappointing quarterfinal ouster in 2012, perennial contender Brighton returns key starters Stephanie Ringwood and Jocelyn Loomis to make a run at state.
“We will be a top contender once the chemistry comes together and we become unified. Our senior leadership will be a great strength and will guide us throughout the season. We have a very challenging schedule this year and look forward to being tested early,” said Brighton coach Mark Stoker.
His team surprisingly dropped a preseason game to Maple Mountain in the first week of the season, but the Bengals bounced back quickly with an impressive 4-1 win over Viewmont.
Region 4 figures to be the most balanced league in 5A with as many as four teams capable of winning the league title.
Timpanogos has emerged as an early state title favorite in Class 4A, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. State champs in two of the past four seasons, the T-Wolves are a team every coach knows will play a factor come playoff time.
Already this preseason, the T-Wolves earned an overtime victory over Skyline and a 1-1 draw with upstart Maple Mountain.
The T-Wolves are anchored defensively by returning first-team all-stater Rachelle Warner, as well as second-team goalkeeper Sydney Oldroyd and second-team striker Jordyn Chung-Hoon.
If Timpanogos is the slight favorite, then Skyline, Maple Mountain, Bountiful and Bonneville aren’t far behind.
Maple Mountain could be the sleeper team in the group — but realistically it’s not an unknown quantity anymore after beating Brighton in the preseason.
“We have a lot of experience coming back this season. We lost Mickelle Hamilton (10 goals) to graduation but feel that some underclassmen can step up and fill that loss. We are really excited for the upcoming season and are challenging ourselves this preseason,” said coach Jeff Lake. “We think this will help prepare and give us experience for Region 8 and the playoffs. We believe with the experience we have coming back, we could make a deep run into the playoffs.”
Defending 4A champ Bonneville was voted the preseason No. 1 by coaches, but three weeks into the season it has looked quite vulnerable, particularly in a 7-6 overtime loss to Logan. The Lakers only gave up eight goals in 20 games last year, but in 2013 they’ve already given up 14 goals in seven games.
Coach Rob McDaniel is optimistic his young Lakers will get things sorted out soon and be a factor in the Region 5 race and the playoffs.
“We graduated 10 players from last year’s team, including six starters, but we have girls that are ready to step on the field and prove themselves. We have some great young players that will be pushing the older girls to be at their very best,” said McDaniel. “The girls are still excited after last year’s state championship win and are ready to do it again. It’s a new year and mostly a new team, but they expect the same results.”
The new-look 3A classification isn’t nearly as strong with the departure of Ogden, Wasatch and Spanish Fork to 4A, but there’s certainly still some quality teams remaining — including 3A defending champ Snow Canyon and 3A runner-up Park City.
The Miners are currently ranked No. 1 with one more week of the preseason remaining, and returning first team all-stater Jessica Dancy has been strong with four goals already. Taylor Hodgson is also a returning first-team all-stater.
Snow Canyon is just 1-3 after posting a 17-2-1 record last season, but the slow start isn’t necessarily surprising.
“We are very young this year with one-third of our team being freshmen. We do have some returning varsity players from our team last year, all being led by our goalie Grace Walton,” said Snow Canyon coach Kenny Knude. “Our region has some great teams this year and should be very competitive. We look forward to competing and hope to make a deep run in the playoffs again this season.”
Snow Canyon has plenty of competition in its own region as Cedar, Dixie and Pine View are all off to strong starts. Dixie only lost four games last season, and could be the sleeper team in Region 9 as eight players have already scored goals, led by Elle Roberts’ five.
Perennial contender Juan Diego will challenge Park City for the Region 10 title after playing a very difficult preseason schedule full of 5A and 4A teams.
The quality in Region 11 and 12 won’t be the same without Ogden and Spanish Fork in the mix, but their departure opens the door for new teams like Stansbury, Bear River, and Richfield to chase down region titles.
Waterford and St. Joseph have squared off in four straight 2A state championship games, and all signs point to another title rematch later this fall.
Tim Dolbin’s program at Waterford and Alexis Salvo’s program at St. Joseph have been the model of 2A consistency through the years, and both return strong teams this year.
St. Joseph returns first-teamers Cristiana Behnken and Kate Weil, in addition to countless other key starters.
“St. Joseph brings back most of the starting 11 who made it to the championship game last year. We will need to replace three spots and if we find the right combination, we should be playing in the final four again. We are going to have speed in the front that is going to be hard for the opponents to match,” said Salvo.
Even though its proved to be impossible over the past four years, programs like Manti, Millard and Summit Academy are among those hoping to spoil another Waterford-St. Joseph 2A final.
Manti came agonizingly close to breaking that tradition last season as it lost in a shootout to St. Joseph in the 2A semifinals. Coach Eleshia Steinfeldt said her team is looking forward to the challenge again.
“Our girls are very excited to be back together again. They have been working hard and we expect to have another fun and successful season,” said Steinfeldt.