High school girls soccer: Defending champs all face a tough road ahead in 2014
“Skyline is the team that’s always kind of there at the end, and this could be their year,” said East coach Rudy Schenk, whose team lost to Skyline in last year’s 4A semifinals 1-0.
East and Skyline don’t meet in the preseason this year, and maybe that’s not a bad thing for East’s psyche as the team breaks in a bunch of new starters.
“I’m relying on some young girls that are really going to have to step up. It’s going to kind of be live and learn until they figure it out,” said Schenk, who said defense is the biggest area of concern.
One school that Schenk believes could be a sleeper team from his region is Clearfield. The Falcons were very competitive last year with a 13-5 record, and narrowly lost to Skyline in the quarterfinals 1-0.
Timpanogos of course will be a factor in 2014, but there’s a different feel to the program.
Megan Fereday is taking over as head coach for Natalyn Lewis, who led the T-Wolves to three state titles in her 10 years with the program. Fereday actually played for Lewis at Timpanogos before moving on to BYU to play college soccer.
The cupboard certainly isn’t bare for the new coach. Jordyn Chung-Hoon and Devri Hartle were both first-team midfielders last year, and they are the heart of the team again this season.
Dixie was a beast of a defensive team a year ago, only conceding six goals in its final 16 games of the season en route to the 3A state championship.
The 3A MVP anchor of that defense, along with another all-state defender and goalkeeper, all graduated, so it’s back to the drawing board a bit for the Flyers in 2014.
“They’re excited. They have taken on the rule of thumb that, that was last year, this is a fresh year and they need to put it together like last year’s team,” said Dixie coach Burt Myers.
With only seven seniors and two juniors on the roster, Dixie will be counting on a lot of sophomores and likely won’t dominate Region 9 like last season.
As a result, Myers expects his region to be tight at the top, along with Cedar, Snow Canyon, Desert Hills and Pine View.
“I know in our region, there’s going to be a lot of 1-0 games,” said Myers.
With returning all-state striker Aubri Challis, who’s coming off an 18-goal season, Dixie should be able to win its fair share of 1-0 games.
It beat Juan Diego in just such a game to claim last year’s state championship, and new Juan Diego coach Myriah Fankhauser said that loss has served as motivation all preseason.
Fankhauser was an assistant at Juan Diego the past two seasons, and with “98 percent of the squad returning from last year,” the Soaring Eagle are the early front-runners in 3A.
“They are gunning and ready to go. Everybody already knows. That’s the main goal — to get back to compete for the championship again. They’re driven and motivated,” said Fankhauser, whose team only features four seniors.
Balance will be the strength of Juan Diego’s lineup game in and game out.
“We have such a dynamic group. It’s not just one or two girls we’re leaning on. We’ll be successful if everybody shows up on the same day. If they don’t we won’t be successful,” said Fankhauser.
Park City figures to be in the 3A race once again this year, but replacing three first-team all-staters from last season won’t be easy.
A year after Waterford’s bid for a three-peat was spoiled by upstart Summit Academy, the Ravens are loaded with returning experience and enter the season with a chip on their shoulder.
“We have the most senior starters (eight) I can ever remember having,” said Waterford coach Tim Dolbin. “They’re pretty hungry.”
Perhaps no one is more hungry than Grace Sponaugle. The 2A MVP as a sophomore in 2012, Sponaugle missed the entire 2013 season with an ACL tear, but she’s back and anxious for a strong senior season.
Five other first-team all-staters are back from a year ago. Senior forwards Caroline Coats and Madeleine Morrill combined for 18 goals last season, while sophomore midfielder Madeline Duke also returns.
Waterford’s back line is anchored by seniors Elizabeth Sampson and Chloe Wilcox.
The rest of the 2A field should be wide open.
Rowland Hall is off to a strong start this preseason, while semifinalists from a year ago, Delta and Millard, both figure to put strong teams on the field.
Defending champ Summit Academy has a difficult road ahead trying to repeat as champs. The team lost a bunch of key players to graduation and a few to transfers. Meanwhile, Madison Sopena is taking over as head coach and there’s always a learning curve associated with a coaching change.
Deseret News preseason girls soccer rankings
1. Lone Peak
3. Mtn. View
1. Juan Diego
3. Park City
5. Snow Canyon
2. Rowland Hall
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.
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