SALT LAKE CITY — Year after year, the perennial girls soccer powers steal the spotlight, dominating in their respective regions and battling their way to Rio Tinto Stadium.
However, the journey does not always result in a state championship. Because, just as prevalent as powerhouse domination, the so-called underdogs emerge in the finals to steal the crown.
History has proven the road to class supremacy is rocky when regions collide and the supposed less-competitive regions unveil their Cinderellas.
Any one team can rise to the top, but the landscape is often familiar and much is to be said about experienced returners and solid rosters. Here's a brief look at how things are shaping up in each classification:
Alta head coach Lee Mitchell possesses both and a repeat title could certainly be in the cards. He is seemingly dealt a worthy hand each year and has built a program of unmatched prestige.
The Hawks were last year's 5A state champs and this year boast several returning threats, such as Madie Lyons, Bizzy Phillips and Lindsey Butts. The Hawks have unparalleled protection in the net with one of the state's best goalkeepers, Elyssa Hashimoto.
"We have a bit of experience, some inexperience but they are working," Mitchell said. "We'll get there. We'll grow as the season goes along. I think there are going to be quite a few different teams, that if they get going right, can do some serious damage."
Viewmont (4-0) is one of those teams. The Vikings are sure to be in the running again under the direction of new coach Emalee Tate, as they also benefit from several returners, including Abbie Flandro, Courtney Wallis, Heidi Lorscheider and Ella Johnson.
Sophomore Karrie Pead has been sparking the offense as well, complementing the veteran leadership alongside other fresh talent.
According to Tate, the girls have a new mentality and are seeking redemption after back-to-back championship losses.
Davis is another common front-runner, with three convincing victories over worthy opponents. The Darts are looking for a more balanced scoring effort after losing offensive standout Kenzie Harrison. So far there have been seven different goal scorers in three games.
"We need to do it by committee," head coach Souli Phongsavath explained after a victory over Bingham. "We have some young girls that we're counting on, some freshmen and sophomores that are going to be our goal scorers. We need them to step up and so far they have."
Another team relying on an offensive committee, the Brighton Bengals, will be a favorite as they have yet to surrender a goal and crushed a talented Riverton team recently. The Bengals return offensive leader Mati Long, though the scoring is evenly dispersed.
Lone Peak tied the Bengals, 0-0, and has been unyielding on defense. Its ability to hold Brighton scoreless is surely evidence of future success.
Riverton, despite a 6-0 loss to Brighton, is another talent-laden team led by potent scorers Mallory Bostic and Darian Jenkins. Jenkins will leave her mark before going to compete with the U.S. National Team next month.
Pleasant Grove tops Region 4 with a 5-0 record, Layton is undefeated, Fremont barely lost to Alta 4-3, and several other viable teams have yet to be truly tested. It is far too early to count anyone out of the 5A race.
Timpanogos, last year's 4A state championship team, will look to rebuild after losing leaders Jamie Harward and Lexie Henrie.
Despite a 1-2 record, the Timberwolves' future looks bright. Jordyn Chung-Hoon – the team's leading scorer last year — and goalkeeper Sydney Oldroyd will lead the way. Oldroyd snagged 11 shutouts in 2011.
Last year's second-place finisher — Skyline — is more than capable of a return trip. They have allowed just two goals in four games.
Offensively, they are quick and work together to produce numerous scoring opportunities. Ashley Aberton and Jaslyn Masina team up out front, and goalkeeper Alli Spencer is a key vocal leader.
Head coach Yamil Castillo is confident about his lineup.
"Everything depends on if we can stay injury free and if the girls believe they can," he said. "I'm pretty confident that we are going to go back there (Rio Tinto), but we are taking it one game at a time."
Maple Mountain is leading Region 8, picking up convincing victories and outscoring opponents 16-4. Returning forward Kennedee Tracy scored 19 goals last year and has scored six so far in 2012.
Highland sits atop Region 6 with a 4-0 record — a refreshing start after winning just four games last year — and East High is always a contender.
Though the Leopards lost a couple of core players, they return leading scorer Madison Roemer. The tenacious forward already leads offensively with three goals.
Region 5 offers stiff competition with Bonneville, Mountain Crest and Box Elder, and Woods Cross is capable as well, with its only losses coming from 5A leaders Davis and Viewmont.
4A is somewhat unpredictable as contenders can be found in all four regions.
In 3A, Ogden led Region 11 last year and enjoyed an incredible 16-game win streak capped with the championship victory over Cedar. With a current preseason record of 3-0, the championship mindset has seemingly carried over.
Offensively, the roster includes Lindsey Bray and Kiley Porter — two of last year's top scorers for the Tigers. Goalkeeper Kelsey East is back in the net and will play a vital role in the team's 2012 success. She posted 12 shutouts in 2011.
Juan Diego is certainly one to watch as well, especially with Emily Bruder on the roster. Bruder has been among the top scorers in the state since her freshman year. Mattie Muzatko, who finished with 13 goals in 2011, will provide a hefty contribution.
Park City will also compete, proving worthy as it tied Skyline and Bountiful. The current group of Miners reached the semifinals in 2011 and the finals the year before.
"We have a couple of really solid returning seniors, and the bulk of our crew is our juniors that have been playing varsity since they were freshmen," head coach Chip Cook said after the Skyline battle. "They come with a ton of experience and soccer savvy in the high school soccer world."
Cedar is another possibility with a current 3-1 record and a balanced offense. Dixie and Canyon View lead Region 9 with undefeated records, and Dixie has an incredible 24-0 scoring margin in just four games.
Ben Lomond and Wasatch have posted landslide victories over noble opponents.
A number of teams are qualified in the 3A cluster.
The St. Joseph Jayhawks are always expected to do well, but with scoring sensation Ivee Barton graduating last year, someone has to pick up the slack. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, junior Jane Porter has a couple more years. Porter scored 15 goals in nine games last year and will be expected to step up.
Waterford, last year's state champ, hasn't been performing as well but will surely improve as the season progresses.
Richfield has picked up two wins, icing opponents by a goal-differential of 8-0. Lydia Foster scored a hat-trick against North Sanpete on Aug. 15 and will be a sure leader.
Summit Academy is thrown into the mix this year and could make some waves.
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