Heading into this year's playoffs, the overall win-loss records of the local girls soccer teams aren't as impressive as they have been in the past, but that is not necessarily bad news.
The top teams have faced more of a fight in region than they have for a couple of years. Lone Peak and Orem, the dominant teams of 2005 and 2006, haven't been quite as dominant in 2007. More parity has equaled tougher tests and more losses. But it should also result in a group of teams better prepared for state tournament competition.
Teams like Springville, Mountain View and Timpanogos are too good to be ignored. They aren't considered favorites around the state, but realistically, any of them have a decent chance to make a tournament run.
"We've really started to peak at the right time," said Mountain View coach Sara Atuaia. "It's good motivation for us as we head into state."
Atuaia's team is a good representation of what the valley has to offer. The Bruins don't look overly impressive with five losses and a draw on their resume. But a closer look shows they are one of the hottest teams in the last month, and they have been competitive against some of the state's best.
After back-to-back trips to the state finals, Lone Peak will still get the most attention. The Region 4 champions lost a lot from last year's team, but its young players have matured a lot during the year. Shantel Flanary is still one of the best goal scorers in the state, and coach Mike LaHargoue is known for pulling off big playoff wins.
Timpanogos has a lot of young faces and will need its senior leadership to pull some extra weight in elimination games. The T-Wolves biggest test will come when it falls behind in a game and has to come back to win.
American Fork set a preseason goal to reach the semifinals. The consistency has not been there for the Cavemen, but they proved they can pull of an upset when they beat Lone Peak.
In 4A, Orem has the most experience and talent but has put out some shoddy performances this year. Which Tiger team shows up will determine how far they go. At their best they are legitimate state contenders but will be vulnerable to anyone they face if the effort isn't there.
Springville has the talent to put goals on the scoreboard against anybody. Most of its losses have come against top teams. The Red Devils are definitely a second-round quality team but could land in the final four if they put together two solid games.
Mountain View's key to success will be defending and taking advantage of its chances. Auna Janis has the ability to strike at a moment's notice. The Bruins most likely won't get a home game but will be a tough test for any team that has to host them.
Provo and Lehi go into the tournament as the two fourth-place teams with tough first-round draws. Provo probably has the better chance of an upset with more scoring threats.