SANDY After claiming consecutive state titles, Alta's reputation is clearly defined. The Hawks are the yardstick other programs use to measure their progress.
Staying close with Alta means a team is good and competitive. Springing an upset can be a season-changing milestone. The Hawks understand more than a few teams out there would like to halt their dynasty.
"There's not going to be a team we play this year that doesn't want to pound us into the ground and I understand that," Alta coach Lee Mitchell said. "If I was on the other side, I'd want to do the same thing."
In the case of taking down the Hawks, wishes don't exactly correlate with reality. Alta is loaded with talent, depth and experience to a degree other teams can only dream about.
It all starts up top with Kealia Ohai. The junior is a standout on both the local and national level and routinely draws two or more defenders whenever she touches the ball.
Even with extra attention, Ohai still leads Alta and 5A in scoring. But she is far from being the only weapon. Ashley Jones and Brighton transfer Lauren Roundy are equally formidable scoring threats. The trio of strikers has already combined for 16 goals in only four games.
Roundy credits Ohai with inspiring her teammates to take a more active role.
"Being up top with Kealia makes you want to go harder," Roundy said.
As good as the offense is, the defense is just as tough. Seniors Natalie Norris and Morgan Bridge anchor a backline that has allowed only two goals all season.
Backing them up is Tashia Long, a junior goalkeeper who proved her mettle during the playoffs last season. Long filled in for injured starter Shanna Ipson and gave up zero goals in the semifinals and championship game.
"Our defense is, again, so strong," Ohai said. "It's easier to play offense when you know that you have a good defense and an awesome goalie that will always get your back."
The biggest threat to Alta's reign atop 5A could come from within its own region. Brighton looks as strong as ever following last year's semifinal run. The Bengals are excelling defensively, having shutout opponents since an 8-3 victory over Northridge in their season opener.
Things are solid offensively too. Jessica Ringwood has emerged as the second leading scorer in 5A with six goals to her credit so far.
Davis could also be a factor out of Region 1. The Darts looked to take a step back after leading scorer Collette Jepson broke her toe. But players like Kenzie Harrison, Katie Taylor and Kendra Bailey have stepped up to fill the void.
Region 4 can't be counted out of the picture either, especially after producing two of last year's four semifinalists. Lone Peak, in particular, has been a title game fixture over the past few seasons.The Knights have struggled a little early but have an experienced defense led by Kami Montgomery and Ravin King that should help turn things around.