In some ways, it feels weird to Carson Lyness when she steps onto the soccer field these days. Lyness is only a freshman defender at Rowland Hall, but she has already started all of the Winged Lions" varsity games.

Going up against players two and three years older than her, in most cases, is a definite change from club soccer where Lyness played exclusively against those in her age group.

But at Rowland Hall, which graduated six starters from its 2007 championship team and lost another to a serious injury, starting freshmen and sophomores is necessary for survival.

Lyness and other younger players wholeheartedly embrace such a role.

"It's fun to have a younger team,' Lyness said. "You don't have as much experience, but it's really good to have fresh legs and new ideas.'

The defending 2A champions have a few familiar faces on their roster too. Abbie Mitchell, a sophomore, takes over for Ellie Marker at goalkeeper after seeing some time at forward a year ago. Carolyn Wozniak and Jennifer Achelis both saw time at forward and midfielder respectively in 2007.

Rowland Hall suffered a big blow, however, when Lauren Babcock broke her foot. Babcock was the teams top returning scorer, with 18 goals to her credit last fall.

Babcock is hopeful she can heal quick enough to return to the field during the playoffs. In the meantime, she has had to adjust to watching her teammates from the sidelines.

"It's definitely more frustrating because I wish I could be out there doing something,' Babcock said. "I guess (I) see how things work better, so it will be good once I go back to the field. It will be a different experience.'

Losing players like Babcock only intensifies the sudden newness defining the Rowland Hall roster.

"We"re definitely rebuilding in a lot of different capacities,' coach Jaime Wilhite said.

With its youth and inexperience, Rowland Hall is not a favorite to repeat as 2A champions. That honor belongs to Region 14 rival St. Joseph, a team that graduated no seniors and added to its depth over the summer.

The Jayhawks have plenty of offensive firepower. Jennifer Beaudoin and Michelle Howe, who combined for 33 goals a year ago, are back. Joining them is talented freshman Ivee Barton.

Barton has wasted no time making her mark. Through St. Joseph"s first five games, she leads the team with seven goals.

On the other side of the ball, goalkeeper Molly Porter has been equally strong. She has already registered four shutouts and needs only one more to surpass her 2007 total.

Region 13 supremacy will likely come down to Beaver or Millard. Both schools were voted atop the region in preseason voting by coaches.

The Eagles have started strong again, even after replacing several seniors, including top scoring duo Valerie Ortega and Loriana Aleman. Senior forward Jessica Wall has shined early, averaging two goals per game early in the season.

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