HEBER When Wasatch took the field against Lehi last week, Mattie Graham could not help feeling a little nervous. The Pioneers dealt the Wasps a 2-1 loss a year ago, even with all-state scoring sensation Tara Gehring up top for the Wasps.
Without Gehring, it looked to be worse this time around. But when Lehi scraped out a bare 1-0 victory with a late goal, Graham felt a little bit of relief in seeing how competitive her team was with a good 5A team.
"I thought we were going to get creamed to be honest with you," Graham said. "Last year they beat us (2-1). But we did very well this year. Extremely well."
It is never easy to replace a player like Gehring, who accounted for 25 goals in 2007. Wasatch hasn't quite found a replacement for her on offense. But, on the defensive end, the Wasps are moving along just fine.
Wasatch has allowed only six goals in its first five games. Aside from a 4-1 loss to Morgan, scoring on the Wasps has been a chore.
One reason for that is experience. Several starters returned on the backline this season, led by senior Brittney Bigney. The main hole to fill has been at sweeper where Natalie Pennington got the start for three games before being replaced by Graham, who was originally at midfield.
Wasatch coach Dwain Wheatley already had a pair of seniors anchoring the midfield in Kim Parker and Karen Cottle and figured that Graham, another senior, would be ideal for sweeper because of her leadership and communication skills.
The transition to a defensive role has been easy for Graham.
"We have everyone there that was there last year, so we all know what we're doing," Graham said.
Such knowledge can only help in a region that appears to be one of the toughest in the state once again.
Waterford is considered a 3A title favorite by many observers, especially after putting together a strong start in the preseason. The Ravens boast a talented trio of scorers in Kimi Miyashima, Lanie Ward and Taylor Ritzman and a solid goalkeeper in Jeannie Woller.
Park City has to be considered a factor at both the state and region levels with several talented club players led by Parade All-American Lindi Lisonbee. The Miners have had little success early in the season, but have held their own against tough competition that has included heavyweights like Alta and Brighton.
Not to be forgotten is defending 3A champion Judge Memorial. The Bulldogs have had mixed results early. Still, slow start did not stop them from running through the state tournament a year ago.
With talented players like Kiersten Berg and Natalie Warner to draw from, no one can count Judge out from delivering a suitable encore to its '07 title run.
Moving through the Region 10 gauntlet won't be easy for any team even one like Wasatch that has become so accustomed to success in recent seasons.
"Our region is just loaded," Wheatley said. "It's going to be a dogfight and you just have to keep your head up."
Region 10 projected order of finish (Based on coaches votes)
1. Park City
5. Uintah6. Union