A vulnerable Davis in 6A, a super-stacked and revamped 5A, more depth in 4A, fresh contenders in 3A and familiar faces in 2A. That sums up some of the most intriguing storylines from all five classifications as the high school soccer season kicks off region play this week across the state.
Here’s a class-by-class look at some of the top contenders with the season ramping up.
Davis’ 45-game winning streak dating back to 2014 came to a close last Tuesday when it dropped a 2-1 game at Snow Canyon. It was a surprising result for the two-time defending state champs, but it also revealed that there’s no clear-cut favorite in the new Class 6A this season.
Davis is still the team to beat considering its pedigree. It’s also not at full strength yet with some key returning players not yet back from injuries.
Courtesy of Snow Canyon though, there’s a blueprint out there about how to knock off Davis, and you can bet the rest of 6A took notice.
American Fork is one of the top challengers to Davis. It rode a 16-game winning streak into last year’s 5A semifinals before losing to Fremont.
A handful of starters from that team are back, including midfielders Kennedy Jex, Addison Holmstead and Jamie Shepherd.
“This year’s team seems young but they have a lot of experience. Every player that graduated last year has a player stepping in as good as they were,” said American Fork coach Derek Dunn. “We have gotten far in the state tournament the last two years so our upper classmen are up to the task this year.”
Already American Fork is off to a strong 5-0 start. It will get plenty of tough competition within its own region as Lone Peak and Bingham are both top contenders.
First-year Lone Peak coach Shantel Jolley likes the core of returning players she has from last year’s 13-4 team.
“We've got a talented young core this year, but some solid seniors in the mix as well. We're excited to see where our seniors can lead us this year but also excited for the next few years of young talent as well,” said Jolley.
Davis will get plenty of competition within its own region as well from Fremont and Weber.
First-year Weber coach Cloee Colohan’s team is dealing with some early injuries as well, but optimistic about a strong core of young players stepping up.
Copper Hills is the front-runner out of Region 3 after graduating just three starters and is unbeaten through the first four games with a 2-0-2 record.
“The team is very motivated this upcoming season to show they have what it takes to make another deep playoff run,” said Copper Hills coach Ryan Rumfallo.
Each classification will see a different impact because of realignment. In the state’s second-largest classification it will see a big uptick in the quality of teams.
The classification was already strong with teams like Alta, Timpview, Skyline, East, Maple Mountain, Woods Cross and Olympus. But this year Brighton and Viewmont join the fold, two programs with a tremendous history of soccer success in Utah.
“We graduated a lot of seniors last year, but have some good experience and talent returning. We are looking forward to the season and competing in our new region,” said Viewmont coach Spencer Keddington.
Brighton heads into its new classification with Brett Rosen taking over as head coach, and he inherits a team with key returning starters, and a team hungry for success after back-to-back first round exits.
That may depend on success in Region 7, which includes defending state champ Timpview and a hungry Alta team that went 14-0-0 in Region 7 last year before losing in the quarterfinals.
“We return seven starters including six, four-year letterman seniors who look to defend their state championship. They will have to navigate the “region of death” with several top high girls’ teams and do so while plugging in four new starters,” said Timpview coach Eric Brady.
Timpview returns three first team all-staters from a year ago, Ashton Brockbank, Marren Nielsen and Kelsey Salvesen.
Alta, Timpview and Brighton are all unbeaten so far this season.
Region 6 boasts just as much talent at the top of the region with Skyline, Olympus and last year’s 4A runner-up East.
“We graduated some key players on defense and in the midfielder and forward positions and will rely heavily on a few returning starters and some underclassmen this season. I think we have some very capable players and hopefully we can gain familiarity and confidence as the season goes on,” said East coach Rudy Schenk.
East is led by returning first team all-staters Catherine Hill and Emily Jensen.
Region 8 is a bit of an unknown with experienced teams like Wasatch and Maple Mountain battling against strong younger teams like Skyridge and Springville.
Defending state champion Juan Diego is 0-4 this fall as the program has played up in all four games, losing to Brighton, Olympus, Alta and Bingham.
Will the experience translate into success now that region play gets underway this week under new head coach Goran Golemba? It did last year, and certainly might again this season. It will be a new group leading the way for the Soaring Eagle though as no first- or second-team team all-staters return from last year.
Juan Diego is lumped in an intriguing new region that includes Bonneville, a perennial contender in recent years in an upper classification.
Logan was a runner-up last year in 3A, and it will be part of a stacked Region 12 this year that includes Bear River and the five schools in Cache Valley. Logan’s former coach Sven Rasmussen is now the new head coach at first-year school Green Canyon.
Region 9 teams were consistently among the top teams at the end of the season in the old 3A, and that figures to be the case again in 4A.
Snow Canyon, a semifinalist last year, already has a huge feather in its cap with a win over Davis last week and more success could follow.
“Teams in our region are very good and we hope to be competitive this year not only in the region but in the new classification. We have had a lot of fun and worked hard during the off season this year and can't wait to see our girls compete this year,” said coach Kenny Kunde.
Snow Canyon is led by returning all-state defender Brielle Hoskins.
Two-time Region 9 champion Desert Hills figures to be right in the thick of the title races again this season, and Kodee Bracken is a big reason why after she led the team in scoring last year and was voted all-state first team.
“Desert Hills will be a young but very talented team with a deep bench,” said coach Benji Nelson. “Entering the 4A classification with many new teams to face will make it even more interesting.”
Of all the classification shuffling, perhaps 3A is left with the most question marks. The perennial contenders are gone.
All the top-flight teams from the old 3A bumped up to 4A, but those equivalent teams from the old 2A — Waterford and Rowland Hall — didn’t bump up to 3A. That leaves a heap of teams with legitimate hopes to capturing this year’s 3A title.
Among them are Manti, Summit Academy, Grantsville, Morgan, Judge Memorial, Delta and Maeser Prep.
“I'm really excited for this year's team. We played attractive football last year, we scored loads of goals and made it to the semifinals with a very young team, so this year we're just looking to see if we can build on that,” said Summit Academy coach Trevor Ott.
Summit Academy is led by defender Parker Lockhart, the lone returning first team all-stater that bumped up a classification. There were five underclassmen all-staters from Waterford and Rowland Hall that remained in 2A.
Manti is already off to a very strong start this season with shutout wins over Delta and American Leadership and a solid tie against 6A’s West.
South Summit is unbeaten as well with preseason wins over American Leadership, Union and Granger.
The 2A state title has usually gone through Waterford and Rowland Hall over the past decade, but unfortunately for those two the rest of the region's teams nearly the same quality of competition it has in the past.
Many of the programs that Waterford and Rowland Hall have grown accustomed to competing against deep in the playoffs have been bumped up a classification to 3A. The two perennial contenders still have each other though, which means the rivalry rival remain strong.
“I am looking forward to having another successful campaign playing an attractive brand of soccer that involves multiple players on both sides of the ball. We have fairly high standards and a lot of our success will be based on how quickly we can get the team fit enough to meet the demands of the game,” said Rowland Hall coach Bobby Kennedy, whose team lost to Waterford in last year’s 2A title game.
Samantha Morris and Anna Wood are two of the top returning players from that Waterford squad, which coach Tim Dolbin said will be pretty young this season.
In the 2A South region, Millard and Parowan should be the front-runners.