During the past two high school girls soccer seasons, a pair of Cache Valley teams have dominated the region.
Sky View went undefeated in Region 12 play en route to capturing the 4A state title in 2017. A season later, Logan went 10-0-0 against region foes and won all but two of those matches by multiple goals.
It remains to be seen if that trend will continue in 2019, but it is unlikely. There appears to be a lot of parity in Region 11 and all five Cache County teams return a significant amount of starters.
Region 11 action begins next Tuesday.
The Wolves head into region play with a wealth of momentum, having won all five of their non-region games, including four in shutout fashion. Green Canyon hasn’t played as tough of a schedule as some of the other local teams, but with a wealth of returning starters should be a factor in the Region 11 race.
Green Canyon (5-0-0) has already matched its win total from the 2018 campaign.
“I feel very confident that we are going to do a lot better than last year. I think already we’ve tied our goal scoring total from all of last year,” Rasmussen said after his side’s third game of the season. “Last year ... we were a very defensive-minded team, and the way we’ve gone about things with our backline being the same, we’re pretty solid defensively. We needed to work on some other areas of the field and the girls are excited to play some attacking soccer, and I think you’re seeing some results there.”
Highlighting Green Canyon’s list of returning starters are midfielder/forward Kylie Olsen and goalkeeper Brooke Watkins. Olsen was the team’s leading scorer as a sophomore and junior, and Watkins, a junior, is in her third year as the starter.
Other Wolves who earned a significant amount of playing time at the varsity level last season are Claire Campbell (defender), McKenna Crane (D), Emma DeBerard (MF), Kennedy Eskelson (D), Brooklyn Heap (D), Kaizley Holbrook (F), Tyler Hoth (D/MF), Hannah Sadler (MF), Elizabeth Seeley (MF/F), Maggie Stephens (F), Corey Thompson (MF/F), Ryley Thompson (F), and Talia Winder (D/F).
Ryley Thompson and Eskelson are star basketball players and outstanding athletes.
“I think we are very deep,” said Rasmussen, who has been impressed with his team’s chemistry and camaraderie. “We’re extremely deep. We have a lot of girls that we had a lot of experience. I have about seven juniors that have been playing varsity for me since they were freshmen, and so we have a lot of experience.”
The Grizzlies have been victimized by the injury bug and a brutal preseason schedule that has included renowned larger classification programs Davis, Alta, Corner Canyon and Bingham. There have been matches this season Logan has only had one varsity sub.
Nevertheless, there is still plenty of talent on Logan’s roster. For starters, reigning Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year Bizzy Arevalo is back. Arevalo, who finished with 13 goals and 14 assists, was a first-team all-state selection in ’18.
The Grizzlies (1-5-0) have lost a pair of returning starters to season-ending injuries in Leah Hale and Erin Godfrey, but there’s a good chance standouts Whitney Lopez and Taylor Rose will return from their injuries. Lopez, a senior midfielder, is a Utah State University commit.
“I am extremely confident that we can still hold our own in the region, even with the injuries that we have,” Logan head coach Natalie Norris said. “The girls who we have on the field are stepping up and they’re coming together as a team. And I truly think that we’ll be able to still contend in region pretty well.”
Logan’s other returning starters are Cadence Martindale (GK), Kylee Thanadabout (D) and Alec Kennington (MF). Martindale secured honorable mention all-state accolades last season as she recorded 10 shutouts.
Ashley Coppin is another Grizzly who played substantial varsity minutes last fall. Other players Logan is counting on this season are Gracie Laney, Emma Browning, Carlie Jenkins, Emily Hilario and Ayrion Covington.
Even though they have only won one match so far, the Grizzlies have displayed a lot of tenacity. Norris used the word “grit” when describing her squad.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity come our way so far and not very many subs, and yet we’ve still got late goals in several of our games that we’ve played so far,” Norris said. “And they truly just work together as a team and never give up, and that’s something that’s kind of held us together so far.”
Like the Grizzlies, the Mustangs (0-4-1) have struggled with a very challenging preseason schedule. Capitalizing on scoring opportunities has been Mountain Crest’s biggest weakness so far as it has only found the back of the net once.
And yet, the Mustangs could still be a factor in the region race because they have some talented defensive players, led by second-team all-state honoree Kadison Kendrick. Annie Naser, a ’18 all-valley selection, is another returning starter on MC’s backline.
“I think we have a really solid defensive line this year, which is always important,” said MC head coach Amber Hyatt, whose side finished second in the region last year and, like Logan, advanced to the 4A state semifinals. “You know, defense first, in my book. If we can stop the goals going in, then that’s a good starting point. So I think that’s probably the strongest part of our team this year.”
In addition to Kendrick and Naser, other starters the Mustangs welcomed back are Baylie Baldwin (F) — who is currently nursing an injury — Birkli Barrera (F/MF), Ellie Parker (MF), Hannah Schwab (F) and Keiera Nielson (MF/F). Harmony Newman also started several matches in the midfield. Nielson, Schwab, Barrera, Baldwin and Amelia Zilles (MF) are players Hyatt is anticipating to break out in the attack.
Other players Mountain Crest is counting on are Dakota Andersen (GK), Avrie Selvage (D) and Emma Isom (D). Isom has shined so far as a first-year starter at outside back.
Hyatt is confident her side has what it takes to right the ship and contend for a region championship.
“Obviously, everybody wants that region title, so that’s the big goal of ours is to just do our best to be in those competitive games and come out on top during those competitive games, which is going to be every game in the region,” she said. “But that’s our main goal and I think it’s attainable this year, even though our preseason doesn’t show it.”
Like the Wolves, the Riverhawks will enter region play with plenty of confidence and the look of a legitimate title contender. Ridgeline has already racked up 31 goals in its six matches, and at least three of the Riverhawks’ best offensive weapons are future Division I college players.
Perhaps the most gratifying part of the Riverhawks’ successful preseason is how unselfish they have been, head coach Mark Tureson asserted.
“I think our biggest strengths is we’ve got a lot of talented individuals, but they love to play together,” Tureson said. “I think that’s the biggest strength. Talent’s awesome. It’s a great thing to have, but these girls want to play together ... and I think that’s what’s going to drive them.”
Ridgeline’s vaunted attack is headlined by future Utah Valley University player London Miller, USU commit Tenzi Knowles and former U.S. U16 national team performer Abbie Kotter. Kotter, who is coming off ankle surgery, garnered the praise of Tureson was “being such a selfless player.” Miller, a second-team all-state honoree last year, has already netted 15 goals in ’19.
Halle Van Yperen, last year’s All-Valley Newcomer of the Year, and Addie Zollinger are also proven goal scorers for the Riverhawks. All-Star track athlete Olivia Smith is a dynamic midfielder.
Other players the Riverhawks will be relying on this season are Alex Baer (D), Samantha Carlston (MF), Carly Eubanks (D), Marley Guevara (D/MF), Hannah Johnson (MF), Shelby Murphy (D) and Sara Snyder (D). Aspen Wallin appears to have won the starting keeper job, although she has been pushed by freshman Alivia Brenchley.
Ridgeline was bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year, but appear to be in better form in ’19.
“I’m confident that they could (make a deep run),” Tureson said. “Like I’ve said, they’ve got the talent, it’s just whether they’re able to stay together and keep focused on not winning but focused on excellence and improvement. Winning’s a byproduct of all that.”
It’s been somewhat of an up-and-down preseason for the Bobcats, who were 3-2-0 heading into Thursday’s road match against Preston. However, Sky View has already made considerable strides in the attack, and Wood has been very pleased with her team’s unity.
“There’s not any one person that’s a star, so to speak, but ... they’re more team-oriented, they like each other, they associate with each other,” Wood said. “They win together as a team, they lose together as a team.”
The Bobcats return several starters in Samantha Hall (F), Addie Poulsen (F), Rebecca Reese (D), Madison Daniels (D/MF), Sydney Neilson (D), Kylie Rogers (MF) and Katie Finlinson (GK). Poulsen already has five assists on the season and has been a nice weapon taking corner kicks.
Other players Wood is counting on are Adrianna Karren (MF), Annika McCulloch (MF), Gracie Rigby (D), Macy Hellstern (F/MF), Whitney Boman (F/MF), Kortnee Lamb (D/MF), Hannah Womack (D) and freshman Amalia Fonua (F/D). Boman is recovering from an injury, while Rigby just returned from one.
Sky View has been pretty stout defensively as it has only conceded more than one goal on one occasion — a 2-0 loss at Wasatch. Thanks to their defensive prowess and a solid offense, Wood is confident her team could have a good season.
The Bobcats made it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs a year ago.
“If they play well together and keep doing what they’re doing and they take care of themselves and each other, I think we could make a deep run,” Wood said. “I’m hoping that we would be in one of the top places here in our region, one of those top four places, but our region is tough. But I think if we can finish high enough in our region, then we could make a deep run in the playoffs. That’s what I’m hoping for them because I want them to be successful because they’re great players and great girls.”