It would seem a difficult task for a high school coach to rebuild a talented team after the annual obstacle traditionally known as graduation. Talent does not grow on trees as most the sports world knows.
That standard is now being put to the test however, especially in the booming sport of high school soccer. Now ranked as the fastest growing team sport at the high school level, the sport is proving to coaches around the state of Utah a new prosperity and wealth of fresh skilled players at an ever increasing rate.This week's official kick off of region action in girl's high school soccer will be fueled by coaches' anticipation to use new talents at the sophomore and even freshman level. And that's not even mentioning this year's outstanding field of junior and senior players. Of the 64 total athletes chosen as last year's Deseret News All-State Girls Soccer award winners, 35 will be returning to their respective teams to catch the 5A, 4A and 3A state titles.
Leading the field in this year's championship hunt for the three classifications will be Mountain View (5A), Jordan (4A) and Pine View (3A). The Beetdiggers and Panthers both return as defending champs in their classifications while the Bruins start at No. 1 after finish second in 5A behind Viewmont.
With preseason play having already begun on Aug. 12, only four days after most schools held official try-outs, the year has already a fast and furious beginning to a journey that will end with the State Playoffs Oct. 20-22 at West Jordan and Lehi.
The driving force behind the Bruins' immediate charge will be the talent and energy of All-State forward, and premiere high school athelte, Shauna Rohbock. Now in her senior year, Rohbock is on track to shatter the state record for goals scored in a season after scoring 30 in 1993.
Brighton coach Kathy Kuhn will return 17 of the 21 varsity members of last year's squad that finished third in state. That experience, which is steered by outstanding All-State goalkeeper Tawni Martineau and sophomore forward Emily Sutherland, should help feed a Bengal squad hungry for their first title since 1989.
Despite losing All-State forward Natalie Pearson, the Darts still contain a deadly attack at the striker position with Megan Jensen (26 goals) and Melonie Miller (13 goals) on a team striving to climb past their strong fourth-place finish at state last year.
The feeling Bountiful coach Dave Wigham has when watching his team practice is one of both joy and fright. The elite sophomore talent of Wigham's Braves is now a scary prospect for any coach in 5A. "Our toughest battle is at practice with our J.V. squad," Wigham said. "I've had to cut players that started last year."
In order to repeat as Region 1 champion first year head coach Dave Green will rely on senior experience, especially at the forward position, to outlast rising forces in Northridge, Layton and Roy. Taking the helm of the striker strength is senior All-Stater Stacy Vogt, the Warriors' scoring leader from last year.
When it comes to picking the top team 4A, it's hard to overlook a Beetdigger squad that holds on to four of their seven All-State athletes from last year's state championship. All-State forward Tawni Epperson, younger sister of last year's MVP Brook Epperson, heads a Goliath force of power offense for Jordan coach Bill Noble with.
Right behind Jordan will be the Kris Korbis's Olympus team led by All-State forward Dominique Barcellona and sweeper Tara McNeil, both seniors for the loaded but younger Titan lineup. The combination of both players with a bolstered scoring charge at halfback give Korbis a major strength to match against Region 7 foe Woods Cross.
Continuing the sophomore trend will be Woods Cross coach Kevin Rigby, who considers this season as "a rebuilding year." "I'll start as many as 4-5 sophomores," the coach of the reigning Region 7 champs said. All-State junior midfielder Megan Morris will take over the halfback firing squad along with standout senior Kathy Bullock.
The defending Region 5 champions posted a stellar year with a 12-1 record and ended their season with a tough loss to Olympus in the inter-region playoffs. Coach Alain Paulus will continue a strong defensive effort with the additions of sohomores Brooke James and Debbie Huber at fullback and halfback positions.
Jaguar coach Mike Kernodle is apprehensive about starting the year in the top-five of 4A. All-State forward Ally Hill finished 1993 with 21 goals in her sophomore campaign, but had her season cut short with a knee surgery and is still an uncertainty in regards of full strength.
From top to bottom the Panthers remain the team to beat, and then some. Just ask any of their victims from preseason play. Nicole Kogan, only in her junior year, will continue as the premiere player at the 3A level. The Panthers went on an 11-0 tear en route to the title thanks to the defensive magic of Kogan, All-State defender Leisha Larson and goalkeeper Meackala Miller, all returning for the `94 squad.
The Flyers are pushed offensively by forwards Heather Heaton and Melissa Sunyich, who was voted as an All-State two-straight years. Second in scoring and assists behind Sunyich is sophomore midfielder Jocelyn Campbell on a team that will gear down for extra speed in Region 9.
Nothing would be sweeter for the Pioneers than an title win on their home field this October. To get that far scoring must be consistent from All-State forward Amber Strode.