Ask coaches from around the state how to classify girls' soccer and the answer is unanimous. Class 3A teams like Park City and Pine View are still on the rise and 4A powers Olympus and Woods Cross are closing in on the 5A schools.
But alone at the top are only two.To no one's real surprise, the chase to capture a 5A girls soccer title will be led by reigning forces Brighton and Mountain View.
With nine returning starters, the Bengals received the most votes to take the preseason No. 1 ranking.
But after shocking Brighton in last season's state final, Mountain View continued its domination with Tuesday's 2-1 rematch win. Now the Bengals don't seem as intimidating as days past.
"(Beating them twice) has certainly gotten us to another ledge," said Mountain View coach Mike LaHargoue. "We've had some wonderful games between us."
Despite losing to the Bruins this week on a disputed penalty kick, Brighton coach Kathy Kuhn doesn't mind playing second fiddle to the defending state champs should her team drop in any rankings.
"There's not as much pressure on us as last year," she said. "Our team has clicked together early. Hopefully what happened last year won't happen again."
Both teams rely on strong midfields to supply offense. The Bruins scoring threat in halfbacks Athelia Graham, AnnaLyn Benson and Lisa Anthony has already led them to a 6-0 record. Goalkeeper Courtney Hills also remains a defensive key to big wins in Region 4.
Brighton halfbacks Sydney Stoner and Carly Schanz will back up leading scorer Emily Sutherland at forward on the Bengal offensive front. Returning from last season's 17-1 team is stopper Jen Nelson and three more defensive starters.
Elsewhere around the state:
Closing in on Brighton and Mountain View is Dave Wigham's Bountiful team led by top scorer Karen Robbins and defender Christy Newman. The Braves lost only two seniors from last year's region title squad.
The secret is also out on a surging Alta team with senior all-state keeper Mackenzie Hyer. Sophomore midfielder Aubrey Smith may be one of the state's strongest newcomers offensively.
Rounding out the 5A ranks is Davis and two-time all state forward Megan Jensen. Along with halfback Melanie Miller, the Jensen and the Darts seek to dethrone rival Bountiful from the Region 2 title race.
After beating 5A favorite Brighton in a 2-1 preseason shootout, defending state champ Olympus is on the hunt for a fourth straight title appearance. Forward Ashley Kjar and defender Amanda Black return to lead the Titans.
Region rival Woods Cross will work to forget last season's first round playoff loss with three-year starter Megan Morris taking the reins. Defender Angie Creer and forward Stacy Jepsen add more senior experience with junior Jennie Waldron guarding the goalposts.
Two of last year's semifinalists, Ben Lomond and Judge Memorial, return young but skilled squads. Ben Lomond goalkeeper Sarah Ridley allowed only five goals last year while teammate Brooke Greenfield returns as leading scorer.
Judge sophomores Stephanie Schwobe and Katie Stieinski will help the Bulldogs fight off rival neighbor East in a heated race in Region 6/7. The Leopards return Aly Hill and Meredith Lake to their lineup from last year's 9-6 team.
Without 1993 MVP Nicole Kogan, the Pine View Panthers came one game short of repeating as state champs. With her in this her senior year, no team should stop them. Joining her are senior forward Jenny Barton and junior goalkeeper Michaela Miller for a title campaign.
Park City's young team from a year ago has now come of age with senior halfback Joanna Manwaring and sophomore defender Jordan Krieger. Junior goalkeeper Erinn Johnson will also help defend the Region 10 title.
Returning champ Dixie will battle again with Pine View for top region seed as forward Lacy Newby and midfielder Jocelyn Campbell carry the scoring load for a younger squad.