Overview: After Snohomish and Lake Stevens tied atop the 2010 North standings, a similar dogfight between rivals was expected in 2011, but the Panthers differentiated themselves, suffering just one league loss and tie during the regular season. The postseason the Vikings turned the tables, fighting through the consolation bracket of the district tournament to make state, while Edmonds-Woodway upset the Panthers. Monroe and Arlington were well behind the top two and will probably find themselves in similar position this year. The wildcard is Mount Vernon, which comes from the Northwest league that included 2A and 3A opponents in 2011.
Favorite: Snohomish. It will be a challenge to replace nine departed seniors, but All-Wesco honorees Morgan Green, Brooke Pingrey and Taylor Morrell, should rally a group of young Panthers to the top of the league. It will be a tougher road than a year ago, but that may be better for the Panthers, who didn't face much adversity prior to their district playoff exit in 2011.
Dark Horse: Mount Vernon. Lake Stevens coach Andy Knutson says it best, "I'm a little nervous to see what they are going to be like." No one knows quite what to expect from the Bulldogs, who return to Wesco after a long absence. After a few years of somewhat predictability, Mount Vernon could ride unfamiliarity but experience in the postseason into the top of the league.
Games to Watch: Sept. 6 Mount Vernon at Lake Stevens: This will be Mount Vernon's first league game after returning to Wesco and it will be a challenge against the Vikings . Sept 18 Snohomish at Mount Vernon, Snohomish will follow a tough non league game at Issaquah on a Saturday with its first road test in the league three days later.
WESCO SOUTH 4A
Overview: By far the toughest league in the area to predict, the South has Four teams that could make a case to take the league title. The only sure thing here is that Mariner will be toward the bottom after going winless in 2011. Both Edmonds-Woodway and Cascade surprised last year's favorites Kamiak and Jackson and all four teams were separated in the regular season standings by just seven points. The departure of Jackson's long-time coach Mike Bartley to Archbishop Murphy and perhaps the league's best scorer Cara Wegner to graduation and the University of Oregon, will likely knock the Timberwolves off their perch atop the conference.
Favorite: Edmonds-Woodway. E-W was a second-place finisher in 2011 and, along with the North's, Lake Stevens, the last Wesco 4A team alive in the state tournament. Both of these facts were major upsets based on preseason expectations. Repeats of those feats won't be upsets this year. The Warriors witnessed a breakout season from freshman Riley Peterson as a scoring threat. Lindsey Aranda led the team in assists and had a nose for game winners, scoring four in some of the Warriors big wins. Imagine what E-W can do with a little postseason experience behind it.
Dark Horse: Cascade. The Bruins had zero seniors a year ago and knew that 2012 would be a big season, but almost made 2011 special taking Kamiak to penalty kicks in a playoff play-in game. The 2012 Cascade team features 12 seniors including three-year captain Sarah Jenkins and major scoring threat and the Bruins top goal scorer in 2011 Rachel Detroit.
Games to Watch: Any games featuring E-W, Kamiak, Cascade and Jackson. This is not a knock on Lynnwood and Mariner, in fact the Marauders should be better this year and feature some strong returning players in Naomi Eastland, Ashley Young and Annalisa Rodriguez. Rather it is a testament to the quality of what should be the top four teams in the division, who are as close to quad-favorites as you can have. Lynnwood will have trouble adjusting to 4A.
WESCO NORTH 3A
Overview: Everett dominated the 2011 Wesco 3A regular season with a 15-0-1 record, but were stunned by second-place Meadowdale. The good news for the Seagulls is that Marysville Getchell's three wins are the most among teams that join Everett from 3A in the first iteration of the 3A North. Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood, which dropped from 4A will likely be the only challenge to the Seagulls taking another league crown, but they will have a hard time matching the complete roster that Everett seems to field every year.
Favorite: Everett. It could help Everett to lose Meadowdale, Shorecrest, and Glacier Peak from the ranks of teams that it plays twice but it also could hurt the Seagulls in terms of having enough challenging games to help prepare for the 3A playoffs. To try and avoid that Everett coach Kosta Pitharoulis, scheduled non league contests, at Wenatchee, against perennial 3A Metro League power Holy Names and at defending 4A state champion Skyline.
Dark Horse: Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood. Both teams should thrive stepping down to 3A competition after struggling to keep up with Lake Stevens and Snohomish in recent years. MP features a dynamic midfield in second-team all-Wesco midfielders Rebecca Kelley and Alexandria Wright. Stanwood boasts a pair of standout junior forwards in Ashley Hughes and first-team all Wesco Lauren Allison. Don't expect either to knock the Seagulls from their perch though.
Games to Watch: Sept. 11 MP at Everett The Tommies first taste of 3A may not be sweet as the Seagulls host. Oct. 22 Stanwood at MP. This second-to-last game of the season for both teams could determine second place in the league
WESCO SOUTH 3A
Overview: All the teams in this league are happy to have to only face Everett once since the league split into divisions for the first time. Meadowdale lost some real senior leadership from a team that finished fourth in the state last year, including the Herald's Player of the Year Alisa Sagdahl. Shorecrest was the only team to record a point against Everett during the regular season and Glacier Peak is a tough team that finished fourth in 3A a year ago. Mountlake Terrace perhaps had designs on contending but will have a hard time replacing the production of first-team all-Wesco standout Erin Russell, who tore her ACL in March and will most likely miss the entire season.
Favorite: Meadowdale has gone to the state tournament the past three years and four of the past five. The have a good chance to keep the string alive thanks to first-team all-Wesco forward Emily Critchlow's scoring capabilities as well as a trio of seniors who received all-league honors in Sarah Fjortoft, Hannah Shouse and Roslyn Stapleton.
Dark Horse: Glacier Peak. The Grizzlies lost only three seniors and have seven returning seniors this season. Perhaps their most important senior will be midfielder Natalie Johnson, who missed last year with back injuries. Sheridan Becanic has committed to play at Oregon and will anchor the defense. The Grizzlies should also count on solid goalkeeping from all-league honoree Mackenzie Severants.
Games to Watch: Oct. 24 Everett at Meadowdale This will be the last game of the season and perhaps meaningless to the standings, but will be a strategic test for both as they likely will meet again at some point in the postseason. Oct. 24 Shorecrest at Glacier Peak This one could have playoff seeding implications or perhaps determine the crown if Meadowdale should slip
Overview: Archbishop Murphy finished tied for third in the league a year ago, but ended up third in the 2A playoffs. Cedarcrest was the surprise winner of the league going 12-1 and finished second in the state. Both the Wildcats and the Red Wolves were tough-luck 1-0 losers to a very good Interlake team in the playoffs with Cedarcrest losing in the championship. King's will contend as usual as a 1A team (the Knight's tied with Murphy for third in 2011). Cedarcrest will look to beat Murphy on the road for the second straight year, but this time facing new girls coach Mike Bartley. Granite Falls has a standout in Goalie Courtney Young who has committed to play soccer at Eastern Washington, but the Tigers may struggle to score against the other four repeat contenders.
Favorite: Archbishop Murphy. Without a doubt the most electric player in the league is the Wildcats Cali Crisler. It's hard to put Murphy past Cedarcrest after the Red Wolves handled the Wildcats in 2011, but Crisler gives them a slight edge. Bartley is new to coaching the Wildcats, but is familiar with the Crisler family and should fit right in with the Wildcat family since he coached the boys team in the fall.
Dark Horse: Lakewood. For the past four years, stellar defense has always been on the menu for the Cougars. This year will test how much of the lack of scoring was due to four-year starter and all-conference goalkeeper Miranda Head, who is playing college soccer at Cal State San Bernardino. If the defense remains legit, Lakewood could sneak up on Murphy and Cedarcrest.
Games to Watch: Sept. 20 Cedarcrest at Archbishop Murphy. Can the Red Wolves win at Murphy for the second year in a row and the second time ever? Oct. 16 King's at Lakewood. The Knights travel for one of their many road tests against a 2A opponent this is the second of a stretch of three straight tough road games for King's against Murphy, Lakewood and Cedarcrest over a nine day period.
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