Players to watch and key storylines
Sr., Midfielder, Snohomish
The Panthers' lone senior could play anywhere on the field and make a difference. She has for four years as a varsity starter. Most of it has been as a defender but Pingrey will play anywhere on the field but goal. "It doesn't really matter where we put her," Snohomish coach April VanAssche said. "She will have some of the biggest impact in how we control the field." Pingrey, whose father is the Snohomish boys coach, has soccer in her blood and enthusiasm for the sport bursting out of her pony tail. "She's one of those players that's obviously very skilled and she's worked a lot to get there, but she's also a very happy kid so she brings a lot to our team: excitement and energy," the coach said. "She's definitely a leader by how she plays." Pingrey has verbally committed to play soccer for Seattle Pacific University next year. "She's a great player," VanAssche said.
Sr., Midfielder, Archbishop Murphy
Gone from the Wildcats is Shelby Koch, who is now playing at the college level at Loyola Chicago, so this is Crisler's team. "Last year she was overshadowed by Shelby and I think that now she's out of the way, (Crisler) has to step up and play the type of soccer I know she's capable of." second-year Wildcat coach Mike Bartley said. She is one of the most dynamic players in the area regardless of classification. Crisler has shown her skill and versatility in the past at Murphy and the prestigious local club, Crossfire Academy. "I think she'll be the leading scorer, but I also think she'll have a ton of assists," second-year coach Mike Bartley said of the returning first-team all Cascade player. But Crisler isn't the only one to watch for the Wildcats, who expect big things this season as always. "There's a lot of talent around her that she can make better," Bartley said.
Sr., Forward, Meadowdale
Sometimes the biggest impact the Mavericks senior has on the game doesn't show up in the box score. Take Tuesday night's season-opening win over Marysville Pilchuck: Critchlow assisted on one of the Meadowdale goals, but according to coach Wade Foley the Mavs forward had a hand in all three. "A lot of what she does doesn't show up on the scorecard, but quite honestly she was a huge reason we were able to put three goals up there," Foley said. Critchlow still puts up pretty impressive numbers. Last season the Mavs forward scored a Wesco 3A-best 18 goals and spearheaded a Meadowdale offense that averaged more than two goals per game and led the Mavs to a district title and an appearance in the state quarterfinals. This year if Meadowdale is able to win a state title, a large reason will be because of Critchlow -- whether her name appears in the box score or not. "I'm glad we have her," Foley said.
Can Anyone unseat the Panthers?
The past two years (Three?) in the Wesco North have belonged to the Snohomish girls soccer team. Experienced rosters captured the league crown and most expect that the Panthers will repeat this year, but it won't be a runaway and a few schools have a chance to either unseat the defending champs or at least hang with them on the way to the district playoffs.
Sixth-year Snohomish head coach April VanAssche is ready for another run at the state playoffs.
"I'm excited for the season," she said. "We have a lot of returning players. Things seem to be coming together nicely."
The Panthers have a lot of returnees, but just one senior: 1st team all-league Brooke Pingrey. The team boasts nine juniors including defender Kaytlin Willis. Both Willis and Pingrey have verbally committed to play soccer at Seattle Pacific University when the move to the next level.
Also returning is last year's leading goal scorer forward Ellie Otteson (13 goals) and defenders Emily Minogue and Mandy Ruhnke.
The Panthers expect to be challenged at the top by a three-headed monster in the form of Arlington, Lake Stevens and Monroe.
Forced to pick a favorite among those, VanAssche went with Arlington, but quickly added, "I would be wrong in not stating lake Stevens and Monroe will be contenders as well."
Monroe's 22nd-year coach Kathleen Potthast is excited to challenge the Panthers this year.
"Overall, they've always had a strong program they have a good coaching staff," Potthast said. "We're always kind of (rivals). We always fire up for them and they for us as well."
The Bearcats will be known for their defense thanks to first team all-league returnees on the backline including Kylee Billings and Jamie Hawkins. In the net, Sydney Day figures to keep plenty of Wesco teams at bay for the Bearcats.
Monroe will be ready to make its presence felt this season.
"We are looking pretty good," Potthast said. "We are pretty excited to start the season."
What did loss to champs teach Murphy?
The 2011 Archbishop Murphy girls soccer team, walked up to the doorstep of the 2A state championship, finishing third with a 1-0 loss to the eventual champion. Last year the Wildcats thought they would be able to take the next step, but a loss in the district playoffs cost the team valuable seeding and they again lost 1-0 to the eventual champion Sumner this time in the state quarterfinals.
It's bold for a high school coach to talk about the district playoffs before the first regular season game has been played, but Mike Bartley is doing just that. Those talks go with the territory of high expectations at two-time state champ Murphy.
"We can win league," he said. "When we get to the playoffs that's going to be a critical thing: Squalicum and Sehome."
Though the Wildcats know King's, Lakewood and Cedarcrest won't be pushovers, the team hopes it is on another collision course for the two Northwest league favorites in 2013.
Thankfully Bartley also has the talent to make such projections possible. Led by five experienced seniors and seven juniors, the Wildcats are the favorite to win the Cascade Conference title.
"The junior class is going to make the chemistry of the team good because we know each other really well," Bartley said. "If we play to our potential, we will be really good."
Like most good soccer teams, it will start at the back for the Wildcats.
"The back line is very experienced," Bartley said. "The defense is going to be really good. People think we'll be weaker, but I think we'll be better than last year."
Calisse Crisler is the star and will distribute and score from the midfield. Watch for the emergence -- literally -- of Tena Ungvarsky. The diminutive forward is the only one at the top of the formation for the Wildcats, but Bartley expects her to lift her head above crowds in front of the net and score a lot of goals.
"She's really good in the air," he said despite her size. "I would sub her in and within five minutes she'd have a goal off a set piece."
Who's the favorite in the 4A South?
Last year a senior-laden Cascade girls soccer team beat out Edmonds-Woodway for the Wesco 4A South title.
This year's it seems to be a four-team race and it's any team's to win.
The Bruins lost 12 seniors -- nine starters -- but Jamie Gay is confident that they're reloading not rebuilding. Claire Nelson, who played quality minutes on last year's team, is joined bye Becca Andrade and Hannah Albert in the midfield. "Our big kids are tough, our small kids are quick and our center midfield looks really good," Gay said. Brooke Keuhn, a junior defender, will hold down the back line, along with key newcomer in Taryn Salter.
Edmonds-Woodway, which finished second to Cascade, lost a few players to graduation and one, Alyse Pattison, to injury, but coach Bill LeCompte is confident his team can be in the upper portion of the South.
"We should remain a good possession style team with the ability to attack from multiple spots on the field," LeCompte said. "We look to continue the ability to attack quickly."
The Warriors will be led by forwards sophomore phenom Madison Schultz, who scored 24 goals a year ago, Rylee Peterson, and midfielder Savanah VanCitters and defender Hailey Hull.
Kamiak has a good chance to make a run at a South title despite the fact it lost its returning All-Wesco first-team forward Emele Chaddock to a seacond-ending injury. The Knights still have plenty of talent returning, though, including juniors Baylie Lux-Lowry and Anne Ferguson, and sophomore defender Tylor Adcock.
"We have a strong returning group and a solid group of new varsity players this year," said Kamiak coach Beth Stewart. "We have great team chemistry with many of the girls playing together for years."
Kamiak will replace All-Area goalkeeper Emma Makela with sophomore Shannon Peth.
And don't forget about Jackson, which had a bit of a down year last year after winning the 4A South two years ago. The Timberwolves are led by a couple of All-Wesco selections from a year ago in Nikki Hovland and Kristina Serres, who combined to score three goals in their season-opening win over Lynnwood.
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