Here are five storylines to keep an eye on during the 2019 boys soccer season:
1. No clear favorite in Wesco 4A
Last year’s race for a league championship came down to the final game of the regular season and 2019 looks like it could be much of the same in Wesco 4A.
Lake Stevens returns a strong core of experienced seniors and is a program that appears to be on an upward trend. But the Vikings will have plenty competition in their eight-team league.
Mount Vernon made the Class 4A state quarterfinals in 2018 and earned a share of the conference title with Glacier Peak. Defender Edwin Subias-Marquez and midfielder Francisco Delacruz are the league’s only two first-team all-conference selections returning.
Fellow quarterfinalist Glacier Peak returns second-team defender Bryce Crowder and a number of other juniors with varsity experience. The 2018 co-champions will be tasked with replacing the production of first-team midfielder Keegan Rubio.
Jackson enters its first season under new head coach Sarah Smart, who’s had plenty of success at the helm of the Timberwolves’ girls program.
2. The race for supremacy in Wesco 3A/2A may be even less clear
The combination of graduation, new coaches and a pair of new teams has the 15-team league looking like a gauntlet with no hint who will come out on top.
Defending conference champion Marysville Pilchuck graduated 11 seniors and runner-up Snohomish loses four all-league selections. The Tomahawks and Panthers have shown they can hold their own in early-season matches against returning state participants Mount Vernon and Squalicum, respectively. The teams that finished just behind them — Edmonds-Woodway, Shorecrest and Shorewood — all appear to have strong squads once again.
“None of us really know (who’s going to come out on top),” Snohomish coach Matt Raney said. “… This I do know, I expect a really large corps of teams vying for those top four spots. A much larger corps than what we’ve seen in the past. I’m excited about it, but I also think we’re all gonna enter the postseason pretty beat up from having to fight for our lives to get out of this conference.”
3. Will 2A power Murphy make an instant impact in Wesco?
The Wildcats have been one of the premier programs in 2A while making 10 straight state-tournament appearances, including three straight state titles from 2015-2017. Archbishop Murphy proved to be far too much for foes in the since-disbanded Cascade Conference to handle while posting a 90-8 league record from 2010-2018. The Wildcats are led by all-league returners midfielder Zachary Seivers, forward Buba Manneh and defenders Max Henderson and Connor McDanniel.
4. South Whidbey is a strong contender in the North Sound Conference
The Falcons are coming off a run to the state quarterfinals and return a trio of seniors that were first-team all-league selections in 2018. Goalkeeper Julian Inches, midfielder Graham Colar and forward Michael Lux lead a South Whidbey team that graduated just four players last season.
“Julian is heading off to play at Linfield College in Oregon. He’s a heck of a keeper,” Falcons coach Emerson Robbins said. “I haven’t seen every team in 1A, but (he’s) certainly the best I’ve seen so far in 1A.”
Robbins said the team returns the bulk of its offensive starters and should have plenty of firepower up front. He added that a key for South Whidbey will be filling the roles left by last year’s seniors on defense, including Washington State Soccer Coaches Association first-team all-state selection Lake Smith.
A young King’s squad looks to be the Falcons’ top competition for a league title. The Knights graduated their leaders in goals scored and assists from last season but return Saint Martin’s-bound keeper Gunnar Morehead and first-team fullback Christian Engmann to anchor a defense that allowed just 11 goals in 16 games last season.
5. Can an area team make it to the state semifinals?
The 2018 campaign ended a 16-season streak of Wesco or North Sound Conference teams making it to the state semifinals in classifications 1A through 4A.
In the 16-year span, Archbishop Murphy won four state titles, Snohomish three, Shorecrest two and Meadowdale and Glacier Peak one each. In all, 14 different programs combined for 40 semifinal appearances and 19 moved on to a championship game.