Katie Cheng (3) is one of the top returning players for a Jackson team that is looking for its sixth straight Wesco 4A championship. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Katie Cheng (3) is one of the top returning players for a Jackson team that is looking for its sixth straight Wesco 4A championship. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Five storylines for the 2018 girls high school soccer season

Addition of Murphy, Cedarcrest makes a tough Wesco 3A even tougher; Wesco 4A has new playoff format

Here are five storylines to watch during the 2018 girls high school soccer season:

Addition of two schools makes Wesco 3A really, really deep

Just by sheer numbers, the 15-team Wesco 3A looks deep. And it looks even deeper when you break down the teams involved.

Edmonds-Woodway has been a powerhouse, claiming a state title in 2014, placing third the following year and making the state tournament in three of the past four seasons. Snohomish’s program is traditionally strong, and Marysville Getchell has been tough the past two years. The Chargers’ crosstown rival, Marysville Pilchuck, can’t be taken lightly with Fijian National Team member Trina Davis leading the way. Shorecrest and Stanwood have been solid in back-to-back seasons, and then there’s the two newcomers — Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest.

Marysville Pilchuck senior Trina Davis, whose mom was born and raised in Fiji, earned a spot on the Fijian Women’s National Team. (Photo courtesy of Trina Davis)

Marysville Pilchuck senior Trina Davis, whose mom was born and raised in Fiji, earned a spot on the Fijian Women’s National Team. (Photo courtesy of Trina Davis)

Murphy has been a strong program at the 2A level for years, and Cedarcrest finished in front of or tied with the Wildcats in the Cascade Conference standings in each of the past four seasons. The two have started the season 4-0 against Wesco 3A and 4A competition, outscoring their opponents 13-4.

“Bringing in Cedarcrest, they’ve got a pretty good tradition of being a good team, as well as Archbishop. I look at Snohomish and feel that they’re probably the odds-on favorite … just because they’re bringing back a large group of girls that have started as freshmen,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Bill LeCompte said. “ … Top to bottom I think there’s a lot of parity. There’s not many days (off).”

Jackson’s Keile Hansen jumps for a loose ball with Lake Stevens’ Callaway Knutson defending Nov. 2, 2017, night at Goodard Stadium in Everett. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Jackson’s Keile Hansen jumps for a loose ball with Lake Stevens’ Callaway Knutson defending Nov. 2, 2017, night at Goodard Stadium in Everett. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Sixth straight league title in sight for deep Jackson squad

The Wesco 4A discussion has to start with the Timberwolves. Jackson has won five straight conference titles and appears to have the talented needed to make a run at No. 6. The Timberwolves graduated 2017 first-team all-state selections Jadyn Edwards and Kayleigh Sedlacek but seemingly reloaded, with many talented underclassmen with multiple years of varsity experience returning.

“I think this year we really do have a really huge amount of depth,” Timberwolves coach Sarah Smart said. “I think that will be the key to our continued success is that we are able to utilize all 19 of our players.”

Kamiak’s Kailin Wiley, left, and Jackson’s Peyton Manalo vie for possession of the ball Sept. 19, 2017, at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo. Manalo is primed for a big season with the Timberwolves. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Kamiak’s Kailin Wiley, left, and Jackson’s Peyton Manalo vie for possession of the ball Sept. 19, 2017, at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo. Manalo is primed for a big season with the Timberwolves. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Madilyn Rude, Bonnie Martin and second-team all-conference selection Gabi Franco return to anchor the defense, and Keile Hansen, Peyton Manalo and first-team all-conference selection Katie Cheng highlight the offensive attack.

Qualifying for state will be harder than ever for Wesco 4A teams

After years of playing familiar conference foes at the district tournament — with two state berths up for grabs — Wesco 4A combines with KingCo 4A this season for a bi-district tournament that offers five state berths. The new format allows more Wesco teams the opportunity to make the state playoffs, but pits two of the state’s richest girls soccer conferences against each other in what should be a gauntlet of a bi-district tournament.

Lake Stevens’ Sam Foley works to control the ball with Jackson’s Gabi Franco closing Nov. 2, 2017, at Goodard Stadium in Everett on. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Lake Stevens’ Sam Foley works to control the ball with Jackson’s Gabi Franco closing Nov. 2, 2017, at Goodard Stadium in Everett on. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Three of the past four Class 4A state title games have involved a team from either Wesco or KingCo, with KingCo’s Issaquah claiming two state titles and Jackson earning a runner-up finish over that span. Team’s from both conferences have combined to go 22-13 in state-tournament games over the past four years, with 10 quarterfinal appearances between them.

Drop to 1A could benefit Granite Falls in postseason

The Tigers have reached the 2A Northwest District tournament in each of the past four seasons and eight of the past 10, but haven’t been able to advance to state in that span. Four 2A state champions and 13 state semifinalists came out of the district in those 10 seasons. The Tigers finished 8-1-0 against 1A opponents a season ago, including a 1-1-0 record against eventual 1A state champion King’s.

The area is rich with talented individual returners

Even with the departure of eight 2017 all-state selections, Snohomish County has plenty of individual standouts to keep an eye this season.

Davis, who tallied a hat trick while playing for Fiji, leads the Tomahawks, “She’s a heck of a talent and very, very difficult to kind of control,” LeCompte said. “We do our best and she still gets free.”

Archbishop Murphy’s Lexie Klaudt (left) knocks a shot past Liberty goalkeeper Taylor Thatcher (right) for a goal in the second half of the 2A state semifinal game Friday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Shoreline Stadium. Klaudt is expected to lead the Wildcats this season. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Archbishop Murphy’s Lexie Klaudt (left) knocks a shot past Liberty goalkeeper Taylor Thatcher (right) for a goal in the second half of the 2A state semifinal game Friday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Shoreline Stadium. Klaudt is expected to lead the Wildcats this season. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Edmonds-Woodway midfielder Gaby Chappell, a Class 3A second-team all-state selection, returns to the Warriors. She helped lead a defense that allowed just 13 goals in 20 games.

Archbishop Murphy will be led by first-team 2A selection forward Lexie Klaudt. The Central Washington University-bound senior tallied 25 goals and added nine assists in 2017. She’ll team up with all-state honorable mention Gabi Koch, a senior midfielder. Emma Culberson, a 1A second-team pick, returns for defending state champion King’s.

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