Katie Cheng (center) returns for a Jackson team eyeing its sixth consecutive outright Wesco 4A title. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Katie Cheng (center) returns for a Jackson team eyeing its sixth consecutive outright Wesco 4A title. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Prep girls soccer preview: 5 storylines to watch

Jackson aims for another Wesco 4A crown, Edmonds-Woodway looks to continue its success, and more.

Five storylines to watch during the 2019 high school girls soccer season:

Jackson aims for another Wesco 4A title

The Timberwolves have been a perennial force both in the area and at the state level, claiming five consecutive outright Wesco 4A titles and reaching the state playoffs in 13 of the past 15 years. Over the past six seasons, Jackson has compiled a 72-7-6 conference record and made the Class 4A state playoffs every year. That includes three state quarterfinal trips in the past five seasons, highlighted by a state runner-up finish in 2014.

The Timberwolves graduated three All-Wesco 4A first-team selections from last year’s state-playoff squad. The most notable loss was forward Keile Hansen, a current Boise State University player who provided 18 goals and four assists last season.

But there’s still plenty of talent returning for the Timberwolves, who bring back three all-conference selections. Also returning is senior Kathryn Cheng, who totaled 10 goals and six assists last year. She’s off to a strong start this season, having netted a hat trick in last week’s opening match.

Expect Jackson to contend for another conference title and to once again be a major factor come the postseason.

Lake Stevens looks to build on last season

The Vikings are coming off the third 4A state quarterfinal appearance in program history, and the third state berth in the past four seasons. Lake Stevens finished second in Wesco 4A last year, just three points behind perennial power Jackson. The Vikings’ 0-0 draw in their first meeting with the Timberwolves was the only conference match Jackson didn’t win last season.

Among the seven seniors Lake Stevens graduated was forward Amber Elliano, who led the team with 19 goals and nine assists. But the Vikings return three of their four all-conference selections, including defender Jordan Cagle and goalkeeper Tayla Peterson from a defense that allowed a league-low six goals in Wesco 4A play.

Lake Stevens opened its season last week with a 1-1 draw against Puyallup, which also reached the 4A state quarterfinals last year.

Another playoff run for Edmonds-Woodway?

The Warriors have reached the 3A state quarterfinals four times in the past five seasons, earning a state title in 2014, a third-place finish in 2015 and quarterfinal appearances the past two years. Edmonds-Woodway also claimed the Wesco 3A/2A title last season for the second time in four years, finishing six points ahead of the field in the 15-team league.

The Warriors have to replace a handful of key players after graduating five first-team All-Wesco 3A/2A selections, but they return senior forward Sophia Martino-Crew, who scored a team-high 16 goals last season. They also bring back sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Emerson, who posted 13 shutouts last year and helped anchor a defense that allowed less than a goal per match.

The wild, wild Wesco 3A/2A

Snohomish appears to be one of the favorites in the crowded Wesco 3A/2A picture. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish appears to be one of the favorites in the crowded Wesco 3A/2A picture. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The additions of former Cascade Conference schools Cedarcrest and Archbishop Murphy last season increased Wesco 3A/2A to 15 teams and upped the overall talent level in an already-competitive league. The conference pecking order was particularly tight last year, with the second-place and sixth-place teams separated by just seven points in the standings.

Cedarcrest finished second in Wesco 3A/2A last season, but is tasked with replacing six of its eight all-conference players. Archbishop Murphy, meanwhile, returns eight starters after earning a third-place league finish last year and reaching the 2A state playoffs.

Snohomish brings back four of its six all-conference selections from last season’s team, which placed fourth in Wesco 3A/2A before winning the 3A Northwest District title to advance to state. Among the returners is junior forward Bree Nichols, who totaled 19 goals and seven assists. The Panthers are off to a strong start, having earned a 1-0 non-league win over 4A powerhouse Jackson on Saturday.

Shorecrest returns eight starters from last year’s squad, which took fifth in Wesco 3A/2A and reached state for the eighth consecutive season. Shorewood is coming off a 3A state quarterfinal appearance and brings back forwards Kaitlyn and Morgan Manalili, who earned all-league honors last year as freshmen.

Expect another highly competitive battle among Wesco 3A/2A teams for the league title, postseason seeding and state berths.

King’s looks to continue its success

The Knights claimed the inaugural North Sound Conference title last year and reached state for the 12th time in 13 seasons, advancing to the 1A state quarterfinals.

King’s graduated reigning Herald All-Area player of the year Callie Wright, who totaled 37 goals and six assists last season. The Knights also graduated Emma Culberson, the conference’s defensive player of the year. But King’s still has plenty of talent, with five of its eight all-conference players from last season returning.

The Knights’ biggest challenger appears to be South Whidbey, which earned a second-place conference finish last year and returns five of its six all-league players. The Falcons are coming off their first winning campaign in at least 15 seasons, highlighted by a landmark victory over King’s.

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