Coach: Tagan Hatchett, second season
Last season: 7-8
Key returners: MF/D Kali Mathews, Sr.; F Kara Slaughter, Jr.; D Abbey Fagan, Jr.
Outlook: Central graduated eight seniors from a year ago but returns eight varsity players this year, including three sophomores. Kali Matthews is the senior leader on this team. She and Abbey Fagan are going to be the key to Central’s back line. Kara Slaughter is the Bulldogs’ best goal scorer and her goal in last year’s big win over Gainesville is what Coach Hatchett thinks propelled the team down the stretch. They finished 7-8, but won five of their final six contests. While she likes some of the leadership she has returning, she knows how important the underclassmen are going to be.
"We will need underclassman to step up early and be ready to fill open positions," Hatchett said. "Our goal for the season is to finish in the top 4 in our sub-region and give ourselves a chance to make it to state."
Coach: Scott Luthart, sixth season
Last season: 11-7, lost in the Class AAAAAA first round
Key returners: D Kat Matthews, Sr.; MF Keely Cartrett, Jr.; MF Maggie Hanusek, Jr.; F Emily Haugen, Sr.
Outlook: Despite facing some adversity with new faces and injuries a year ago, Lambert had a solid 2014 season. They qualified for state, but unfortunately ran into the eventual state runner-up in Grayson. They will have three third-year starters on this year’s team in Kat Matthews, Maggie Hanusek, and Emily Haugen, as well as second-year starter, Keely Cartrett, who is already committed to Alabama as a junior. According to Coach Luthart, this is the deepest team he’s had during his tenure. Defense has always been a staple of this program, but they are going to have to create more chances and finish those chances if they want to improve on their win total from a year ago.
"We have no time for small goals here at Lambert," Coach Luthart said. "Every year our aspirations include a county, region, and state title. Otherwise, we see no reason to do this." We are blessed with terrific athletes here. However, the rest of the region also boasts a multitude of talent. Therefore, we are always in a tremendous fight to achieve any of those goals."
Coach: Jason Galt, first season
Last season: 7-10
Key returners: Tiffany Raygor, Sr.; Valerie Billstrom, Sr.; Lauren Little, Sr.; Sam Sciorrotta, Sr.; Christine Fulkerson, Jr.; Elli Johnson, Jr.; Lochlain Corliss, Sr.
Key newcomers: Annie Prendergast, So.; Kristina Evans, Fr.; Erica Bell, So.
Outlook: North had a pretty solid season last year but struggled when it came time for region play. They return a solid core from a year ago, including Tiffany Raygor and Valeria Billstrom, who signed with the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Emanuel College respectively. They also return five other upperclassmen who played significant minutes, so experience won’t be an issue. First-year head coach Jason Galt likes the work ethic and desire that these girls have, but notes that winning the ball in the air and communication are areas they’ll need to improve.
"I’m a glass half-full kind of coach," Galt said. "I think we have some good talent but so do the other teams in our region. If we can stay injury-free and trust in the system and play team soccer, I like our chances of having success."
Coach: Chris Kane, third season
Last season: 5-9
Key returners: MF Mary Margaret Metz, So.; D Caroline Brenner, Jr.; MF Gianna Papa, Jr.
Key newcomers: F Erin Houlihan, Fr.; MF Regina Metz, Fr.
Outlook: Pinecrest should be pretty sound on both sides of the ball. They’ve added a few goal scorers and improved the back line. Mary Margaret Metz earned all-region honors last year, with six goals and seven assists as a freshman. And Caroline Brenner will look to lead the back line again this year after playing every minute for the Lady Paladins a season ago. But one problem they might run into is that three projected starters could miss the beginning of the season due to basketball. Coach Kane expects a lot from this team and is excited by their chemistry and leadership. "The girls expect to finish in the top three in the region this year and earn their first berth to the state tournament," Kane said.
Coach: Tom Braun, ninth season
Last season: 11-7, lost in the Class AAAAAA first round
Key returners: GK, Hannah Goudy, Sr.; D Elena Zang, Sr.; D Abby Nearing, Sr.; D Allie Norton, So.; D Allyson Peppenhorst, So.; MF Alex Melnyk, So.; F Meagan Postell, So.
Key newcomers: MF Reagan Smith, Fr.; MF Peyton Schurr, Fr.; F Jenna Vollrath, Fr.; MF Amanda Mikus, Fr.
Outlook: South returns seven key players from a team that finished second in the region last year, including three seniors who have already committed to play at the next level. Goalkeeper Hannah Goudy signed with Georgia, while defenders Elena Zang and Abby Nearing signed with Alabama and Georgia College, respectively. Coach Braun is impressed by the character and great attitudes on this team and doesn’t see any reason why they can’t win the region and go far into the state tournament.
Coach: Jason Bayush, second season
Last season: 8-9
Key returners: F Landen Bowman, Sr.; MF Alyssa Robertson, Sr.; MF Brooke Pirkle, So.; D Carsen Parker, So.
Outlook: West fell just shy of making the playoffs in 2014, but with a few core players returning, they’re looking to improve on that result this season. They have a lot of depth, and with Alyssa Robertson, Brooke Pirkle, and Carsen Parker returning, the midfield and back line should be the strengths of this team. Coach Bayush likes the group he has this year but insists that they have to take better advantage of their chances, and striker and UAB commit, Landen Bowman, should help the cause. "We need to a better job finishing and putting the ball in the back of the net," Bayush said. "We were competitive in all games with a tough schedule and fixing a few things will change the tide."