The 2019 high school girls soccer season officially gets under way today across the state of Utah with the first games kicking off this afternoon.
As the season begins, optimism is running high for all three of Tooele County’s teams, as Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville all believe they have what it takes to make some noise this season.
Each team boasts one of the state’s top scoring threats — Tooele has senior Makenna McCloy, Stansbury features junior Reagan Didericksen and Grantsville is led by junior Whitney Wangsgard.
The three teams also boast talented goalkeepers in Tooele’s Maddy Lyman, Stansbury’s Ainsley Thurber and Gracey Hinton and Grantsville’s Adalyn Enslen.
However, that represents only part of the story for the Buffaloes, Stallions and Cowboys.
Here’s a closer look at each team.
Last year: 9-6-0 overall, 3-5-0 in Region 13 (fourth), lost 2-1 to Juab in first round of Class 3A playoffs
First game: Aug. 13 vs. West Jordan
First Region 13 game: Sept. 5 vs. Providence Hall
The scoop: Grantsville has an experienced, talented team returning, and looks to be competitive in a loaded Region 13.
“We’ve got two powerhouses in our region with Judge and Morgan,” Grantsville coach Travis Lowry said. “We’re hoping, knowing what we’re up against, we can go battle with them. I think we’ll end up pretty much middle of the region and hopefully, that will set us up for a decent state game.”
The Cowboys are led by Wangsgard, a junior who led the state in goals in each of her first two seasons — scoring 43 as a freshman and 40 as a sophomore. She has a strong supporting cast, including sophomore forward Elizabeth Whitworth, senior midfielder Laura Sandberg, junior midfielder Alyssa Roberts and senior defenders Raegan Carter and Erin Hurst.
“Whitney is a total predator,” Lowry said. “She can score at any time she’s a threat. What’s really exciting is that our two center midfielders (Roberts and Sandberg) have been working with her for the past couple years, and their whole goal is to feed the predator, feed the animal. That’s not even coming from us coaches — they’ve worked on their own skills and their own game in the offseason to make that their priority. Instead of just hoping, their whole goal is to keep (Wangsgard) busy, and they’re pretty good at it.”
Enslen returns for her sophomore season in goal for Grantsville, and has worked hard to refine her game over the summer, Lowry said.
“We’re really excited about our goalie,” he said. “Adalyn has been to quite a few camps this offseason. She even got invited to the EXOS camp down in Phoenix, and that was a camp that sought her out for her skills last year as a freshman.”
The Cowboys will have to replace some key pieces, as both of last year’s center backs graduated. However, if they can get things sorted out on their back line, they could contend for a home playoff game under the Utah High School Activities Association’s new playoff format, which uses a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to seed the teams for the postseason.
“I think we’re right in the middle of our region, and that probably puts us toward the top of our state, to be honest,” Lowry said. “That’s why we scheduled some (Class) 6A teams. Hopefully, that will get us some better points and results.”
Last year: 4-11-1 overall, 3-9-0 in Region 11 (sixth), missed postseason
First game: Today at Hillcrest
First home game: Thursday vs. Kearns
First Region 10 game: Aug. 21 vs. Cedar Valley
The scoop: Coach Stephen Duggan knew this year’s team had potential, but what he’s seen through the first week of official practice has surprised even him.
“I’ll be honest about it — the girls have surprised me,” Duggan said. “The girls are further along than I thought they would be at this stage.”
McCloy scored a team-high 12 goals last year as a junior, but with a rapidly improving team around her, those numbers should increase in 2019. She’ll get help from fellow seniors Lyman, Rosslyn Stone and Gabby Asay as leaders of a group eager to prove itself in a wide-open Region 10.
“Makenna is a huge part of the team and she won’t just stand out on our team — she’ll stand out in the region and she’ll stand when we play in state as well,” Duggan said. “She’s at that level.”
Duggan lauded the improvement of a number of underclassmen, particularly sophomore Sydnee Gustin, junior Cami Eldredge, junior Liz Lundwall and sophomore Cecily Wolfe. Eldredge, in particular, has taken over a major role as a passing midfielder and should give the Buffaloes’ offense a boost, as should a new possession-focused style that Duggan said his team has taken to like “a duck to water.”
“Cami Eldredge, above everybody, has taken to that role and that understanding of the game at a level that has really caught me unawares,” Duggan said. “Some of the passing — she’s playing with her head up, she’s seeing the passes early and she’s playing like a quarterback. She’s sitting back in the pocket and spraying the ball about, and her pass completion rate is phenomenal.”
Ogden is the favorite to win the Region 10 title this season, but Duggan believes the rest of the region is up for grabs — especially with a Tooele squad he feels is capable of reaching the same heights as the 2017 team that advanced to the state quarterfinals.
“If what I’ve seen is right and I’m right about where we are about the progress we’ve shown and the progress we continue to show, I think we’re going to be dangerous if we can keep everyone fit,” Duggan said. “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t scare Ogden, and there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t finish in the top two — there really isn’t. That would be a huge achievement for us.”
Last year: 6-10-0 overall, 4-8-0 in Region 11 (fifth), missed postseason
First game: Today at Orem
First home game: Thursday vs. Jordan
First Region 10 game: Aug. 21 at Ogden
The scoop: The Stallions have a new coach in Spencer Call, and a young team with a boatload of talent. Stansbury will definitely have a new look this season, but that’s not to say the expectations have changed.
“I believe we have the talent and the coaching staff to take it to the next level,” Call said, noting the contributions of assistant coaches Michelle Moore and Dominic Silvestri. “I’m really excited. I think the talent’s there and I’m really excited for what they left me and the tradition here. It’s a really good tradition and I’m excited to continue that.”
Didericksen led the Stallions with 15 goals and 33 points last year. Midfielder Chloee Corbett scored a pair of goals in 2018, while Merissa Redington scored once. Those three, along with Hinton and defenders Bethany Johansen, Rylie Klenk, Grace Woolsey and Lucy Jones will be looked at to step up into leadership roles for Stansbury, which doesn’t have many players with much varsity playing time otherwise.
“You’ve got a lot of girls who didn’t really have a whole lot of varsity experience last year — maybe they played 5-10 minutes a game, and they’re right there,” Call said. “I’m excited to see how they play. This really is a new team.
“I’ve got six or seven varsity players with varsity experience returning. I’ve got about 10 more who I think they have the talent, but who’s going to step up? You never know until the whistle blows and you’re on the bright stage. The talent’s there, though.”
Call has quite a bit of familiarity with the Stallions’ freshman and sophomore classes, having coached in the Elite FC club program for several years. His goal is to mesh some of that young talent with the veteran leaders to build a team that can compete in Region 10 and be at its peak when the postseason begins.
“There’s a ton of talent on this team,” Call said. “(Former coach) Jeremy (Alverson) left me a very good cupboard of a lot of talented players who are still here.”