At least four North Idaho high school soccer teams expect to challenge for state championships this fall.
The State 5A boys and girls tournaments are in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls in mid-October.
Here’s a look at Panhandle boys and girls teams:
It all starts with Lake City, which captured a state championship in 2012, took fourth in 2013 and was state runner-up last year, losing on penalty kicks.
The Timberwolves return senior forward Havana Johnson, a three-year starter who was the Inland Empire League offensive most valuable player the last two seasons. Also back is sophomore defender Bridget Rieken, a starter a year ago.
“She’s one of the best players at her position in the Northwest,” coach Matt Ruchti said of Rieken.
Johnson, who gave McNeese State an oral commitment this summer, has a chance to finish with more than 100 goals. Both Johnson and Rieken rarely came off the field last year, and Ruchti expects more of the same this fall.
Emily Parson and Cati Halliday will split time in goal.
LC has some holes to fill if it wants to be in the conversation for a state title. But Ruchti believes the pieces are there.
“If everybody works hard they can achieve whatever they want,” Ruchti said.
Coeur d’Alene has advanced to state the past two years, winning play-in matches. Coach Andy Vredenburg expects the Vikings to get to state again.
The Viks return eight starters including defenders Kiah Morton, Rachel Brendis and McKenna Gilbert and forwards Maggie Vietri, Megan Drake and Maddie Morris.
“They’re hungry this year,” Vredenburg said. “We’ve been getting better and better every year.”
Post Falls is rebuilding with another change in coaching. Lewiston looks to challenge for a state berth.
It could be one of the tightest leagues in recent memory this fall.
LC, CdA and Post Falls each return experience but also have some holes to fill.
At LC, the T-Wolves have a new coach in Alan Rich. He has 10 lettermen and a handful of veterans.
“We have a long way to go before we get things sorted out,” Rich said. “This is not a rebuilding year. It should be a good year for us. We have some well-rounded players with high expectations.”
At CdA, the Viks bring back all-league midfielder Justin Kofmehl.
“We’re really young. We only have three seniors,” coach Jeff Lake said. “We lost in a shootout in the play-in game last year and that left a bad taste. We’re looking to build on that. It’s going to be any team’s league.”
At Post Falls, the Trojans return all-league senior Diego Esquivel, the team’s leading scorer.
A nucleus of sophomores received valuable time last year. Defense will be key to the Trojans’ success.
By Sandpoint’s measure of success, the Bulldogs have been in a drought when it comes to qualifying for state. Their last trip was 2012.
Sandpoint is loaded with seniors and juniors. The Bulldogs are led by returning all-league forward Dawson Mulder, who had a team-high 11 goals last year.
“None of them has been to a state tournament but I like what I’ve seen so far,” coach Adam Tajan said.
Lakeland has been to state two of the past three years including a state runner-up finish last season.
Lakeland graduate Dylan Stiegemeier takes over as coach. League MVP Cody Callahan returns along with goalie Max Baker.
Sandpoint returns seven starters but also has a number of new faces. The Bulldogs are led by all-league returner Taylor Ward.
“We are going to be good it’s just going to take us a little while to get there,” said coach Conor Baranski, whose team won back-to-back state titles in 2013 and 2014.
Lakeland returns goalies Morgan Bixenstein and Dani Dowd and midfielder Harley Hendry.
In its second year fielding a team, Timberlake captured the Intermountain League title but lost to St. Maries at district. Bonners Ferry earned the state berth.
Timberlake is poised to earn its first state berth. The Tigers return league MVP Cody Bentley.
The Tigers will be pushed by St. Maries and Bonners Ferry.
Timberlake was third last year after losing to Coeur d’Alene Charter in the state final two seasons ago.
The Tigers knocked off CdA Charter 2-1 in a league and season opener Tuesday.
Timberlake brings back league MVP Allison Kirby (defender), Keelie Lawler (goalie) and Shelby Starr (forward).
“We have a lot of room for improvement,” coach Steve Michael said.
Stacy Smith takes over as coach at CdA Charter.
The Panthers return all-league picks Natalie Goetz (defender), Cecelia McAfee (defender) and Brooklyn Cunningham (midfielder).