Coach: Angela Camp, second season
Last year: 15-5, lost in quarterfinals of the Class 5A playoffs
Key returners: F Callie Fagan, Soph.; D Hannah Hamilton, Sr.; D Anna Higginbotham, Sr.; MF Kirbi Mathews, Sr.; GK Allie Strunk, Soph.
Key newcomers: None
Outlook: Last season was something of a breakthrough for the Lady Bulldogs. After going 6-9 in 2015, Central improved to 15-5 and reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs for the first time since 2006. That was in Class 5A, and now the Lady Bulldogs make the jump into the state’s new highest classification (Class 7A) and arguably its toughest region (5A). But the transition might not be too tough – Central went 2-1 in games against North Forsyth, South Forsyth and West Forsyth last season. It will also help having back the leading scorer (Callie Fagan), starting goal keeper (Allie Strunk), leading midfielder (Kirbi Mathews) and top defenders (Hannah Hamilton, Anna Higginbotham). Despite Fagan’s return, Central does have some needs on attack with a key injury. Still, the Lady Bulldogs should compete well in its new region.
Coach: Scott Luthart, eighth season
Last year: 15-4, lost in first round of Class 6A playoffs
Key returners: MF/D Daniela Conroy, Sr.; D M.E. Craven, Jr.; GK Jordyn Ebert, Sr.; MF Maddie Eddleman, Sr.; D Ellie Prybylski, Soph.; MF Brooke Schuyler, Soph.
Key newcomers: F Madison Haugen, Fr.; D Sydney Hennessey, Fr.
Outlook: Maybe last season was a bit disappointing for the Lady Longhorns, what with all the talent it had coming off a run to the program’s first-ever appearance in a state championship. A first-round loss in the state playoffs wasn’t the plan. No matter – the Lady Longhorns are younger than the past few seasons but no less talented with Division I-caliber players in M.E. Craven (Auburn), Jordyn Ebert (Mercer), Maddie Eddleman (Vermont) and Ellie Prybylski (Kansas). That talent will provide leadership while the Lady Longhorns develop more chemistry with its younger group.
Coach: Jared Steinberg, second season
Last year: 7-10-1
Key returners: Camby Biddle, Soph.; Makenna Britt, Sr.; Kristina Evans, Jr.
Key newcomers: Emma Williams, Fr.
Outlook: It’s been rough going for the Lady Raiders the last few seasons, particularly in region play, but second-year coach Jared Steinberg sees a team with better chemistry, better fitness and more potential to control the pace with improved midfield play. North has a lot of experience to replace, so finding the right formula might take time, but Steinberg is optimistic. “I think we can remain competitive as we were last year,” Steinberg said. “We are going to work hard and take another step forward.”
Coach: Dominic Martelli, second season
Last year: 10-9, lost in second round of the Class 1A private school playoffs
Key returners: F Erin Houlihan, Jr.; D Bridget McCabe, Jr.; F Margaret Metz, Sr.; MF Regina Metz, Jr.; GK Ashley Triplett, Sr.
Key newcomers: MF Grace Aufleger, Soph.; D Olivia Gannon, Soph.; D Haley Triplett, Soph.
Outlook: The Lady Paladins had a nice 2016 season in head coach Dominic Martelli’s first year at the helm, losing in the second round of the state playoffs to eventual state runner-up Atlanta International School. Martelli sees an even deeper roster this season than the one before, led by Furman commit Erin Houlihan, who had 22 goals and 16 assists last season. Triplett, a West Virginia signee, is one of the top goal keepers in the country, while the Margaret and Regina Metz combined for 26 goals and 25 assists last season. Bridget McCabe replaces Caroline Brenner as the defensive leader.
Coach: Tom Braun, 13th season
Last year: 13-4, lost in first round of the Class 6A playoffs
Key returners: F Nikki Bario, Soph.; F Lauren Kelly, Soph.; D Marissa McAfee, Jr.; MF Riley McBride, Soph.; D Alli Norton, Sr.; GK Courtney O’Malley, Jr.; Allyson Peppenhorst, Sr.; MF Megan Postell, Sr.; MF Reagan Smith, Jr.; MF Gabby Tanjuatco, Sr.; F Jenna Vollrath, Jr.
Key newcomers: MF Riley Habegger, Jr.; D Alex Smith, Sr.; GK Megan Wilson, Jr.; MF Teresa Wowk, Fr.
Outlook: On paper, there might not be a more experienced or talented team … anywhere. The Lady War Eagles boast six Division I signees or commits in seniors Alli Norton (Kennesaw State) and Meagan Postell (Georgia State); juniors Payton Schurr (Mercer), Reagan Smith (Villanova) and Jenna Vollrath (Kennesaw State); and sophomore Nikki Bario (Pittsburgh). Plus, exciting junior Courtney O’Malley returns in goal. And after that talented group lost in the first round of the state playoffs last season, motivation shouldn’t be a problem.
Coach: Jason Bayush, fourth season
Last year: 16-5-1, lost in the championship game of the Class 6A playoffs
Key returners: F Kylie Gazza, Soph.; MF Grace Ann Green, Kr.; D Kristy Jebavy, Jr.; GK A.J. Needham, Soph.; D Carsen Parker, Sr.; MF Brooke Pirkle, Sr.
Key newcomers: D Maggie Lopez, Fr.; MF Ivette Martinez, Soph.
Outlook: The Lady Wolverines were the breakout team of 2016, and that might be an understatement. Coming off consecutive losing seasons, West improved to win the Region 6-6A title and then advance to its first state championship game in program history, where it lost 2-1 to Lassiter. The good news: much of that same team returns, led by Arkansas signees Brooke Pirkle and Carsen Parker, the 2016 FCN Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Talented goal keeper A.J. Needham returns. So does Georgia State commit Kristy Jebavy, to be Parker’s sidekick on defense, and Samford commit Kylie Gazza at striker. Fourth-year head coach Jason Bayush feels the team needs a little more offensive firepower, but West certainly has the defense to carry itself toward another state championship appearance.