Sports

SPSL North girls soccer

• Favorites: Kentwood, Auburn Riverside.

• Contenders: Tahoma, Thomas Jefferson, Federal Way.

• Sleepers: Kentlake, Kentridge, Auburn, Kent-Meridian.

• Outlook: While all the fall sports will be plenty affected by the South Puget Sound League North Division’s re-shuffling, soccer might feel the greatest impact. Fans needn’t look any further than Auburn Riverside to understand why. The Ravens won the SPSL 3A title last fall, posting a 10-1-3 record, three wins and seven points ahead of second-place Bonney Lake. In two years at the Class 3A level, the Ravens posted an impressive league mark of 22-5-6 and were one of the North’s top teams in 2005, the last time Auburn Riverside was part of the division. In addition, the Ravens return four first-team all-leaguers (forwards Megan Amis, Chase Lane and Ariell Swan along with midfielder Janelle Kavanaugh) and two honorable mention selections. That said, the North still runs through Kentwood, which returns more than its share of talented players, led by sophomore sensation Kiana Kraft (midfield), junior Rachel Bindl (defense, goalkeeper Courtney Johnson and midfielder Jolene Crook-Meyers. As always, Tahoma and its tradition-laden program, can’t be overlooked. Ditto for Jefferson, though the Raiders remain a bit young this fall and have graduated 96 percent of their scoring punch over the past two years. Regardless, this division remains stacked from top to bottom. If three teams qualified for state from the North, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise.

• Notable: Talk about a league deep in talent. The SPSL North returns a total of 18 players who made either first team, second team or honorable mention all-league a year ago. And that doesn’t include the wealth of talent Auburn and Auburn Riverside will bring in, which would push the list to 26 deep. ... Kentwood product Abby Brauer, the co-MVP of the North Division last year, now is playing at Northwest University.

• Can’t-miss games: Sept. 9 – Kentlake at Jefferson. The Falcons are clearly a team on the rise. This season opener against a traditional playoff contender should give the Kentlake team an early idea of what lies in store. Oct. 2 – Kentwood at Auburn Riverside. These two teams could combine for one explosive, all-league juggernaut. Expect a tight, down-to-the-wire battle. Oct. 23 – Auburn at Auburn Riverside. Fans can never go wrong with an all-city showdown. Oct. 25 – Tahoma at Auburn Riverside. With just two games remaining on the schedule after this one, plenty of postseason seeding could — and should – be on the line. Oct. 30 – Kentridge at Jefferson. The regular-season finale, one that could decide who goes on and who goes home for the offseason.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

NAME SCHOOL POSITION

Kiana Kraft Kentwood Midfielder

Notable: Just a sophomore, Kraft is one of the North’s fastest-rising stars.

Courtney Johnson Kentwood Goalkeeper

Notable: Second-team all-leaguer in goal as a freshman last year.

Megan Amis Aub. River. Forward

Notable: This sophomore led the Ravens in goals last fall with 10.

Ariell Swan Aub. River. Midfielder

Notable: Team captain and two-time first-team all-leaguer.

Kelsey Learned Jefferson Midfielder

Notable: One of the primary reasons the Raiders should be in the mix once again.

Michael Paulston Auburn Defender

Notable: One of the best athletes in the North, won the 1,600 at state track last spring.

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