With talent aplenty across northeast Indiana, hopes are rising that a team will emerge from the area to advance to the state finals, a feat not accomplished since Canterbury won the 2015 Class A championship.
The Cavaliers will compete in the last National Soccer Festival match, as this year's version will serve as the final iteration. Canterbury will take on Bishop Luers in the festival's final prep match Saturday afternoon.
Abby Steffensmeier, Warsaw: The area's leading returning scorer found the net 28 times as a sophomore in 2017.
Skye Roberts, Columbia City: While the Eagles finished just 2-5 in Northeast 8 play last fall, Roberts served as a dangerous weapon with 20 goals and 10 assists.
Paiten Stringer, Norwell: The senior allowed just five goals in 640 minutes for the Knights in 2017 while making 66 saves.
Jewel Reuille, North Side: The SAC's top returning scorer according to MaxPreps.com, the senior tallied 15 goals for the Legends last fall.
Maddie Husband and Kodi Douglas, Huntington North: Both players finished in the top 20 statewide in goals allowed for a Viking squad that finished 16-2. Husband's .716 goals against average ranked 12th, while Douglas finished 17th, surrendering .878 goals per game.
Bellmont: The Braves won 18 matches in 2017, claiming the Marion Regional championship before falling at South Bend St. Joseph in semistate.
Blackhawk Christian: The blue-and-yellow Braves only surrendered 23 goals in 21 games last fall in winning the school's first regional title in girls soccer.
Bishop Dwenger: The Saints swept their SAC slate to win the league title, but lost the sectional championship game to Leo in a shootout.
Leo: The perennially strong Lions have won nine games each of the past two seasons, claiming sectional titles in five of the last seven years. Alex (nine goals) and Sophia (six goals) Bond, two of Leo's top scorers from 2017, each return.
Snider: The Panthers will seek a return to glory after a 4-10 campaign in 2017. Snider leads the area in state finals appearances with four, the last coming in 2009.
Braves and Vikings again?: Bellmont and Huntington North each finished 6-1 to share the Northeast 8 title, though the Vikings graduated a pair of gifted scorers in Hannah Tillett, who led the state in points (130), and Karmen Koch, who scored 31 times in 2017.
Something Bruin in the SAC?: Northrop lost just once in conference play last fall, as a second-half goal gave Bishop Dwenger a 1-0 victory and an inside path to the eventual league crown.
Charging back to elite status: Returning Carroll captain Cali Geiger (team-high 13 goals in 2017) and Olivia Sloffer, who played with the US National Futsal team in a series of friendlies in Medellin, Colombia, over the summer, give veteran coach Rick Smith a pair of reliable options in an effort to win a sixth consecutive sectional championship.
Firing to top of ACAC: South Adams finished just 8-9-1 last fall, but graduated only three seniors. Kayla Lefever (12 goals) leads the way for a Starfires squad looking to upend defending league champs Jay County.
Tigers clawing way in NLC: Warsaw finished as one of three teams, with Northridge and Goshen, with a Northern Lakes Conference-best five league wins in 2017. A surprise home defeat to fifth-place Concord served as the Tigers' lone blemish. Steffensmeier, an all-district honoree, should play a crucial role in helping Warsaw over the hump in the conference race.