The last North Suncoast girls soccer team to reach the state final four came in 2004 when Land O'Lakes made the Class 5A semifinals after knocking off Gaither in penalty kicks. Last season, Hudson was close. The Cobras, playing in the school's first region final, were tied 1-1 with Eustis at halftime before surrendering four second-half goals and abandoning their state title hopes. Will any team step up this season to end the area's seven-year state drought? The potential is there. With the season starting Tuesday, take a look at the teams and players eager to make some noise this winter.
Players to watch
F Arielle Anahory, Sr., Mitchell: A technically skilled player who can finish, Anahory will be counted on to replace Marisa Russo, who scored 34 goals for the Mustangs a year ago.
F Anezha "A.J." Blount, So., Wiregrass Ranch: She burst onto the scene last season as a freshman to score 28 goals.
F Taylor Maramara, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin: Bishop's assist leader a year ago is a creative playmaker who directs the Hurricanes' attack.
F Rebecca Reynolds, Sr., Hudson: The speedy attacker has a fluid shot and quick release when she's within striking distance.
F Tara Vasquez, So., Springstead: She was the Hernando County scoring champion as a freshman with 13 goals.
F Shannon Estes-Larkin, Jr., Mitchell: A physical, aggressive player who can line up anywhere on the field, Estes-Larkin will move up top to form a potent 1-2 combo with Arielle Anahory.
M Alyson Brady, Sr., Springstead: The Eagles center-midfielder is the maestro of the Springstead attack.
M Jenny Karl, Sr., River Ridge: She scored 17 goals and assisted on 10 others for the Knights a year ago.
M Paige Kuhn, Jr., Nature Coast: The junior co-captain leads a young but talented Sharks squad.
M Ashleigh Trapuzzano, Sr., Hudson: The center-midfielder will direct an explosive offensive attack.
D Kaitlyn Duke, Sr., Springstead: The shut-down defender is key to the Eagles' counterattack.
D Brittany Nieves, Sr., Land O'Lakes: The all-county performer will take on more of the workload with Molly Short transferring to Hillsborough.
D Alex Phillips, Sr., River Ridge: She's the leader of a Knights defense that gave up less than a goal a game and posted 10 shutouts last season.
D Dani Schulman, Sr., Gulf: The experienced sweeper anchors a strong defensive unit that will carry the Bucs.
D Erica Wills, Sr., Hudson: Wills, who is a gifted goal scorer, will be responsible for marking the opponent's top scoring threat each night.
Class 5A, District 7
Teams: Central, Forest, Springstead, West Port
The skinny: Defending champion Springstead is the favorite. The Eagles' greatest threat likely comes from Forest, which was second a year ago.
Class 4A, District 7
Teams: Anclote, Fivay, Gulf, Hudson, Mitchell, Pasco, Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel
The skinny: Gulf, Hudson and Mitchell are the top three teams, although Pasco and Ridgewood have the talent to challenge for a playoff spot.
Class 4A, District 8
Teams: Citrus, Hernando, Land O'Lakes, Lecanto, Nature Coast, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills
The skinny: This is the deepest district top to bottom, with several schools that could challenge for the title. River Ridge won a year ago, and although the Knights are rebuilding, they'll still be a strong contender. Land O'Lakes is looking to improve on last season's second-place finish. Wiregrass Ranch, Lecanto, Nature Coast and Zephyrhills are all capable of winning the district. Sunlake is an up-and-coming program.
Class 2A, District 9
Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Calvary Christian, Carrollwood Day, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep
The skinny: Tampa Prep, a perennial final four participant, is the overwhelming favorite. The district runnerup spot will likely be decided between Bishop McLaughlin and Indian Rocks Christian.
Mark your calendars
Friday: Tampa Prep at Mitchell
Nov. 12: River Ridge at Wiregrass Ranch
Nov. 12: Mitchell at Hudson
Nov. 17: River Ridge at Land O'Lakes
Nov. 18: Gulf at Mitchell
Dec. 1: Land O'Lakes at Wiregrass Ranch
Dec. 2: Springstead at Hudson
Dec. 13: Gulf at Hudson
Jan. 5: Springstead at Mitchell
Jan. 7: Indian Rocks Christian at Bishop McLaughlin
Jan. 10: Springstead at Nature Coast
Jan. 10: Land O'Lakes at Berkeley Prep
Jan. 10: River Ridge at Hudson
Super seven teams (alphabetical)
Gulf: The Bucs have a solid core of incoming freshmen and will field one of the area's top defenses. But depth could be an issue.
Hudson: Because of injuries and several starters still playing volleyball, the Cobras — region finalists a year ago — will struggle early to field a full squad. Once they get all their players, though, the Cobras could again be the area's best team.
Land O'Lakes: The senior-laden Gators are heavy on experience and will look to improve upon last year's runnerup finish in their district.
Mitchell: The Mustangs have quality, veteran players up and down the lineup plus the addition of two playmaking midfielders in freshmen Balea Schumacher and Danielle Gottwik.
River Ridge: The Knights are a younger team than the one that won a district title and advanced to the region semis a year ago, but they still have plenty of talent available.
Springstead: With 11 starters returning from its district championship squad, Springstead is looking to go deep in the postseason. The Eagles defense might be the best in the area.
Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls finished above .500 last season for the first time in school history, winning 12 games a year after going 5-13-4. This year, the Bulls will go for their first playoff appearance.