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The Bluegrass Games are behind us. Soccerama is around the corner. Is Northern Kentucky ready for some soccer? One theme seems to echo across the region---lots of teams lost many good seniors. However, that does not necessarily mean that their team is down. Strong programs fill it right back up. So which teams took a big hit? Which teams will make a run? Which teams are dark horses?

Yellow Card and I thought we would get the conversation started with our preseason rankings. We would love to hear your thoughts as well. Here we go!

1. Covington Catholic- Because this is where CCH is always ranked in the Pre-Season Soccer polls. Bryce Day, Jacob Litzler and Michael Wessels will head up a group of seniors that could number as many as 18 boys. Then you throw in a handful of juniors and you have a very experienced squad. Is this the year that all the promise and expectations are finally realized in Park Hills? Or will we see another off season in which discussions centers around how much possession the Colonels had and how bad they could have used a "Natural Scorer”.

2. St Henry- Defending 9th Region champs. The Cru played very well at Bluegrass Games, showcasing a large talented group of juniors and sophomores who have been waiting for their chance to play varsity after losing so many seniors. Some solid varsity returners include strikers Jack Neltner and DJ Sanders, midfielder Ian Manahan and sophomore Carter Kunstek at center back. Although they will have a new keeper between the pipes, Tate Johnson has plenty of skill and experience and should prove to be one of the best in NKY.

3. Ryle-With a talented Striker in El-Gusain, the best defender in the region in Nathan Roe, and Will Bedel in goal, the Raiders should match up well with any teams in NKY. Their young talent, including sophomores Jordan and Bolin, should also prove to be instrumental in helping them get back to the Regional Tournament this season.

4. Cooper- Two words come to mind: Adam Snow. Fortunately for the Jags, he should have a nice supporting cast as they return all but two starters from a team that posted the school’s first winning season (18-3) last year while also capturing their first District Title. This year’s squad will feature several underclassmen that should play important roles. The back line, anchored by senior Lance Adams, will be relied on to help Cooper try to build on last year’s breakout season.

5. Scott- Wow! How do you begin to match the run that the Eagles went on last season? With the talent that they have returning, I could see them making a run at the10th region title and once you are in the Sweet 16, anything can happen. Returning Devin Morgan, one of the best midfielders in the area, and a Marshall University commit, sure gives you something to build around. Their goalie, CJ Seay, who should be in the running for the DPOY, will also be returning for his senior season.

6. Highlands- The Birds will be looking to have a little better start to their 2015 season. They got off to a slow start last season as they failed to post a win in their first nine matches, but they did turn it around and only came out on the losing end in three of their final 15 matches. They return 7 starters including seniors Brady Gesenhuse, Noah Sellers, Mark Baron, Ben Schweitzer and Ben Seiter, along with junior Colton Wagoner and sophomore Drew Rom.

7. Brossart- The Mustangs were a finalist in the All “A” Classic last season, but they have lost a lot. Not only will they be without 10 seniors from last season, they will also have a new coach at the helm for the first time in over 20 years. There will be many new faces for Brossart that will be taking on new roles this season. Jacob Frommeyer will provide them with some stability and leadership while the team transitions to a new system.

8. NCC- I am not sure that any program lost more than the Breds in the past year. Besides losing the Kentucky DPOY, two All-State selections, and several seniors; they will also be replacing one of the most successful coaches in NKY over the past 3 seasons. They will be young but will continue to build on their past success; it might just take a year to do so. Look for sophomore Logan Muck to be a bright spot during this rebuilding year.

9. Conner- The Cougars will be looking to build on their 9 win season last year, led by Charlie Wend. One of the better offensive players in the area, Wend will also be counting on his fellow 14 senior classmates to contribute to the cause.

10. Boone- Here we have another new coach at a school that typically has an above average soccer team. By all accounts, the Rebels had a good weekend at the Bluegrass Games against some pretty stiff competition. As Coach Norris works to build on the success Boone has achieved in the past, he need not worry about goalie duties, because Brendan Benjamin is solid in the net.


The other NKY candidates….

Simon Kenton- Simon Kenton graduated their leading scorer in Hrusto Selimovic. Could be a rebuilding year in Independence. Look for rising Juniors Bryce O'Hara and Blake Chadwick to run the offense. Hopefully the Pioneers can tighten up their defense a bit, including goalkeeping duties.

Walton Verona- The Bearcats should challenge SK for the 32nd District Title. They will be led by Zach Leffler, Jeremy Moran, Michael Martin and Jake Poland. They only graduated 4 seniors including 3 starters (all backs).

Dixie Heights- Here is another school that was hit hard by graduation, losing about 14 seniors last year. The Red Colonels will at least have one of the area’s better offensive threats at their disposal in Andres Rivera. Austin Stacey should also help with the scoring duties.

Campbell County- Augspurger is a nice player up top and the Camels bring back Colton Schneider and Grant Perkins in midfield. Joe Wilbur will be taking over for his older brother in goal. Will this be enough as the Camels try to replace 12 seniors from last season?

Holy Cross- The Indians will return almost 20 varsity players from last season, including Alex Enzweiler and up and coming goalie Zach Combs. Once District Tournament rolls around, and if they can stay away from CCH until the finals, they should make a return trip to the Regional.

Holmes-Holmes brings back a lot of underclassmen, including athletic Juniors Kerry Nolasco and Josh Lemus. Coach Tom Haggard is doing great work in Covington, giving Holmes opportunities to improve year-after-year. Can Holmes make a regional appearance this year?

Beechwood- This is an inaugural year for the Tigers. Their JV squad had a decent season last year, and hopefully the Varsity squad can do the same. The 9th Region will be watching.

Villa Madonna- Schutzman proved that he could put the ball in the back of the net last season. But other than his scoring, and the defense of Weaver, there does not appear to be much help for the Blue Lightning in 2015.