When Central York beat Dallastown for last year's YAIAA championship, the final matched up two of the league's top defenses. Although both graduated their goalkeepers, seven of their eight combined defenders are back.
For the whole league, nine of the 12 all-stars selected by GameTimePA.com are back this season. That includes player of the year Kennedy Little of Central York.
Here is a breakdown of the YAIAA girls' soccer season:
Preseason top 5
2. Central York
5. South Western
Players to watch
SIERRA AUSTIN, DALLASTOWN, SR. >> The Wildcats defender, a GameTimePA.com all-league performer, did not give up a goal from her position on the field. Conversely, she converted all five of her penalty kicks.
BROOKE FIRESTONE, DOVER, SR. >> A scoring stalwart, Firestone fired in 23 goals as a junior. Coach Bret Altimore called her "the total package on and off the field," after last season.
LAUREN GOUGH, SOUTH WESTERN, SR. >> Gough's resume includes 46 career goals and 14 assists. She is South Western's all-time leading scorer.
BRI HACKOS, CENTRAL YORK, SR. >> One of three three-year starters for the defending league champs, this midfielder is headed to the New Jersey Institute of Technology after this year to play soccer.
PAIGE HARTMAN, DALLASTOWN, SR. >> Another GameTimePA all-league selection, Hartman's scoring boosted the defensive-minded Wildcats after she transferred from Dover. A notable goal came in the waning moments of a 1-0 league semifinal win vs. Susquehannock.
ELIZABETH JOHNSON, YORK CATHOLIC, SR. >> The YAIAA Division III Player of the Year also received a first-team nod on the GameTimePA all-league team, which picked 12 of the league's best players regardless of division. Johnson registered 36 goals last year.
KENNEDY LITTLE, CENTRAL YORK, SR. >> A defender, Little was the YAIAA Division I coaches' pick for player of the year and received the overall league honor from GameTimePA. Coach Liz Critchfield called Kennedy "a goalkeeper's best friend." Little will play in college at Elon in North Carolina.
HANNAH LOGUE, FAIRFIELD, JR. >> Logue put up 37 goals in 20 games for Fairfield, the second straight year she led the Green Knights in scoring.
BRENNA SCHROTER, NORTHEASTERN, SR. >> A GameTimePA all-league selection at goalie, Schroter's play helped Northeastern reach the league final in 2013. After the Bobcats moved up last year to Division I, Schroter helped them advance back to the league tournament — and a 1-0 double overtime win against Dover in which she blocked a penalty kick.
Division I breakdown
DEFENDING CHAMPS >> Central York, Dallastown
While Central (19-3, 11-1 last year) and Dallastown (17-5, 11-1) split their regular-season meetings and the division crown, the Panthers took the league tourney. They will attempt to repeat with three starters back on defense, including Little, Faith Hatchard and Ally McCabe. Offensively, Bri Hackos netted seven goals and six assists in 2014. Junior Lynsey Nicholas is coming off her first year as a starting forward and midfielder.
While Central has three returning defenders, Dallastown has all four. Drexel-bound Ali Shick heads a group that includes Sierra Austin, Natalie Gettle and Lyndee Anders. Offensively, the Wildcats will welcome back senior Paige Hartman following a stint in boot camp.
Both teams have one question mark: new goalkeepers.
ASCENDING >> South Western, Northeastern
Forward Lauren and center back Taylor Gough are seniors. Taylor will be a four-year starter on the Mustangs (7-10, 5-7), while Lauren adds the scoring punch. Another plus is three-year goalkeeper Jacey Shipley. Coach Dwaine Briggs will need their leadership as the defense graduated Tia Wildasin and Keanna Rebert, two longtime players with the program.
Northeastern (12-9, 8-4) brings back senior midfielder Sawyer Patrick, sophomore Brittany Arentz and goalie Brenna Schroter. The Bobcats have eight returning starters.
SHOES TO FILL >> Central York
There is plenty back, but the Panthers have vacancies at goalie and must replace the 14 goals produced last season by graduated Sheayna Pamplin.
MATCHUP TO WATCH >> Central York vs. Dallastown, Sept. 22 at Dallastown, Oct. 13 at Central York.
Division II breakdown
DEFENDING CHAMPS >> Dover, Susquehannock
Dover (14-4, 11-1) shared the division title and it took a double overtime YAIAA tournament game to keep the Eagles from defending their league crown. Coach Bret Altimore's squad is slated to return Brooke Firestone, plus Division II all-star midfielder Payton Miller and sister striker Maddy Miller. Both will be seniors, and junior Tori Wantz — a transfer last year from West York, where she started as a freshman — is in goal.
As for Susquehannock (15-5, 11-1), the Warriors graduated defender Brooke McGee — now at NJIT — but return three-time All-Division II defender Emily Landis. The returning captain is joined by seniors Maddy Mummert at midfield and Ashley Stone in goal. Second-year coach Pat Brubaker expects a strong defensive squad, but the Warriors must generate offense after graduating 80 percent of their scoring.
ASCENDING >> Gettysburg
The Warriors (5-11, 4-8) look to improve off their first season in the YAIAA and return nine starters in their attempt to do so. Of those veterans, three will be four-year starters: forward/midfielder Emily Bertram (seven goals, four assists), midfielder Hailey Bortner (four goals, six assists) and midfielder Abbie Winkelmann (eight goals, five assists). Junior Nicole Intile-Suggs, also a basketball player, is back for the defense. Coach Elise Tebbetts also has a strong sophomore forward in Bonita Soliday, who scored six goals as a freshman.
SHOES TO FILL >> York Suburban
The Trojans (12-6, 8-4) graduated a key scorer and all-star in midfielder Jordan Shoff, but nine starters are back. Chief among them is senior midfielder Abby Eisenhart. Coach Tom Shugars also has senior goalie Morgan Taylor and junior Paige Bulgarelli in the mix for a squad in place to overcome any graduation losses.
MATCHUP TO WATCH >> Dover vs. Susquehannock, Sept. 22 at Dover and Oct. 13 at Susquehannock.
Division III breakdown
DEFENDING CHAMP >> York Catholic
Joe Nattans takes over for Ryan Luckman, whom he assisted last season for the Fighting Irish (13-4-1, 12-0). Nattans will have a familiar group — nine returning starters, led by Division III Player of the Year Elizabeth Johnson. Four-year starter Lisa Casagrande is back as a defender/midfielder. There also are three more three-year starters in this lineup: defender Alexa Citrone, midfielder MaCayla Welsh and defender Jessica Brett, all juniors.
ASCENDING >> Delone Catholic, Fairfield
The Squirettes (6-9-1, 6-6) finished third in the division, but bring back nine starters. One of the new faces is at goalkeeper, where freshman Lindsey Vandergrift takes the reins. The experience includes senior Katie Roth at center fullback and sophomore Tess Maitland at center midfielder. Both were Division III all-stars.
Fairfield (16-4, 10-2) has reason to be considered a division favorite with sisters Hannah and Moriah Logue, a sophomore, back in its lineup. The Green Knights, however, graduated Division III all-star Libby Heinbaugh.
SHOES TO FILL >> York Catholic
The Irish lost goalkeeper Hannah Laslo to graduation. Also known for her exploits on the basketball court, Laslo's three years in net produced a state tournament run and all-league selections. Junior Carey Thole is the leading candidate as Laslo's replacement.
MATCHUP TO WATCH >> York Catholic vs. Fairfield, Sept. 22 at York Catholic and Oct. 13 at Fairfield