Terry Quigley knows soccer. He's been coaching at Lexington Catholic for nearly 20 years.
So when the Knights' girls coach says that there are several top teams in the city and that there potentially is more balance than he's seen in nearly a decade, it's probably true.
"It's closer than it's been in many, many years," he said. "The city is the closest it's been since probably 2001 or so."
But as the soccer season kicked off on Monday, there were plenty of teams that would like to rise from the balanced pack to the top.
Although no official coaches' poll was released this pre-season, there are plenty of teams in the Lexington area that could be top-10 contenders.
Despite the balance, most coaches point to Tates Creek as the team to beat. With all but one key player returning from an 18-2-2 team, the Commodores are definitely a team with a target on them.
"Tates Creek is the team to watch and the team to beat," Henry Clay Coach Mebit Aragaw said matter-of-factly.
Quigley tended to agree.
"Tates Creek has a step on everyone, but I think Henry Clay's up there and then maybe us after them," he said. "I just hope it's not us after them at the end of the year."
Creek Coach Bo Lankster cautioned that there is plenty of talent all around.
"When you look at what we did last year, I guess we'll be one of the teams to beat in the city and district," Lankster said. "But Catholic is going to be strong. It always is. Henry Clay got much, much better. Dunbar added a ton of talent as well."
He noted that in Creek's own district there is Henry Clay, which snuck in and won the region last season.
The Devils return almost all of their top weapons from last year, including leading-scorer Olivia Max and star goalkeeper Kayla Price.
Lexington Catholic advanced to the state semifinals last season, but returns only three starters from that team. Quigley's Knights graduated their top offensive weapon in Chelsea Smith.
Lexington Christian is loaded with senior talent, including star Maddie Boone, who had 21 goals and 19 assists last season.
"We definitely feel good about what we have coming back," LCA Coach Steve Fugmann said. "We feel like we've got a shot to be there at the end. But I'd venture to think every other school's thinking the same thing."
Several coaches also noted that Paul Dunbar has had a large influx of young talent, too.
Other teams in this area that have to be considered in the discussion of top teams include perennial powers West Jessamine, which has University of Kentucky commitment Arin Gilliland, as well as Woodford County, Boyle County and Anderson County.
Statewide, the early favorite remains three-time defending state champion Sacred Heart, as well as Notre Dame, Manual and St. Henry.
Sacred Heart will attempt to be just the second school to win four straight state titles. South Oldham did it from 1998 to 2001.