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Team-by-team girls soccer season preview

Team-by-team girls soccer season preview

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High school sports return this week after the mid-March shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A look at local girls soccer teams as they prepare for a season that begins Thursday:

Cape Atlantic League

American Division

Atlantic City

Coach: Kevin Semet (first season)

2019 record: 2-9

Group: S.J. Group IV

What to watch: The program is coming off its inaugural varsity season. Despite having lost 10 seniors to graduation, the Vikings look to build off last year and continue to grow the program. The team returns seniors Anette Bautista-Escobedo, Micaela DeLos Santos and Isabelle Gonzalez and juniors Katty Orellana-Osorio and Maria Ramirez.

“(This is) a group that is willing to learn and has a positive attitude,” Semet said.

ACIT

Coach: Jason Embs (fourth season)

2019 record: 8-10

Group: S.J. Group IV

What to watch: ACIT lost eight seniors to graduation, including first-team Press All-Star Hailey Gould. The team aims to rebuild after advancing to the NJTAC Tournament semifinals last season. Sophomore midfielder Ariana Young and junior forward Wilner Aguilar will lead the offense. Also returning are sophomore Kloei Davis and juniors Miranda Mojica and Gabby Cotto (team captain) to anchor the defense.

“We are happy to be back and playing this year given the challenges this year is presenting,” Embs said. “As long as we can keep the athletes healthy and safe, we want to have as much normalcy as possible, which means giving our students athletes a fall season.”

Bridgeton

Coach: William Ziefle

2019 record: (eighth season, 35-88-5)

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: The Bulldogs lost three starters to graduation but return six, including Trinity Baganti, who received a Press honorable mention in 2019, and Karina Lopez. Both senior defenders are captains. Bridgeton also returns junior midfielder Abigail Kunkle and sophomore midfielder Sarah Bagnati. Junior attackers Luz Ruby-Ascencio, Yadira Tlaseca, Kiara Rodriguez, junior defender Betsy Ortiz Lopez and sophomore goalkeeper Emelin Ortuno are also expected to make an impact.

“A good group of girls who have been playing club and indoor soccer during the offseason,” Ziefle said. “Their teamwork and communication skills on the field will definitely help us this season.”

Egg Harbor Township

Coach: Christian Wiech (ninth season, 70-58-16)

2019 record: 11-7-1

Group: S.J. Group IV

What to watch: Last season, the Eagles set single-season program records in goals scored (68) and shutouts (11). EHT returns seven starters, including first-team Press All-Stars Niki Danz (who set the school single-season record with 27 goals last year and is 10 away from the career record of 53) and Casey Biglan (who will anchor the defense). Both are senior leaders. Also returning are midfielders Lauren Baxter, Kristen Semet and defender Meghan Maul.

Wiech said the team could have do some damage this season if state championships were permitted, but “many of them will continue their playing careers at the next level in the years to come and will look to mentor the next generation of players to continue the winning tradition fostered at EHT.”

Hammonton

Coach: Ashley Koester (first season)

2019 record: 7-10-2

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: Hammon-ton, which is moving back to the CAL this season from the Tri-County Conference, lost standout center back Remy Smith to graduation. But Koester said the team will be a contender this season with a strong senior class that features midfielders Maddi Mortelliti and Alyssa Whittaker, forwards Kendall Stansbury and Sarah Mento and defender Emily Dustman. The Blue Devils also return sophomore goalkeeper Emma Peretti, who had a great freshman season and is expected to play a bigger role this fall.

“I predict (us) to be strong contenders this season within our conference,” said Koester, who said the team could make a strong run in the shortened postseason, “especially with the strong leadership and playing ability of our senior class.”

Millville

Coach: Brian Sloan (15th season, 148-84-14)

2019 record: 16-3-1

Group: S.J. Group IV

What to watch: Last season, the Thunderbolts won a South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament game for the first time and advanced to the CAL Tournament semifinals. Millville returns first-team Press All-Star and junior forward Olivia Giordano, who scored a program-record 24 goals last season, and second-team All-Star Julianna Giordano. Senior Trista Cleaves, juniors Aaniyah Street, Jayme Sooy and Tanasia Stevenson and freshman Cali Sloan are expected to lead the team to another successful season.

“The obvious story of this fall will be the shortened season and the effects of COVID,” Brian Sloan said. “We appreciate the opportunity for the student-athletes to play their respective sports this fall. Our goal is for the girls to have a successful season, but more importantly, remain healthy and safe.”

Vineland

Coach: Leslie Garton (third season, 13-18-1)

2019 record: 7-10

Group: S.J. Group IV

What to watch: The Fighting Clan well rebuild this season, but Garton said the team will still be exciting with an influx of young and growing talent. Senior midfielder and defender Julia Piekielko, senior striker Nayzeth Garcia, senior defender Sara Fifth, junior midfielder and striker Angie Mainiero and sophomore midfielder Jenna DeTetta return to lead the team.

“My hope for this season and for my girls is to remain positive, competitive and continue to give it their all,” Garton said. “We were unable to start as early as some of the other districts, but that won’t stop us from persevering and giving it 100%.”

National Division

Absegami

Coach: Elizabeth Lee (18th season, 171-118-20)

2019 record: 9-6-1

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: The Braves lost 12 players to graduation last season and are in a rebuild. But seniors Kylee Alavarez and Emily Johnson are expected to provide leadership this season. Rebecca Silipena, a junior goalkeeper, and Ikechi Wokacha, a junior defender, will anchor the defense. Sophomore forward Gianna Baldino was the leading scorer last season and is expected to be a key contributor again this season.

“This will be a season like no other, and we are all grateful that we will have a season, even if it is a shortened one,” Lee said. “We are looking forward to getting on the field and competing.”

Cedar Creek

Coach: Danielle Hagel (sixth season, 54-34-9)

2019 record: 13-7-1

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Pirates enter with high expectations and return seniors Jezlyn Cross and Abbey McGinley to anchor the defense. Both are expected to be leaders for a strong sophomore class, which includes returning forward Corinne Morgan, who had 24 goals last season and received a Press honorable mention. Junior midfielders Kayla Jacobo and Abby Winterbottom will also be leaders for a team that advanced to the sectional quarterfinals last season.

“Looking forward to another year of pushing these young athletes to work hard, work together, and surpass expectations,” Hagel said. “They always rise to the occasion, and I don’t expect this year to be any different, especially with the positive leadership on this team and new talent coming in.”

Lower Cape May Regional

Coach: Darren Rutherford (first season)

2019 record: 3-15-1

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Caper Tigers return senior captains Chloe Lawler and Jordan Dougherty, who combined for 23 goals and nine assists last season and each received a Press honorable mention. Senior midfielders and defenders Molly McGuigan and Christina McCann are expected to make an impact. Katie Suter, a junior, is on the rise and will anchor the defense.

“I’m impressed with the group of incoming freshmen, including Sianna King, Tessa Hueber and Kaitlyn McGuigan,” Rutherford said. “We hope to try and control the pace of play and surprise some teams this year.”

Mainland Regional

Coach: Chris Meade (first season)

2019 record: 15-7

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: The Mustangs lost in the sectional finals to eventual state Group III champion Ocean City and expect to contend again this season. First-team Press All-Star and junior forward Camryn Dirkes returns after scoring 23 goals last season. Also returning are seniors Lila Schoen, Serena D’Anna, Meghan Kryjer and Tara Brown, juniors Sage Glover (second-team Press All-Star) Sydney Kaes and Julia Kaes and sophomore goalkeeper Katie Bretones, who had two shutouts last season.

“Our team will rely on its experience and depth this season,” Meade said. “We look to improve upon what was a successful season last year.”

Middle Township

Coach: Mike Hickman (first season)

2019 record: 6-13

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Panthers lost two key offensive players in Kira Sides and Mia Rafter to graduation but are expected to improve defensively this season. Middle returns senior defenders Izzy Aftanis and Morgan Adams and junior defender Abby Ridgway. Senior goalkeeper Brynn Bock returns for her third season. Middle also will look to senior forward Anna Bond. Five sophomores and several freshmen will also receive considerable playing time this season.

“Other than an experienced back line, we are going to be extremely young,” Hickman said. “With a shortened season, we should be a lot more competitive.”

Oakcrest

Coach: Jason Hearn (16th season)

2019 record: 6-12

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Falcons return most of their team and have high expectations. Midfielders Jasmine LeClair, Gabbie Corchiani and Hannah Curcio and standout defender Erin Owens return as team captains and bring a lot of talent. Corchiani, Curcio and Owens all received Press honorable mentions last season. Gabbie Gibson returns as goalkeeper. Oakcrest will also look to a couple of freshmen to make an immediate impact.

“Our team is excited and ready for the new season,” Hearn said. “We are looking to improve on last year’s record and playoff seed. With the return of most of the starting lineup and the addition of some outstanding freshmen, Oakcrest should not be left out of the division title and playoff conversation.”

Ocean City

Coach: Lisa Cuneo (first season)

2019 record: 24-1-1

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: Ocean City is coming off the first state championship in program history. The Red Raiders return The Press Girls Soccer Player of the Year, senior Faith Slimmer, and first-team All-Star and junior forward Summer Reimet, who along with Slimmer, led the team with 35 goals last season. Slimmer added 28 assists. The team also returns second-team All-Star and senior standout defender Suzy Dietrich and junior midfielder Hope Slimmer (Faith’s younger sister), who was also a second-team All Star.

“After such a successful year last year, we can’t let up and are always looking to improve and build the program,” said Cuneo, who was an assistant coach in 2019.

United Division

Buena Regional

Coach: Andrew Caldwell (sixth season, 62-35-7)

2019 record: 13-5-3

Group: S.J. Group I

What to watch: Last season, the Chiefs advanced to the sectional semifinals and lost a heartbreaker on penalty kicks. Buena graduated some key players, but Caldwell still expects them to compete. The team returns first-team Press All-Star and senior defender Samantha Hurban, senior midfielder Gracie Sacco, senior forward Maria Muzzarelli, senior defender Giovanna Hinrichsen and midfielder/forward Maria Mazzoni, who started every game last season as a freshman.

“Our goal is the same every year: to put a team on the field that will compete at a high level,” Caldwell said.

Cape May Tech

Coach: Warren Wade (fourth season, 11-42-2)

2019 record: 7-12-1

Group: S.J. Group I

What to watch: The team returns eight starters, including Paige Dooley and Alex Garcia. Hailey Pinto and Samantha Jenison will split time in goal. Emma Cleffi, Anna Smith, Alyssa Gery, Francesca Panzini, Ally Johnassaint are players to watch for CMT, which will also feature a large, talented freshman group. There are 22 players on the roster.

“We are looking for an uninterrupted season, which will provide the girls to have fun playing a game they all love, and prepare them both physically and professionally for their futures,” Wade said.

Holy Spirit

Coach: Alicia Downey (10th season, 110-60-5)

2019 record: 10-6

Group: S.J. Non-Public B

What to watch: The Spartans lost Meg McCully and Melody Pugliese, who each received a Press honorable mention in 2019, to graduation. While the Spartans lost a strong senior class, they gained some talented freshmen, including forward Peyton Ballard, midfielder Ella Petrosh and defender Kendall Murphy. Seniors Kat Patitucci and Vanessa Mason, junior goalkeeper Morgan Keil and sophomore forward Hailey Mastro will also be expected to lead the Spartans.

“Our sophomore class made an immediate impact last season, and I suspect they will be a very important part of our success again this season (as juniors),” Downey said. “We are young, but we have a lot of talent this year. I am very excited to see what these girls accomplish this season.”

Our Lady of Mercy Academy

Coach: Doug Burhanna (third season, 28-9-1)

2019 record: 17-4-1

Group: S.J. Non-Public B

What to watch: OLMA, the defending United Division champions, returns first-team Press All-Stars Isabella Burhanna and Gianna Patittucci. Burhanna, a senior midfielder, had 12 assists and eight goals last season. Patittucci, a junior defender, had eight goals and five assists. The Villagers also return second-team All-Star forward Olivia Fiocchi and senior defenders Carly Oliva and Corrine Vicente.

“With much less preparation and fewer scrimmages, we will need to find the best mix of players and positions on the fly,” Doug Burhanna said. “We hope to contend in all games and should have a solid squad.”

Pleasantville

Coach: Scott Rullan (eighth season)

2019 record: 0-18

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Greyhounds lost six starters to graduation but return senior Iliana Pacheco, their leading scorer in 2019. Pleasantville also returns junior midfielder Samantha Sanchez, who led the team in assists last fall. Junior Michelle Zavala will anchor the defense, and junior goaltender Laura Santiago is expected to take a step forward this season.

“This year will be tough and (we have) a tough schedule,” Rulan said. “We will try to compete. We are always ready for a challenge.”

St. Joseph Academy

Coach: Wes Raywood (first season)

2019 record: 2-12

Group: S.J. Non-Public B

What to watch: The Wildcats are an inexperienced team, Raywood said. The first-year coach said his goal is to get his players comfortable on the field and learn their new roles and responsibilities on the team.

“This season will be a foundation block to build for next year as we are trying to get all players an understanding of the way we wish to play and push the players’ soccer IQ on to different levels,” Raywood said.

Wildwood Catholic Academy

Coach: Kara Saunders (seventh season)

2019 record: 10-5-2

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: The Crusaders return second-team Press All-Stars and seniors Marianna Papazoglou, who is a team captain and had 13 goals, and Leona Macrina, who posted eight shutouts. Papazoglou and Macrina were second-team Press All-Stars last season. The team also returns seniors Mia Caso, Riley Kane and Lauren McCallion. With most of the team returning, Wildwood Catholic anticipates another successful season.

“I know this season will be unlike any other,” said Saunders, who added she was excited about the Crusaders’ new group with Ocean City, Lower Cape May and Middle Township. “I believe I have the squad to compete with them. My girls know our schedule is short but tough, so we can’t leave any game with regrets. I’m just very happy the girls are getting a chance to play this season.”

Shore Conference

Barnegat

Coach: Rick Blasi (fourth season, 20-34-1)

2019 record: 9-10

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Bengals return midfielders Isabel Guiro, Erin Breyta, Brianna Matos, Delaney Dobbin and Ashley Pringle, defenders Adrianna Kappmeier, Maya McBee and Hayley Jankowski, forward Jill Jankowski and goalkeeper Angelica Laudati. Along with its talented, experienced players, the team features four key incoming freshmen in Victoria Briganti, Kassandra Doty, Jasmine Rodriguez and Sophia Vallderruten.

“We have a young group of girls that are looking to build on some of their success last year,” Blasi said. “We have talented upperclassmen that will drive this team and prepare the underclassman for future success.”

Lacey Township

Coach: Jack Mahar (eighth season, 61-72-4)

2019 record: 7-11-2

Group: S.J. Group III

What to watch: Last season, the Lions advanced to the sectional quarterfinals. With returning players such as senior forwards/midfielders Katie Patterson (who led with 13 goals last season) and Juliana Rettino (who led with 12 assists), Lacey aims for another competitive season. Lacey also returns senior Cayli Biele and junior Ada Lehto to anchor the defense, and juniors Abby Stephens, Rosio Cardenas and Amira Cardenas to control the midfield. Fifteen freshmen will be on the roster, and the team will count on newcomers such as Marley Besser, Reena Hamouda and Juliana Lehto.

“We are a possession-oriented team and look to maintain possession while always trying to get into the attacking (of the field),” Mahar said. “We have a strong nucleus returning from last year, plus a couple of talented freshmen we are hoping to make an immediate impact this year.”

Pinelands Regional

Coach: Dawn Paget (21st season)

2019 record: 13-3-1

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: Last season, the Wildcats captured their second consecutive B South title and advanced to the sectional semifinals. The team returns first-team Press All-Star and senior attacker Sunni DiElmo, who had 23 goals and 17 assists last season. Abby Hart, Marlee Tharp, Maggie Creevy and Karli Pompomio will anchor the defense. Bridget Dudas and Amanda Sisco return to lead the midfield. Pinelands lost some talent to graduation but will look to its seniors and some younger players to step up this season.

“Pinelands will compete,” Paget said. “The players are young but eager to play and be tested.”

Southern Regional

Coach: Kaitlyn Hartkopf (fourth season, 24-24-1)

2019 record: 8-6-1

Group: South Jersey Group IV

What to watch: The Rams graduated five players, including first-team Press All-Star Megan Lockwood, who is the program’s all-time goal and assist leader. Senior midfielder Brooke Kline (10 goals, five assists last season), sophomore forward Gianna Simon (17 goals, five assists) and junior defender Riley Schoka are the main players to watch at Southern.

“With the reorganization of the schedule and these uncertain times, it’s difficult to predict what the season will look like,” Hartkopf said. “We are hoping to achieve the same success we have had in the past and look forward to watching our players perform after the canceled spring seasons and this longer dead period. We are eager to get back on the field and compete.”

Tri-County Conference

Cumberland Regional

Coach: Brian Dean Jr. (fourth season)

2019 record: 4-15-1

Group: S.J. Group II

What to watch: The Colts, who graduated four players, return just two starter s— seniors Gianna Lorito and Madison Alcorn. Lorito is a center midfielder and forward who scored seven goals and had three assists in 2019. Alcorn went 3-3-1 as the goalkeeper last fall. Cumberland also returns juniors Peyton Elwell (midfielder) and Jordana Kelly (defender) and sophomore midfielder Taryn Richie, who started last season as a freshman and immediately made an impact.

“The Lady Colts have younger players that will be taking on more responsibility,” said Dean, who added that some freshmen are pushing for starting roles. “It’s going to be tough to get wins this season being in one of the toughest divisions/cross division schedules in South Jersey.”

Wildwood

Coach: Mark Scarpa (first season)

2019 record: 6-12-1

Group: S.J. Group I

What to watch: The Warriors lost five players to graduation. Scarpa notes the team will be younger but competitive. Wildwood returns second-team Press All-Star and senior Jenna Hans, who had a team-leading 20 goals in 2019. Goalkeeper Imene Fathi is coming off a 230-save season and looking to impress again as a junior. Leah Benichou, a senior, and Kara McLaughlin, a junior, are both expected to be key players for the Warriors.

“This season will be a peculiar one due to COVID. I think the normal thought process for how to prepare and what to expect is out the window,” Scarpa said. “My goal is to make sure the seniors get the most out of their final season. They’ve earned that right. If nothing else, I want them to feel like they’ve left a mark on this program (and) that they have the chance to lead their team. This season will be for them.”

 

​Contact: 609-272-7210

PMulranen@pressofac.com 

Twitter @ACPressMulranen

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