Girls Soccer Preview: Tigers out to defend D-11 title
Northwestern’s Maggie Motolese (17) celebrates with teammates Bailey Groff, Hallie Bleam, and Sara Hathaway after a Tigers goal during the state playoffs last season. All four players return to the team this season. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Defending District 11 champion Northwestern is without a number of players from last season’s team, but the Tigers return a ton of offensive firepower as they look to capture another title.
Below are capsules on all the Times News area girls soccer teams:
374 AND LOOKING FOR MORE … Kelly Bleam, who has already that many wins in her pocket, begins her 21st season as CEO of the Lady Tigers. Even though 13 seniors are gone, her team could very well be reloading instead of rebuilding from last fall’s 21-4-1 team that won the district and advanced to the state semifinals. Goalkeeper McKenna Amey vacates the net as well as First Team Colonial League All Star defender Abigail Chisdak.
TORCHING THE TWINE … Northwestern returns a ton of offensive firepower. The Tigers return last year’s leading scorer in Sara Hathaway, who had 31 goals, along with Maggie Motolese, the team’s leading point-getter with 27 goals and 14 assists. Motolese “makes our team tick,” said Bleam. Add junior Bailey Groff who “reads the game in front of her and has great ball possession skills “and veteran experience should prevail on both sides of the field.
PLAY KEEPAWAY …“We are a possession-oriented team,” said Bleam. “We are very technical and patient with the ball and work hard for our opportunities to rush the net.” At their best, what Bleam calls “units” move forward and back on the field to attack and defend.
THERE IS AN “I” IN TEAM … Bleam utilizes the individual talents of each of her players to place them in the best position to succeed as a team. “There are a lot of aspects of soccer that we can’t control, but if we have put each player in the best position on the field, then we are satisfied to let the game go where it takes us.”
LOST IN SPACE … Four East Penn Conference stars do not return to this year’s edition of girls’ Pleasant Valley soccer for fourth-year coach Derek Strohl. Gone are First Team EPC All Stars Morgan Covart and Sara Coyle as well as Second Team selections Taylor Marklin and Mikaela Miller.
RECORDING ARTISTS … Last year’s Lady Bears’ team, which won the EPC Mountain Division and lost in the playoff semifinals, recorded a school-record 14 shutouts, while scoring 58 goals and allowing just 12 goals all season, another one for the books.
TAKE THE MULLIGAN … The Bears Larissa Mulligan actually tied for the lead in scoring last season with Danielle De Marco with six goals each. Returning captain and defender Faith D’Amato has proved to have stopped many opponent scoring chances from becoming shots on net.
YA GOTTA BELIEVE … “If our girls believe in themselves and in each other, we will be determined to improve from last season,” said Strohl. “We have a great mix of upperclassmen and lower classmen who have gained varsity experience during the past few years.” Other starters Strohl will depend on include forwards Brianna Clark and Teah Cardoza, midfielder Addision Borger and defender Rylee Robinson.
THIRD TIME A CHARM … “We are looking to capture our third consecutive EPC Mountain Division title and compete in league and district playoffs,” said Strohl. “We have to have the mentality to play one half and one game at a time.”
TERRIFIC TURNOUT FOR 20 … Head coach, Clem McCarroll welcomed a stuffed roster of 37 players to his 15th season. “This is a benchmark year for our program. Girls soccer begins its 20th season that has won over 200 games through the decades. We hope to make this anniversary a memorable one.” he said.
KATELYN AT QUARTERBACK … Several key players return to the Blue Raiders’ roster, including junior midfielder Katelyn Rudy. “She’s our quarterback on the field,” said McCarroll. “Katelyn directs the attack and gets her teammates into proper positions.”
TRIPLE THREAT … Tamaqua returns its three leading scorers from last season’s team that finished 8-9-1. Emma Kuczynski scored six goals to pace the pack in each of the past two years, followed by junior Sophia Boyle and Kayla Sherry. “Last year we were the eighth seed in the playoffs,” said McCarroll. “We played top-seeded Northwestern to a scoreless halftime tie before losing the game. With only two players graduating, I think we can have a phenomenal team that plays well together, and we feel we can compete to win the division.”
D IS THE KEY … Tamaqua has always been able to kick the ball in the net, but they struggle to keep the ball out of theirs. “Offense is our strength, but for us to win more games, we have the experience on defense this year to shut down some teams.’” McCarrol said his players have to avoid panic and desperation kicks. “We’re stressing that when you don’t see an opening, you should bring the ball backward until a passing lane opens up.” Ball possession will help clock management, and if the Raiders can accomplish his strategy, a winning record and a district tournament game could ultimately be the end result.
OH FOR THE SEASON … Third-year coach Will Bartel doesn’t measure the success of his program by numbers of victories. Last year, he had good things to say about his winless Lady Wreckers. “With only 95 girls in our high school and a very slim roster, we competed in every game and lost a few by just one goal. We played great defense and cut our goals against in half from the previous season.” Gone from this year’s team are Second Team Schuylkill League All Star goalkeeper Shannon Frye, along with six seniors, four of whom were starters.
SOFTBALL TO SOCCER … Bartel, who also coaches Weatherly’s softball team, needed to recruit three girls from that team so he could increase his 2018 roster to a total of 15 players. “With no town feeder program, we currently have five girls on our varsity team who have never kicked a soccer ball in an official game, but we are relying on their athletic abilities to adapt to this sport.” Taylor Cichon, Alyssa Heister and Abby Milore will all rest their arms this fall and use their legs instead.
ATTITUDE AND LATITUDE … This year’s edition of Weatherly soccer will travel north and south on the field with speed, athleticism and great effort. Striker Carlista Kuhl, according to Bartel, is a “gifted ball handler who brings leadership” to the team. Speedy senior Nicole Gordon will move the ball quickly up and down the field. Tabby Hinkle will be counted on for her defensive play in front of sophomore goalie Kelly Royer, “an aggressive, physical athlete who will have her work cut out for her” as the Wreckers try to improve on their scoring after being shut our several times last season.
LEGIT AND NO QUIT … With so few rostered players, Weatherly will face wave- after-wave of opponent pressure without much substitution. “We can only run four or five subs out there, but I’m not worried about the effort from our starters. They will play hard even when tired.” Expect a “trying year” for Weatherly, but if the wins don’t come early or often, coach Bartel’s pledge to his players is, “I don’t let them quit.”
MASS EXIT … Seventh-year coach Tom Condly will be without JT’s fourth all-time leading scorer Jackie Condly, who hit the back of the net 34 times during her career. First Team All Schuylkill County League Division 1 goalkeeper and team captain Monae Bullock also departed, along with five other seniors. Top defender Gia Cellini left the program, moving out of state.
FORWARD MARCH … “It’s going to be a challenge to replace them, but we have some very good young talent coming up,” said Condly. He calls sophomore Heidi Washel “a team leader”, and much will be expected from the Second Team Schuylkill League All Star from her defender position. Sophomore midfielder Lydia Wallace, who scored five goals as a freshman, will use her speed to spearhead the offensive attack. Seniors, Brielle Long, Jayden Gahman, Shannon Hogarty and Eve Morris will bring experience to a lineup that will also include four freshmen.
FIELD OF DREAMS … Coming off a five-win season, Condly hopes his team’s versatility will help it make a run to the playoffs. “We are young and energetic and we’ll have to work as hard as we can to get better everyday.”
PEDAL TO THE MEDAL … Thorpe will play a difficult schedule, but their test is to show they can compete and add up enough wins they will play in the post season. They hope to be able to control the tempo of their games. In Reinhard’s words, “We are looking to play a high-energy style of soccer.”
ONE AND WON … Jason Reinhard begins his eighth season directing the cast of players whom he has already called winners despite the fact that the Bulldogs had just a single victory last season. The graduation of Jill Olewine, the school’s all-time scoring leader with 72 goals, will have an effect this year. ’We were the best one-win team you would ever see,” said Reinhard, who also will start this season without graduates Olivia Toth, Annelise Lutz and Cailie Niebell.
17 IS THE TEAM … Last year and this year Northern Lehigh rosters a total of 17 players, just one example of the school’s declining numbers in all of its sports. Senior and four-year starter Abby Merkle is described by Reinhard as a “tremendous passer who will always make the right decision.” She leads his team along with Lexi Meckes, “a tireless worker”, at midfield. “Because of our low numbers, Lexi literally never comes off the field,” said Reinhard, “and after running up and down the field for an entire practice, she’ll go home and run two more miles.” Kate Yesik and Molly Wilk return to add needed offense and scoring.
DIRTY DOZEN … Last season, injuries dropped Northern Lehigh’s game time roster to 12 players for four games in a row. “We really didn’t have enough bodies,” said Renhard. “But we have come away with a team of very tough kids.”
THE GAME OF LIFE … “We’ll be very inexperienced, but our team speed is good. We can’t be reckless. We have to defend well and pick our spots to attack.” Reinhard has set the goal to “improve every day,” and he’s not just talking about soccer. “I want my players to learn that you often can’t control what goes on in your life, but what you can control is the effort you put into doing everything you do. Then whether the results are good or bad, you can live with them because you knew you did the very best you can do.”
THE NEW AND THE OLD … Kevin Kotch moves over from the school’s boys soccer team to pilot the Lady Tribe. He’ll have to do without eight departed seniors that included goalkeeper Julia Frey, who led the league in saves, and striker Aubrey Blasiak, who was a top scorer.
DYNAMIC DUO … Returning are sophomore Ashley Marchessault and junior Katie Aaron, who Kotch describes as “players with great vision of the field.” Both possess strong legs, are quick to the ball and are smart goal shooters. Also expected to key the offensive attack are seniors Amya Quinones, who’s “great with the ball,” said Kotch, and Amanda Mathisen, a “very good cross field passer with speed from the wing.” All state discus thrower Isabelle Meckes will lace up the soccer shoes for the first time and help stop opposing momentum from her defender position.
WAIT FOR IT … Lehighton will “bide its time” and try to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. “We have good team speed,” said Kotch. “We think we can keep the rush and try to win the game of ball possession.” He feels that if his team keeps the ball 70-80 percent of the game, they will win their fair share of games.
KEEP THE HORSES THIRSTY … Competing for the league title and a playoff berth appear to be reasonable goals for this year’s edition of Lehighton girls soccer. “No one should run away from us in any game,” said Kotch “especially if we can keep the scores low. If the girls believe in our system that we teach in practice, they should then have the confidence to do well in the games. We can lead the horses to the water, but we can’t make them drink.”
TOP STOP … Bombers’ third-year head coach Craig Wrigglesworth begins this season without graduate Jenna Blynn, who led the team in scoring a year ago. WriggleswortWriggleswortho rely on three returnees to replace their team captain’s leadership and goal scoring for last fall’s 9-9 squad.
SIZE IS A PRIZE … Palmerton will rely on junior forward Madison Martinez to become an offensive scoring presence because she is tall and physical. “Madison’s size is an asset. She can win the ball in the air and muscle herself into position for control.” Senior Mia Fantasia can move the ball with her skilled footwork. “She’s sound technically,” said Wrigglesworth, “on the ball and can get us into great scoring opportunities.” Carissa Fallon, who plays soccer year round, will be counted on to find the back of the net. “She has natural ability and outstanding footwork.” Sophomore Madison Balliet’s speed on defense will spark the Bombers’ transition game.
COME AND GET ME … The Bombers will strive to utilize technical footwork to maintain ball possession. “We will try to draw our opponent out to open up the field and then attack their goal.”
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT … Wrigglesworth said that for his team to qualify again for the district playoffs and compete for the Colonial League title, his players must provide superior effort. “The harder we work, the more success we will have,” he said. “Our practices are game-like. We expect 100 percent effort in both.”