Another girls soccer season starts this week and there are high expections for the majority of the squads in the Record-Journal coverage area.
Southington, Cheshire and Sheehan are coming off of strong campaigns and those three schools are setting their sights on returning to states with the hopes of making a run.
Maloney, Platt, Lyman Hall and Wilcox Tech all aspire to earn state tournament berths. Platt is under the leadership of first-year coach Dan Gutierrez (see related story).
Here’s the breakdown of the seven area teams.Southington
The Blue Knights finished 12-4-2 and won the CCC West-Colonial Division last fall in Michael Linehan’s fourth year as head coach.
Southington was ousted in the second round of the Class LL tournament by eventual champion Ridgefield, 2-1.
Southington did lose some top players from last year’s unit, including Taylor Hubert, Abigail Connolly, Nicole Carter, Ariana Gazaferi, Alexa Imme and Melissa Drexler. Hubert (Merrimack College), Gazaferi (University of Saint Joseph) and Carter (Mount Saint Mary College) are continuing their career at the next level.
Southington charges into 2018 with plenty of star power. Among the returners are All-State and two-time All-CCC center back Alijah Vega and fellow senior Natalie Verderame, a two-time All-CCC forward who has 25 goals in her Southington career.
Also back for her senior year is goaltender Olivia Sherwood, who totaled 11 shutouts as a junior.
The junior class is headed All-CCC midfielder Emma Panarella and outside backs Katherine Crouse and Jordan Beaudoin.
Among the top returning sophomores are center back Abigail Sowa and forwards Allison Carr and Shannon Litchfield.
Forward Maya Wroblewski is Southington’s top incoming freshman.
”We graduated 10 seniors and six starters,” Mike Linehan said. “Despite the losses, we are optimistic about the upcoming season. The incoming group will be young, but extremely talented.
“Leadership from the returning players and team chemistry will be some of the keys to our success. Leadership from Alijah Vega, Natalie Verderame and Emma Panarella is critical for us, especially early in the season.”Cheshire
The Rams repeated as SCC Housatonic Division champs and finished 10-6-3 overall a year ago. Cheshire bowed out in the quarterfinals of the SCC Tournament and in the second round of the Class LL state bracket.
Now in their fifth season under coach James Luis, expectations remain high for the Rams, who have been re-assigned to the SCC Quinnipiac with Mercy, North Haven and Hamden.
Cheshire did absorb stiff graduation losses in the departure of center back Jillian Klem (Sacred Heart) and goaltender Samatha Mathews.
The returning seniors for Cheshire are Annie Acquavita, Kayla Agostinelli, Cassidy Keaney, Riley Petit, Shariqa Rahman, Kaitlyn Loura, Paige Perez and Lila McNamee.
The junior class includes Marisa Brough and Caroline Campion. The sophomore class features Izzy Pellegrino, Ellie Pergolotti, Seymone Rosenberg and Danielle Ellis.
Pergolotti is a transfer from Maloney. She joins Cheshire along with a trio of promising freshmen: Olivia Jones, Briana Geloso and Ariana Geloso.
“We have an experienced group with mix of young talent,” Luis said. “Overall expectation is to be highly competitive and challenge for division and conference championship.”Maloney
The Spartans lost eight seniors, plus Cheshire transfer Ellie Pergolotti, from their 4-12 team of 2017. Maloney’s top graduation losses were Mackenzie Wrinn (University of Hartford), Caitlyn Mayhew (St. Joseph) and Regan Maloney.
The Spartans return just three seniors, although they do have a strong freshman class entering the program.
“These seniors have been through a lot and they want to make the state tournament,” said head coach Eion McClure, who enters his fourth year on the East Side. “We are in the CCC Colonial-South with Platt, Middletown and Berlin. We will play good teams every day. The goal is to be .500 and make the tournament.”
Maloney’s trio of seniors are defenders Alexa Papallo and Kyra Milloy and midfielder/goalie Avery Graham.
The junior class features defender Olivia Aitken, forward/midfielder Ally Grignano and midfielders Isabella Robison, Hannah Showerda and Grace Tompkins.
The Spartans have five sophomores on the varsity roster: goalie/midfielder Abby Lespier, midfielder/defenders Haley Lespier and Sylvia Lavin, defender Emma Szymaszek and forward Audra Kopcza.
Among the promising freshmen are forward/midfielders Michaela Wrinn and Mackenzie McCormack, midfielder Aleyna Boluk, defender Robyn Martorelli and midfielder/defender Lily Marcuss Fresh.Platt
The Panthers were 2-13-1 last year, but have a new coach in Danny Gutierrez, who expects an improvement in his new squad this year.
Platt returns two-time All-Record-Journal player Lizzie Garlock. She will move up from the backfield to center midfield. Incumbent goalie Martha Chatman also returns.
Two other seniors to watch are midfielders Julia Misner and Daniella Sevilla. A pair of juniors, Anani Gutierrez and Nayela Galvez, are among the top defenders.
Senior Lizbeth Aguilar and Kaylen Aiach are also on the back line. Sophomore Charlotte Vega provides depth in net.
Senior Miranda Sula and junior Jhosselyn Jaramillo are forwards. Senior Donia Hussein, juniors Samantha Izzo and Emily Nava, and sophomore Gabrielle Aresco are in the midfield. Aiach can also play in the midfield.
Among the promising newcomers are Allison Aguilar, a forward/midfielder.
“To be honest with you, if I could win four games this year I think that would be a good start,” Coach Gutierrez said. “I looked back at the records last year and they weren’t took good. I’m not looking to get blown out. If I’m going to take a loss, I’m going to take a loss by a little bit.”
Gutierrez is assisted by Marisa Vola.Wilcox Tech
The Tribe graduated eight varsity players after a 6-9-1 campaign in 2017.
The Indians return forward Katie Kearney, a senior who has proven to be one of the top scorers in the Connecticut Technical Conference.
“On defense, Stevey Heath will prove to be a force to be reckoned with,” said four-year coach Lillie Johnson. “In the middle, we have Valerie Espinosa, who is determined to make a difference this year.
Heath and Espinosa are both seniors.
Johnson said she’s also looking for good things from seniors Tatiana Gonzalez and Lilibeth Ruiz. Senior Guadalube Ramirez returns for her second season between the pipes.
Wilcox Tech adds a pair of newcomers in sophomore Morgan Herzman and freshman Luisa Avila.
“This year will prove to be an exciting time at Wilcox,” Johnson said. “We have six returning seniors and we look forward to see what is sure to be a winning season. We have had a wonderful start with a lot of new players to enhance our team and to continue to grow and develop. We are hoping to see progress from second-year player Mylin Bennett.”Lyman Hall
The Trojans are coming off a 4-9-3 campaign and head coach Tony Crane, in his third year, is optimistic his girls can make the leap to qualify for the state tournament this season.
LH will be headed by senior captains Carly Jacobs, a defender/midfielder, and Julia Blanchard, a midfielder/forward.
Other seniors are goaltender Hannah Blanchard and defenders Ryleigh Shortell, Chelsea Giannini and Iran Garcia.
The junior class includes forward Alyssa Carbutti, defender Demry Gdovin and midfielders Adrianna Fernicola, Jordan Smith, Alexis Eaton and Julia Limosani.
Three sophomores are on the roster: forward Adrianna Viniczay, midfielder Grace Gagliardi and defender Marissa Guidet.
Midfielders Shianna Reeves and Caitlyn Giannini, defender Sydney Raffles and goaltender Brianna Nugent have cracked the varsity roster as freshmen.
LH’s biggest loss was Demiree Cyr, a two-time All-Record-Journal defender now playing at Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia.
“We have improved over the past three years,” said Crane. “With a little more improvement, we should make states this year.”
Lyman Hall will compete in the SCC Hammonasset along with Hand, Guilford, West Haven and East Haven.Sheehan
The Titans are coming off a strong 12-2-2 campaign in which they finished second in the SCC Oronoque (4-1-1) and made it all the way to the Class M state quarterfinals before falling to Weston on penalty kicks in a 4-3 thriller.
There were some major losses from that team: Kelsey Burr (Southern Connecticut), Sam Larkin and Christine Thorp.
Sheehan coach Rob Huelsman enters his 12th season. His 2018 team will be led by senior captains Rayna Esch, a defender, and Julia Podchaiski, a midfielder. Esch totaled four goals and an assist last season. Podchaiski netted two goals and dished three assists.
Senior Kelly Musante is a midfielder for the Titans, whose roster features only three seniors.
Olivia Dubuc is Sheehan’s top returning scoring threat. She scored 15 goals and seven assists last year as a sophomore.
Dubuc is among a talented junior class that includes midfielders Grace Waldron, Bethany Gray, Kara Sullivan and Katie Cappetta, defenders Marley Esch and Olivia Cuticelli, and goalies Avery Holden and Anna Medici.
The sophomores are goalie Beth Arnold, defender Lexi Carim and midfielders Hayleigh Lagase, Sam Barone and Madison Yasgar.
Three freshman are on the roster: goalie Emma Malone and midfielders Amy Casorla and Alicea Piscitelli.
Sheehan returns to the SCC Housatonic and will battle Shelton, Lauralton Hall, Branford and Wilbur Cross for divisional supremacy.
“Our team is up for the challenge with an experienced group of upperclassmen and many underclassmen that bring some depth to the 2018 team,” Huelsman said.
“We have the sizeable junior class and 70 percent of our players have seen varsity minutes over the last year or two. They look good. We will be put a nice group together.”