HOLLAND – It’s a whole new ballgame, as they say, at Council Rock South. The Golden Hawks have a new head coach in former long-time assistant Nick Heim and they’re playing without the services of graduates Maria Buonomo (Mount Saint Mary’s), Kasey Schlupp (Jefferson) and Jesse Magee (West Chester), who have taken their game to the college level.
Four-year starting center-midfielder and senior captain Julie Rebh is back to lead the Golden Hawks onto the field in 2017. While South went to states in 2014 and earned a berth in districts last year, Rebh is taking a self-improvement approach to her leadership this season.
“The goal is always the next game,” she said. “I just want the program – when we leave it – to be stronger than when we arrived as seniors.”
“We’ve had some sophomores and underclassmen step up, and they are really playing well.”
Sophomore Jordan Rubakh, along with twin sisters Alexandra and Samantha Jones are among the newcomers stepping up on varsity. In a season-opening 2-1 triumph over 2016 state qualifier Downingtown East, the twins came through in a big way with Samantha feeding Alexandra with a corner kick from the left side that the latter converted into the winning goal Sept. 5 on the Hawks’ home field.
CR South took an early 1-0 lead in the contest with senior Keira Flanagan poking her own rebound into the left side of the net from 10 yards out 14 minutes into the contest.
The Cougars answered in the second half, however, with a goal of their own with junior backfielder Emily Wurzel drawing the visitors even as she struck the back of the net with her own rebound on a penalty kick eight minutes after the intermission.
“Downingtown is always a tough opponent and we really respect the way they play,” said Rebh. “It was really good to come back from being up one and pretty comfortable in the first half, then having to come back from a penalty kick.”
In addition to Hawks junior keeper Emily Helmich, helping to solidify the CR South defense are seniors Grace O’Kane and Callie Deola, along with juniors Carly Hickey and Emily Kavash. O’Kane and Deola are senior captains and Hickey has stepped into the junior captain’s spot, a role Rebh filled last season. The defense teamed up in the season-opener to steer 12 of 13 Cougar shots wide of the Hawks’ net with Helmich notching eight of those saves.
Last year, Downingtown East was led by 2016 junior forward Emma Steigerwald – the Ches-Mont Player of the Year who notched 28 goals last season. Steigerwald is not playing high school soccer this season, opting instead to compete for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy team.
Guiding the Cougars is ninth-year head coach Craig Reed, who led East to a District 1 championship his first season and to the Ches-Mont League championship as recently as 2013. Last year, Reed garnered Ches-Mont National Division Coach of the Year honors after guiding his team to 17 wins, a fifth-place finish in districts and a berth in states.
Last year, the Hawks fell 3-0 to the Downingtown team in the third game of the season. This year, South seems to be off to a quick start, winning scrimmages with both Hatboro-Horsham and Central Bucks South before outpacing the Cougars in the season-opener.
“It’s great to have this as our first game – our first chance to play another team competitively,” said Rebh. “It was great to play another team with a history as strong as theirs.”
From here, the Hawks are scheduled to open their league slate today (Sept. 6) at Abington though weather may force both teams to postpone the event. The big game with sister school CR North looms on the near horizon with South hosting the Lady Indians at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8.
TOP PHOTO: Council Rock South sophomore Samantha Jones, left, tangles with Downingtown East midfielder Angela Carcella (10) in Golden Hawks 2-1 triumph over the Cougars Sept. 5 on Rock Way. Jones teamed up with her twin sister Alexandra (background, far right) to score the winning goal with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
Council Rock South 2, Downingtown East 1
(Sept. 5 at CR South)
CR SOUTH (1-0) 1 1 – 2
DOWNINGTOWN EAST (0-2) 0 1 – 1
GOALS: CRS — Keira Flanagan, Samantha Jones; DE — Emily Wurzel.
ASSISTS: CRS — Alexandra Jones, DE — none.