The Main Line high school soccer scene should feature some top-quality teams once again this fall. Last year, the Conestoga boys captured the PIAA state title, the Conestoga girls were undefeated in the Central League, Baldwin School posted its best-ever record, and many other Main Line squads were solid contenders in their respective leagues. The same should be true in 2017.
Here’s a pre-season look at the Main Line high school soccer teams are they prepare to kick off the 2017 fall campaign (the information is from coaches who have responded as of Aug. 15):
Head coach: Mike Welsh, second year.
Last year’s record: 4-6-2
Key returnees: sophomore goalie Sarah McConnon, senior defender Heni Danson, senior defender Annie Ulichney, junior defender Grace Bartosh, sophomore midfielder Amelia Leyden, sophomore striker Natalie Pansini, senior striker Maria Pansini.
Others to watch: sophomore defender Eve Frankel, sophomore midfielder Julianne Carey, senior midfielder Mary Naylor.
Lost to graduation: midfielder Annie McConnon (Providence College), goalie Kendall Shein (Pomona), midfielder Alicia O’Neil (playing lacrosse for Cornell).
Outlook: Welsh said, “We have lost some very important players down the spine of our team that will be difficult to replace. That being said, we have a young and exciting team this year that will continue to improve over the next few years and I expect us to be just as competitive as we were last year, hopefully even more so.”
Head coach: Adrian Cox, third year.
Last year’s record: 17-7 overall, 6-6 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: senior defender Olivia Dewitt, senior midfielder Marissa McGarrey, senior defender Carly McIntosh, senior midfielder Rachel White, junior defender Natalie Sgro, junior forward Gia Vicari.
Others to watch: junior goalkeeper Simi Bleznak, junior defender Lauren Bracken, junior midfielder Celia Page, junior midfielder Juliet Paiva, junior midfielder Lexi Phelan, sophomore midfielder Alex Loomis.
Lost to graduation: midfielder Jennifer Dietrich (Bucknell University), defender Kahlaa Cannady (Swarthmore College).
Outlook: 2016 was the best season in the history of Baldwin soccer, as the team set the following school records – most wins (17), shutouts (11), goals scored (53), least goals allowed (27) – and went undefeated in its non-league games (10-0). Gia Vicari set the single season scoring record with 27 goals.
Baldwin head coach Adrian Cox said, “We return 10 starters and are determined to use our balanced attack and organized defense to continue leading the program to new heights. Our biggest strength is the positive team culture. Everyone enjoys playing together, working hard and having fun on and off the field. We are an experienced, fit, skilled, smart and fearless group. Our non-league schedule (Conestoga, Westtown, Shipley, Friends’ Central, Archbishop Ryan, Hill among others) will prepare us for the rigors of Inter-Ac League play.
“We lost two key senior leaders (co-captains Jennifer Dietrich and Kahlaa Cannady) who were instrumental in building the program. It will be interesting to see what players emerge as on field leaders. Also, the season is very long and it’s important that we are mentally and physically ready to play every opponent. We now have a target on our backs and will be getting every team’s best effort.
“We need to play with poise under pressure, stay healthy, work hard, fight through adversity and enjoy the season. If we do that then the results will come and it should be another successful and historic season for the Polar Bears.”
Head coach: David Zimmerman, 16th year.
Last year’s record: 25-1 overall (PIAA Class AAAA state champions), 11-0 Central League (champions).
Key returnees: senior midfielder Nick Jennings (2016 All-American), senior striker Chris Donovan, senior defender Mike McCarthy, senior midfielder Rodrigo Martinez, junior goalkeeper Luke Smith.
Others to watch: senior striker Logan Schwartz, senior striker Nino Mauro, senior defender Andrew Castleman, senior midfielder Jeff Charles.
Lost to graduation: defender Gabe Harms (Ohio State), striker Mason Miller (Colgate), midfielder Blaise Milanek (Lehigh), defender Will Klein (Haverford).
Outlook: “Experience will be one of our biggest strengths, as we return a number of seasoned veterans from last year’s state championship team. The biggest challenge will be navigating the difficulties and obstacles that typically haunt a team the season after a championship season.”
Head coach: Ben Wilson, second year.
Last year’s record: 16-3-4 overall, 9-0-2 Central League.
Key returnees: Senior center back Hannah Morgan (Providence College commit, All-State and NSCAA All-Region 2016); sophomore forward Caitlin Donovan (team’s leading scorer and first team All-Main Line in 2016); junior forward Nia Scott (second on team in scoring last year).
Others to watch: senior midfielder Rachel Dirico, senior midfielder Caitlyn Ellerbeck, senior forward Ariel Loevy, sophomore defender Calista Courtney.
Lost to graduation: midfielder Madie French (playing lacrosse at Dickinson College); defender Dana Cicchitti, goalie Colleen Baldwin.
Outlook: Wilson said, “Our biggest strength is that we are returning most of our roster from last year’s successful season, and we’ll be adding in quite a bit of talent from last year’s JV teams and a talented rising ninth grade class as well. In our defensive spots, three of the four members of last year’s back line are returning this season including center-back Hannah Morgan. Our biggest challenges are to stay healthy, and to try to be a bit more clinical in our finishing. We are also going to be missing senior Ceara Sweeney, who started most games for us at the holding midfield spot last season, but suffered an ACL tear during lacrosse state tournament back in the spring.”
Episcopal Academy (boys)
Head coach: David Knox, ninth year.
Last year’s record: 15-7-3 overall, 6-3-1 Inter-Ac (second place).
Key returnees: senior defender and co-captain Johnny Cunningham, senior defender and co-captain Nick Wallick, senior forward Spencer Higgins, junior midfielder Harrison Malone.
Others to watch: junior forward Nate Ekpo, junior midfielder Samuel Wilson, senior forward Christopher Bassett, sophomore goalkeeper Trevor Manion.
Lost to graduation: goalkeeper Matt Freese (Harvard), forward Quinn Dudek (Davidson), goalie AJ Marcucci (Connecticut College).
Outlook: Knox said, “We have a strong, talented and experienced squad that is determined to better the previous two years league finishes as Inter-Ac runners-up.”
Episcopal Academy (girls)
Head coach: Andy Fraggos, second year.
Last year’s record: 14-6 overall, 9-3 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: senior goalkeeper Hannah Moriarty, senior defender Julia DePillis, senior midfielder Annie Doig, junior midfielder Anna Salvucci, junior defender Maddie Loughead, junior midfielder Izzy Rohr, junior midfielder Olivia Dirks, sophomore midfielder Lauren Cunningham, sophomore forward Raina Kuzemka, sophomore defender Laila Payton, sophomore defender Devon Whitaker.
Others to watch: senior midfielder Brooke Kelly, senior midfielder Josie Konopka.
Lost to graduation: forward Molly O’Brien (Loyola University), defender Lilly Shaner.
Outlook: EA has a large 2017 returning class with varsity experience; including nine starters and 14 players who received significant varsity minutes. Five of EA’s top seven goal scorers in 2016 came from freshmen and sophomores.
Fraggos said, “It was a heartbreaking loss in 2016 when Molly O’Brien went down with an ankle injury 10 games into the season. It’s always challenging to unexpectedly replace someone the team leaned on so much in our attack, who was on course for a 20-goal, 20-assist season. In the second half of our season, we had to put the majority of goal scoring on the shoulders of underclassmen (Rohr, Salvucci, Cunningham, and Kuzemka), who stepped up to the challenge.”
Although EA lost goalkeeper Morgan Messner to Penn Fusion’s Developmental Academy for her senior season, the Churchwomen return senior goalkeeper Hannah Moriarty, who split minutes with Morgan for the majority of the 2016 season.
Friends’ Central (girls)
Head coach: Luke Nowell, third year.
Last year’s record: 9-6-4 overall, 6-1-1 Friends’ School League
Key returnees: senior midfielder Emily Lorry, senior center back Morgan Crowley, senior forward Ava Forman, junior midfielder Phebe Guenther.
Others to watch: sophomore center back Izzy MacFarlane, sophomore midfielder Caroline Blackman, junior forward Zoe Shoemaker, sophomore defender Brynne Menen.
Lost to graduation: center midfielder Lorna MacFarlane (Dartmouth), forward Hayden Posencheg (playing lacrosse for Duquesne University), defender Hannah Posencheg (playing lacrosse for Dickinson), defender Olivia Comstock (Wesleyan).
Outlook: Nowell said, “This will be both the youngest and most technical group we have had in recent years. Our biggest challenge will be to quickly acclimate our younger players both to our system and the rigors of high school soccer. If we can do that however, we will play an outstanding style – competing at a high level and continuing to build for the future.”
Head coach: Biff Sturla, 16th year.
Last year’s record: 8-11 overall, 4-7 Central League.
Key returnees: The Rams return eight starters from last year, including junior midfielder and captain Alex Kades (scored 14 goals and five assists last year, was first team All-Central League and Rams’ MVP); senior defender and second-year captain Ethan Rodgers (was second team All-Central in 2015, missed over half the season last year due to injury); senior defender and captain Emil Andersen (honorable mention All-Central last year); junior midfielder Evan Tracy (honorable mention All-Central last year); senior striker Serhat Sakarcan (scored eight goals and 10 assists last year); senior defender Jamie Bregman; senior midfielder Noah Cox; and sophomore midfielder Mikkel Andersen (scored five goals last year).
Others to watch: senior striker Jake Grossman (scored five goals last year), junior midfielder Justin Nachman (third year on varsity).
Lost to graduation: outside back Brian Lorenz, center back Joe Magee-Billson.
Outlook: Sturla said, “We were very young in 2016, playing at most three seniors at any time. Our seniors last year combined to score only one goal, while our underclassmen scored 39, so our offense should be quite strong. Most of our defense is back as well. The team will be in huge need of finding a goalkeeper and much of our pre-season effort will be spent training and evaluating our goalies. New JV coach Alex Srolis was a four year starter for the West Chester University women’s team in goal and has been given the task of developing our goalies in time for the start of the season.”
Head coach: Bill Brady, seventh year.
Last year’s record: 9-10-4 overall, 4-5-1 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: senior goalie Will Baltrus, senior midfielder Parker Gravina, junior defender Griffin Wada, junior forward Nick Pippis, senior forward Nik Golz.
Others to watch: junior forward Will Micheletti, senior defender Mike Pilkington.
Lost to graduation: defender Josh Ridenhour (Skidmore).
Outlook: Brady said, “Our junior class is heavy in talent with many boys pushing each other for playing time so depth should be a strength. The biggest challenge will be finding the right balance to the lineup, considering that we have that many players of equal ability. It is important that we use the ultra competitive non-conference schedule as a means to prepare for the Inter-Ac season.”
Lower Merion (boys)
Head coach: Nicholas Severini, eighth year.
Last year’s record: 15–3–1 overall, 8-2-1 Central League.
Key returnees: junior midfielder Tim O’Hare, senior defender Zach Goldstein.
Others to watch: senior goalie Sebastian Connelly, junior striker Harrison Bloch.
Lost to graduation: Sebastian Jenkins (F & M), Ryan Tillman (Bowdoin).
Outlook: Severini said, “The tone for the year will be set during preseason. We graduated 11 seniors, several of which will be playing in college. This year will be a fun challenge and the team will commit to playing hard and showing strong team camaraderie.”
Head coach: Andrew Kummerer, third year.
Last year’s record: 7-8-4 overall, 5-3-2 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: senior goalie Jake Hodlofski, senior defender Lucas Hammond, senior forward Valentino Badalamenti.
Others to watch: junior midfielder Logan Cattie, junior midfielder Chris Ryan.
Lost to graduation: forward Billy Coyle, defender Cullen Pina (Swarthmore), defender Nate Albergo.
Outlook: Kummerer said, “Our biggest strengths are versatility to play different styles, and many players who can play different positions. We have a strong returning core to our back line, too. We need someone to step up and score goals for us.”
Villa Maria Academy
Head coach: Gary Christopher, 12th year.
Last year’s record: 13-7 overall, 7-5 AACA.
Key returnees: senior midfielder Christina DiGuilio, junior midfielder Sarah Goldblum, senior midfielder Sydney Reid, senior striker Ryan O’Rourke.
Others to watch: senior midfielder Annie McNally, junior striker Ashley Reilley, junior defender Sophie Jungkurth.
Lost to graduation: Marissa DiGenova (Temple), Tori Kent (American), Morgan Monteith (RIT), Belle Colaeizza (Holy Cross), Audrey Fantazzia (UMass).
Outlook: Christopher said, “Since we lost some very talented players to graduation, we will be young and inexperienced. However, our returning players are also very skilled and talented.”
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