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Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery girls soccer teams ready for changes

Upper Dublin’s Christina Haig goes up to pass the ball during the Cardinals game against Cheltenham on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

There has been a great deal of change since the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery area girls soccer season ended last November.

To start with the final team standing last fall in PIAA AA runner-up St. Basil Academy, the Panthers graduated 12 seniors, including nine starters. For the first time in 25 years, there’s a new coach at Lansdale Catholic, and the program’s all-time leading scorer is now in college. A couple teams have changed leagues, some have new fields and others have new coaches.

Even through all the change, there is one thing that stayed the same. There’s a lot of talent in this area and it will be on display this fall.

It’s certainly the dawn of a new era at LC after the only coach the program had ever known in Tom O’Donnell retired and 100-goal scorer Kate Henesey graduated. Bree Benedict, a Central Bucks West alum, takes over the helm of a team that’s been in the PCL final four every year since joining the league. Staying in the PCL, Archbishop Wood has new leadership with Tom DeGeorge taking over a Vikings program that’s been LC’s chief rival in terms of PCL postseason stakes.

Lansdale Catholic’s Taylor Connelly works for control of a pass near McDevitt’s Mya Lepard during their game on Sept. 11, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Ironically, there wasn’t a ton of change at Pennridge after the Rams managed to earn the No. 1 seed for the District 1-4A tournament only to get ousted in the second round in a spot kick shootout with rival Quakertown. Stalwart defender Courtney Supp graduated, as did solid midfielder Caroline Thomson, but coach Audrey Anderson has an abundance of starters back including last year’s leading scorer in senior Abby Groff and a top-notch keeper in senior Mary Kate Levush.

The Rams will however, get two shots at Quakertown this fall after the Panthers moved back to the SOL Continental in the latest round of the three-conference league’s realignment. Those shifts have also changed things for Abington and William Tennent.

Tennent, which had a solid season in the Continental last year, has jumped back into the National, where the competition is just as fierce with the likes of Neshaminy, Pennsbury and Council Rock North and South. As for the Galloping Ghosts, they’ll have some shorter road trips this fall as the newest member of the SOL American.

Abington, led by Virginia-bound senior Cam Lexow, is seeking its first postseason bid in three years while also trying to knock Upper Dublin off its perch as conference champion. The Flying Cardinals, who return a good deal of their own talent, will also have to contend with an up and coming Plymouth Whitemarsh side along with Wissahickon and Hatboro-Horsham sides that usually have some quality players.

St. Basil’s Sophia Mahoney (20) tries to control the ball against Mercyhurst Prep in the PIAA Class AA girls soccer championship at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, PA on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media)

St. Basil, the back to back District 1-AA champion, will certainly have a different look this fall, but coach Bob Opalka does have a few veterans back including senior Sophia Mahoney and so far, he likes the spunk and energy his re-built squad has brought to the pitch. Staying in the AACA, Mount St. Joseph continues to build with junior forward Madison Hornig coming off a season where she was league co-MVP while Gwynedd Mercy Academy is hoping a year of experience and a new facility lead to a strong postseason run.

Germantown Academy will have to find a way to replace the offense that current Duke freshman Mac Pluck provided, but the Patriots and longtime coach Chris Nelson have some really solid vets like Ally Clark and Riley Axenroth ready to lead.

Lower Moreland lost a standout in defender Kayla O’Malley but have Allison Asmann, Ceili Corduff and Nicole Castor back as they look to break a postseason hex and make the state tournament in 3A. Dock Mennonite is now under the lead of alum Shea Neal, who moved up to head coach after serving as an assistant following her college career at East Stroudsburg.

ABINGTON
2017 Record: 7-11 (5-7 SOL National)
Coach: Rick Tompkins
Notable Losses: Issy Mugnier, Lily Campoli
Players to Watch: Cam Lexow, Kailey Horton, Casey Touey, Sam Campbell
Outlook: It’s the last go-round for Lexow before heading to UVA and the senior wants to get back to the postseason. In a new league, the Ghosts will have their opportunity to play their way into the postseason, but they’ll have to get results in a tough non-league slate if they really want to put themselves in that conversation.

ABINGTON FRIENDS
2017 Record: 7-9
Coach: Jay Scheets
Key Losses: Ruth Bekele, Sierra Granata
Players to Watch: Paige Osborne, Isabelle Newman and Claire Rosenwinkel
Outlook: “AFS is looking to bounce back from last year’s five game losing streak to end the season. This season the girls varsity team turns to seniors,  Paige Osborne, Isabelle Newman and Claire Rosenwinkel along with an emerging cast of young players to stay competitive in the Friends league.”

ARCHBISHOP WOOD
2017 Record: 11-9 (8-3 PCL)
Coach: Tom DeGeorge
Notable Losses: Caitlyn Cliggett , Paige Sellers, Kasey McCormick
Players to Watch: Leah Brzezicki, Gabrielle Fasti, Elizabeth McCloud, Maggie Cliggett, Paige Hoeger 
Outlook: “I come into this year excited to step into a program with such a successful history. We had a great first week of camp and we are looking forward to competing in the Catholic League.”

CENTRAL BUCKS WEST
2017 Record: 8-10 (3-9 SOL Continental)
Coach: Mike Moyer
Notable Losses: Allie Walsh, Sam Lubin, Gracie Power
Players to Watch: Alex Craine, Trish Hauck, GK Jenna Abaza
Outlook: After a rough start to the season, the Bucks got hot over the last few weeks but fell a few spots short of the postseason. With Moyer back for his first full season as coach and a good core of returning players, CB West will try to funnel that finish into a consistent level of play this fall in a tough league.

Cheltenham’s Cassie Malec controls ball near Upper Dublin’s Emily Booth during their game on Sept. 7, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

CHELTENHAM
2017 Record: 1-17 (1-13 SOL American)
Coach: Mark Woodcock
Notable Losses: GK Eliana Weiler
Players to Watch: Cassie Malec, Zoe Moreland, Elin McLaughlin, Ella Brown, Peri Albert, Lola Jahss
Outlook: “After a couple of seasons in which we have not really reached our potential Cheltenham could be set for a break out season.  Another year of experience for a very young group could make all the difference and the addition of a handful of 9th grade players who look like they will be able to contribute immediately means the outlook is very bright.  If we can overcome the lack of experience outside the defensive line then Cheltenham is well positioned to spring a surprise against some of the better teams in our league.”

DOCK MENNONITE
Coach: Shea Neal
Notable Losses: McKenzie Swartley
Players to watch: GK Audrey Schweizerhof, Brooke Bozarth
Outlook: Neal may be the new head coach, but she’s not new to the program having played at Dock then spending last season as an assistant. Dock had a rebuilding year last fall, but for the Pioneers, it all comes down to the A playoffs. Schweizerhof is about as tested a keeper as there is in the area and a lot of underclassmen got big minutes last year.

GERMANTOWN ACADEMY
Coach: Chris Nelson
Notable Losses: Mac Pluck, Bailey Gilmore, Annelise Peterson
Players to Watch: Riley Axenroth, Ally Clark, Sarah DiLello, Maddie Burns, Julia Johnson
Outlook: The Patriots dealt with a ton of injuries last year and still made the PAISAA semifinals. Losing a player of Pluck’s caliber is a big blow, but she missed some time with injury last fall so GA had to learn to adapt. Clark started on the PAISAA champion team when she was a freshman and will be counted on again to help pace GA.

Dock Mennonite’s Brooke Bozarth dribbles up field near Lower Moreland’s Gianna Penecale during their game on Oct. 12, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

GWYNEDD MERCY ACADEMY
2017 Record: 9-8
Coach: Derik Stover
Notable Losses: Bridget Casey, Carly Heineman, Kendall Seifert, Holly Gross
Players to Watch: Cailin Panacek, Nicole Esposito, Grace Hirschmann, Maddie Mele, Molly Hanson, Sarah White, Emily Meenan, Payton Palazzo, Samantha Berish, Grace Galbreath
Outlook: “Our Team is young , hungry and loaded with a lot desire to compete. We are looking to have a productive season, and hope to make it back to the playoffs. Our team has been working extremely hard this off season to reach our goals.”

HATBORO-HORSHAM
2017 Record: 9-9 (9-5 SOL American)
Coach: Kelsey Daley
Notable Losses: Ericka Paluszek 
Players to Watch: Taliah DeLuca , Izzy de la Torre, Camryn Ryan, Kara Thomas
Outlook: “As a whole new coaching staff coming in we do not know what to expect. We are a young team, but we are excited about rebuilding the program.”

LANSDALE CATHOLIC
2017 Record: 11-1-1 PCL
Coach: Bree Benedict
Notable Losses: Kate Henesey, Sarah Cooney, Rose Stella, GK Lauren Crim
Players to Watch: Emily Schall, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Taylor Connelly, Keira O’Sullivan.
Outlook: “We are looking to build on last year’s success and find new goal scorers. With a lot of starters returning, our expectation is to play a possession style. Our midfield returns strong as ever and will look to control the tempo of games and be a physical presence. We are excited to add some new players to the back and front lines and add a different look to our program. After making it to the PCL championship last year, the team has high expectations to play well this year and get back into playoffs.”

Lower Moreland’s Allison Asmann dribbles up field near Dock Mennonite’s Mikayla Frederick during their game on Oct. 12, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LOWER MORELAND
Coach: Jack Kilroy
Notable Losses: Kayla O’Malley, Brianna Costa, Miah Gomez
Players to Watch: Allison Asmann, Jessica Murawsky, Gianna Penecale, Felicia Pinto, as well as underclassman Nicole Castor,  Ceili’ Courduff and Pheobe Lynch
Outlook: The Lions have gotten close to states the past few years but haven’t been able to break through. With a good senior core led by Allison Asmann, they hope a buffed-up nonleague schedule makes the difference when postseason play begins.

MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH
2017 Record: 8-8-1
Coach: Bill Naydan
Notable Losses: Maddie Feeney
Players to Watch: MollyKate McDonough, Allie Prue, Rachel Shields, Madison Hornig (AACA co-MVP)
Outlook: “We have a young, but very talented group of players with significant depth at most positions. The AACA league is one of the toughest leagues in the AAA division, so we are looking to get as many positive results as possible against our league opponents first and foremost. I am very excited about the depth and versatility our players bring, and I look forward to our girls playing some very exciting soccer this season.”

NORTH PENN
2017 Record: 6-11-1 (2-9-1)
Coach: Steve Whitby
Notable Losses: Amelia Eshraghi, Oliva Follis, Catherine Myers, Isabelle Hughes
Players to Watch: Zoei Baines, Liv Jerome, Grace Sacchetti, Ashley Schmidt, Olivia Urban
Outlook: The Knights were in a transition year but played their best soccer in the second half of the season. With a nice nucleus of players back, the next step is to take some of their close losses and pull results from them. There aren’t any walkover wins in the SOL Continental, but there’s also no reason the Knights can’t factor into the conversation either.

PENNRIDGE
2017 Record: 13-3-2 (8-2-2 SOL Continental)
Coach: Audrey Anderson
Outlook: The Rams bring back almost all of their starting lineup and again have a very experienced roster as they try to defend their SOL Continental title and make a run into the district tournament. There’s talent in attack, midfield and the defensive third with a lot of seniors who played a lot of minutes in big games the past two seasons.

Pennridge’s Molly Groff wins the battle for possession against North Penn’s Meghan Coulton during their game on Oct. 18, 2018. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

PLYMOUTH WHITEMARSH
2017 Record: 12-7 (9-5 SOL American)
Coach: Ryan Zehren
Notable Losses: Victoria Betterly, Ali Diamond
Players to Watch: Alyse Caffrey, Natalie Lannie, Bella McNew, Ava Schreiber, Gabby Cooper, Anni Shula
Outlook: “Our strength is our depth.  We have a number of girls that can play multiple positions, which allows us to be versatile.   We are young so our inexperience at the varsity level is something we will need to work through early in the season. Typically, our lineup is filled with athletes that cause trouble for our opponents.  This season, not only are we athletic, but we are technical. With our youth, there will certainly be some speed bumps, but our girls have a great understanding of the game and a skill level that will hopefully carry us into the playoffs.  Our goal is to compete for the league title and make our way into districts once again.”

SOUDERTON
2017 Record: 15-6 (8-4 SOL Continental)
Coach: Lindsy Jones
Key Players lost:  Cara McCausland, Tori Dowd, Hannah Kramer
Players to watch: Sara Readinger, Campbell Power, Lindsey Padziorko
Outlook: “We are very excited to have a strong breadth of talent from our returning senior core and underclassmen who are hungry to compete for starting positions.  We feel we are a serious contender this year and are determined to have a successful season which extends to the post-season as well.”

SPRINGFIELD-MONTCO
2017 Record: 5-12-1 (3-11 SOL American)
Coach: Suzette Wolf
Key players lost: Lindsey Smith, Mary Kate Smith
Players to watch: Sarah Potocki, Emily Cooney, Samantha Wynne
Outlook: “The team is training very hard during preseason and are looking forward to a challenging season once again. The Springfield girls play with a lot of heart and dedication, the girls will give it their all to have the most successful season possible.”

Souderton’s Sara Readinger and Pennridge’s Maddie Anderson battle for a headball during their game on Oct. 10, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

SAINT BASIL ACADEMY
2017 Record: 16-7 (PIAA AA runner-up)
Coach: Bob Opalka, Melanie Rickus
Notable Losses: 12 total seniors, GK Brooke Shissler, Jules Gura, Paulina Storck, Cheryl Remolde, Erin Gilsenan, Lauren Baldo, Brielle Pieczyk, Jules Harkins, Meghan DiDomenico
Players to Watch: Sophia Mahoney, Delaney Gayton, Cara Hughes, Liz Deal, Ann Marie Coates, Tess White, Maria Storck, Shannon Remolde, Regan Bentley, Riley Jones, Riley Scannell, Madeline Carter
Outlook: “This is a substantially revamped team from one year ago.  The goal is to find the right combinations of players and get them comfortable with each other.  If we can do that, it will ultimately be a successful ending to the season. If this pre-season is any indication, we are going to play at an upbeat pace and have more fun than we deserve playing that way.”

UPPER DUBLIN
2017 Record: 16-2-2 (14-0 SOL American)
Coach: John Topper
Key players lost: GK Devon Jones, Erin O’Brien, Tori Hoffner, Lindsey Schreiber
Players to watch: Emily Booth, Tina Haig (All State selection), Sascha Keitz, Aidan Hopkins, Laura Pendleton, Katie King, Kaityn Brown, Lexie Moss, Priya Kaneria
Outlook:  “With 15 returning varsity players there are high expectations for the 2018 season.  The team hopes to defend their American conference crown, but expects stiff competition in their league, especially with Abington joining this season.  The Cardinals also look forward to a challenging nonconference schedule that includes Conestoga, Central Bucks East, Strath Haven, and Quakertown.” 

UPPER MORELAND
2017 Record: 5-12-1 (3-10-1 SOL American)
Coach: Lisa Benvenuto
Key Losses: Carly Wasson, Shannon Moore, GK Jennifer Storbrauck
Players to watch: Katheryn Morrow, Sarah Veneziale, Maddie Gerlach, Chloe Leiter
Outlook: We have come into camp ready to go with another year of experience and maturity on our side.  We have a strong crew of Seniors and Juniors leading the way.  We are looking to improve our overall record from last year, and come away with some more wins in our league.  This team has a great deal of potential, and they are really coming together as a unit.  

WILLIAM TENNENT
2017 Record: 10-8 (5-7 SOL Continental)
Coach: Bill Hontz
Key Losses: Brianna Broccardi, Ashley, Rivera and Nikki Reh
Players to watch: Chelsea Metzler, Caroline Weir, Gabby Sowers, Olivia Miller, Liz Layer, Danielle Scott, GK Jess Jara, GK Emily Vickilitis.
Outlook: “The goal for all teams is to make the playoffs and I believe that we can accomplish that goal in a situation where all are healthy and ready to advance through the playoffs.  Building on the momentum from last year and the way it ended in the playoffs the girls are ready to go and excited to take on challenges that our new division again will bring us.”

WISSAHICKON
2017 Record: 5-12-1 (5-8-1 SOL American)
Coach: Chris McDaniels
Key Losses: Alexis Smith, Victoria Selverian
Players to Watch: Sam Cominitski, Grace Mullen and Kelly Dickson
Outlook: “Our starting 11 will include a few players from each class, 9th through 12th grade.  We are just beginning to understand how to play together and should improve every time we take the pitch.”

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