The success the Williamsport girls soccer team experienced last year only has left the Wildcats wanting more.
And they seemingly have the lineup to achieve more.
Williamsport returns 10 starters from last year’s team that went 10-6-1, finished second in both the Washington County tournament and MVAL Antietam Conference and went 1-1 in the Class 2A West region playoffs.
“The past two years, we were just kind of laying that foundation for success and learning our style of play,” said Tim Salvagno, who’s in his third year as the Wildcats’ coach. “I think for us, this year, it’s about starting to win some titles. County, conference and region — that’s our target. We should bring home at least two of the three.”
Half of their returnees were Herald-Mail All-County selections last year. Junior Erin Palmer (defender) and sophomore Lizzie Willis (forward) were on the first team, while seniors Julia Price (goalkeeper) and Samantha Taylor (defender) and junior Regan Stout (midfielder) were on the second team.
While Willis led Williamsport in points last year with seven goals and four assists, Salvagno said she might play defense this year.
“She can play pretty much anywhere, she’s just so athletic,” he said.
“The good thing this year is that we can go with seven or eight different lineups,” he added. “The big thing for us is being consistent. In the past, either we’ve been on fire or we’re just dead. We’ve looked like state champions some nights, and some nights we’ve looked like we couldn’t beat anybody. ... I think you’re going to see good things from us this year.”
After opening with the county tournament this weekend, the Wildcats begin their regular season at home Tuesday against Urbana, last year’s Class 3A state runner-up.
“Our game against Urbana will really set the tone and see where we’re at,” Salvagno said. “For us, it’s important just to play well against them.”
Last season, the Warriors completed their perfect run through the MVAL Antietam with a convincing 4-1 victory over Brunswick — before falling 1-0 to Brunswick a week later in the 1A West semifinals. The Railroaders ended up advancing to the state final.
“Nobody’s happy about it, but we’ve all moved on,” Boonsboro coach Chris Lantz said. “We’re a completely different team this year and have realistic expectations for this group. We’d still like to compete in the county and the Antietam Conference. Those are the first two goals we have to take care of. We have a lot of work to do.”
While the Warriors lost four All-County players to graduation from last year’s team, their cupboard is hardly bare. Of their five returning starters, three were All-County first-teamers — seniors Abby Duncan (forward) and Emily Cronise (defender) and junior Bre Springer (goalkeeper) — while sophomore Leah Cadigan (forward) was a second-teamer.
Duncan (14 goals, six assists) and Cadigan (nine goals, two assists) were the team’s leading scorers last year, while Springer had the area’s best goals-against average (0.73), allowing only 11 goals in 15 games.
“The challenge this year will be for the players who don’t have the varsity experience, and how they’re going to respond to the level of play,” Lantz said. “That’s the question right now.”
The Hubs won their eighth county title last year, “and then it just fell apart,” said coach Rick Aleshire, whose perennially powerful team finished 5-10-1.
“I think we should be better than last year,” he said. “It’s up to the girls and what they want to do, but they’ve been working hard.”
North has five starters returning, including juniors Elizabeth Balog (forward) and Morgan Wilcox (defender), who were both All-County second-teamers last year. Balog scored a team-high five goals last fall.
Aleshire knows it’ll take more Hub magic to win the county title again this year.
“That was the highlight of last season, and to get back there this year is going to be a little tougher,” he said. “I still think Boonsboro is the top team and Williamsport is second. And the Smithsburg girls are going to give some fits to people this year, and I think we’ll be in the mix even though we’re inexperienced. We have some new players coming in who are really going to help us.”
The Leopards return six starters from last year’s 5-10-1 team, including seniors Justyna Jordan (midfielder) and Grace Clark (defender), who both were All-County second-team selections last year. Senior Elyse Koterwas (midfielder) was an All-County first-teamer as a sophomore.
Jordan had four goals and six assists last year and is the team’s top returning scorer.
“We should be a more competitive team, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Victor Della Mea said. “We have some more experience under our belt, and the depth of the squad is going to be a little better this year than it has been the past couple years.”
Smithsburg finished just one win shy of the 1A West region final last year, falling 2-1 to Northern Garrett in the semis.
“We’d like to have a little deeper run come playoff time,” Della Mea said. “Hopefully we can make a little better showing in the playoffs and have a better overall record.”
The Blazers lost a few key players to graduation from last year’s 6-7-1 team, but they have all of their Alberts back.
Brian Albert returns as coach, and among his five returning starters from last season are his daughters, Tori and Lexi. Tori, a senior, is a two-time All-County first-team goalkeeper, while Lexi, a sophomore forward, is the team’s top returning scorer after tallying four goals and two assists last year.
Senior midfielder Cayla Garner, who missed the last six games of last season with an injury, is another key returnee.
“We’re probably right around a .500 team again,” Brian Albert said. “We have some decent players, but we play some pretty tough teams out of conference.
“We should be in every game. Hopefully there won’t be many blowouts. We usually play up to our competition, and I’m hoping to repeat that. Hopefully we can get everybody healthy and hitting on all cylinders going into the playoffs.”
The Rebels still are growing.
Of their eight returning starters from last year’s 2-13 team, half are sophomores. And coach Abibe Niang said he expects to start a couple more freshmen again this season.
“We’re still a rebuilding program, but I’m hoping to have a better season this year,” he said. “We have a very good crew. They’re very happy to come in and learn and play together and work hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
Among the returnees are senior Madeleine Niang (defender) and sophomore Tori Mills (forward), who both were All-County second-teamers last year, and jack-of-all-trades Katrice Dickson, a junior, who is expected to primarily be a goalie this year. Mills led South last year with five goals and two assists.
“I just want to see improvement,” Abibe Niang said. “The kids worked hard all summer on conditioning. I’m looking forward to seeing some good results.”
Just fielding a team this season should count as a victory for the Panthers.
“We had 13 players to start with, the first week of practice, and they said if we didn’t have 16 they were going to cancel the program,” coach Karen Morgan said. “The girls went on a mission to recruit.”
Hancock now has 17 on its roster, including five returning starters from last year’s 0-14 team — seniors Sydniy Mabey (midfielder/forward), Brooke Mann (defender) and Jodi McSparron (defender) and juniors Sarah Mann (sweeper) and Brianna Castle (stopper). A key addition is senior Courtney Royce (midfielder), who previously played for Clear Spring.
“There’s a lot of new kids, some who have never played,” Morgan said. “They might not be soccer players yet, but at least they’re athletic and eager to go.”
She said her outlook is positive.
“We have a lot of great athletes,” she said. “It’s just going to take experience on the field and practice.”
St. Maria Goretti
Theresa Barton and Annie Cochran accounted for 25 of the Gaels’ 47 goals during last year’s 8-12-1 season, but they’ve both graduated.
“That’s a lot of goals to make up,” coach Mark Barone said. “Alexis (Barone) and Lauree Lorensen (the only two seniors on the team) will be the go-to girls on the front line.”
Alexis Barone’s seven goals and four assists last year make her the top returning scorer, while Lorensen is making the transition from goalkeeper, the position she played last fall.
Sophomore Peyton Lavin is set to anchor the defense.
Eight of the Gaels’ starters are freshmen and sophomores.
“We are young, definitely,” Mark Barone said. “We’re going to try to build on what we started last year when I was a new coach. We have some potential. I guess you can call it a rebuilding year, but I’d call it more of a young year. They’re inexperienced, they’re going to take their lumps, but I see a lot of promise.”
Mary Lofton has taken over as coach of the Saints. Ted Camp, who spent four years at the helm, is now the Saint James JV boys coach.
Also gone from the team is Mary-Kate Afzali, who scored 21 of the Saints’ 36 goals last year as a junior and was named The Herald-Mail’s Player of the Year. Afzali, who led the Saints to a 6-5 record last fall for their first winning season in nearly a decade, is now playing for Middletown.
Lofton said she will rely on the experience of her six returning seniors.
She said the team will be led by senior Lisle Bruns (sweeper) and junior Nikki Jenkinson (goalie) on defense, by upperclassmen Suzie McKelvey, Tessa Thomas and Kerri Kline in the middle and by freshman Leanne Ludwick on the attack.