Vineland, Millville eying playoffs; Buena on the rise

Vineland, Millville eying playoffs; Buena on the rise

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Vineland, Millville eying playoffs; Buena on the rise

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A team-by-team look at girls’ soccer teams in the greater Cumberland County Area:

Vineland

Coach: Carol Belfi (4th year. 13-37-1)

Conference: Cape-Atlantic League American I

Group: IV South

Last year: 7-11

Returning letterwinners: 5

Key returners: Sam Turner (Sr., Def./Mid.), Abby Dooley (Sr., Mid.), Alex Reyes (Jr., Mid.), Stephanie Alvarez (Jr., Def.), Lindsay Olita (Soph., Def.).

Top newcomers: Shelby Money (Soph., GK), Amanda Smaniotto (Jr., Def.), Antoinette Isekenegbe (Sr., Fwd.), Oliva Romano (Jr., Mid.), Wendy DeLouise (Sr., Fwd.), Payton Lagerholm (Fr., Def.).

Outlook: Vineland enjoyed one of its best seasons in years last fall behind an emergence of the offense. But the team’s top two scorers have graduated, as is the goalie from a year ago.

The Fighting Clan do return some quality talent though. Turner emerged as a top-flight defender last year and could move to midfield this season. There, she’ll be joined by Reyes, who is a talented and confident point guard in the center, and Dooley, who scored five goals last season.

Belfi has most of her defense returning, but they will need to be an improved squad. Last year the Fighting Clan recorded just two shutouts and this season there’s a new keeper — Money — in net. Money is experienced and likely could have started last year had first-team All-Area keeper Claire DuBois not been patrolling between the pipes.

Confidence is high for the team. In the first round of the Group IV South playoffs, they lost to five-time defending state champion Lenape, but by a score of 3-0 and they weren’t completely outclassed. Another playoff berth with a friendlier opponent could yield a different result.

Health will be key because the bench isn’t very deep. But if the starters stay healthy and jell, and if someone steps up as a goal scorer, Vineland could be right where they left off a year ago.

Prediction: Vineland should be right around seven wins again, perhaps more if the offense comes together. A deep playoff run might be a bit too much to ask just yet.

Millville

Coach: Brian Sloan (7th year, 60-38-7)

Conference: CAL American I

Group: IV South

Last year: 10-4-3

Returning letterwinners: 7

Key returners: Taylor Sergiacomi (Soph., Mid.), Kourtney Smith (Soph., Fwd.), Jamie Parent (Sr., Mid.), Brandy Toso (Sr., Def.), Nicki Read (Jr., Def.), Kiara Brown (Jr., Def.), Bryn Powers (Soph., Def.).

Top newcomers: Brooke Muhlbaier (Fr., Mid./Fwd.), Alyssa Simpkins (Fr., Fwd.).

Outlook: Perhaps no other local team has seen as much turnover from last year to this as the Thunderbolts.

A talented class graduated and injuries hit the team hard. Parent is the only returning senior who played varsity last year.

However, Millville won a playoff game last season while starting four freshmen, so the talent is there. Unfortunately, two of those freshman, midfielder Hannah Daigle and keeper MacKenzie Taylor, are both out for the season with torn anterior cruciate ligaments — a huge blow as Taylor had five shutouts and Daigle led the team with 13 goals and was one of the most talented players in South Jersey.

But the focus is on who is ready to go and that group is pretty solid. The possession-heavy team from a year ago is no more. But the entire back line is intact. Toso, Read Brown and Powers make for a formidable defense in front of senior keeper Ashli Weems. Weems is supremely athletic, but has only been playing the position for a little over a year.

Finding the net will be the biggest obstacle for the Thunderbolts. With Daigle out, only three girls who scored last year are back representing four goals of the 40 the Thunderbolts had.

Sergiacomi will be the steadying presence in the midfield and it will be up to freshmen Muhlbaier and Simpkins to carry the offense.

Prediction: Millville’s losses are simply too much to ignore. The team will be a .500 squad this year, but next year it’ll be downright scary.

Buena

Coach: Patrick Mitchell (2nd year, 9-11-1)

Conference: CAL National I

Group: II South

Last year: 9-11-1

Top returners: Jasmine Miro-Myers (Sr., Fwd.), Sydney Zorzi (Sr., Fwd.), Brianna Harper (Jr., Mid./Def.), Loriann Copechal (Sr., GK), Nicole Gaboda (Jr., Def.), Courtney Curcio (Jr., Mid.).

Top newcomers: Gabrielle DeSousa (Fr., Def.).

Outlook: Buena struggled offensively last year, but the four of the top five scorers from last season are back. Seniors Miro-Myers and Zorzi combined for 16 tallies last year and they will be leading the offense again.

The biggest loss was midfielder Kaitlyn Cooper, who had 25 career goals. Finding a steadying presence in the midfield will be key for the Chiefs.

Harper could be the X-factor for the Chiefs this fall. The junior played almost exclusively on defense last year out of necessity, but she’s capable of playing anywhere on the field. She’ll get more time in the midfield this season and will be a two-way threat.

Experience, which was in short supply last year, is at a premium now with very few players lost to graduation. But like any maturing team, it’s a matter of finding a way to win tight games. Only three of Buena’s nine wins last year were one-goal games.

The defense in front of Copechal, who notched four clean sheets in goal last year, needs to be tighter and allow far fewer than the 64 tallies it let in last season if the Chiefs want to return to being a threat in the postseason.

Prediction: The CAL National is as tough as it’s ever been, but with the returners on offense, Buena should be in the hunt. Look for the Chiefs to challenge the .500 mark again.

Sacred Heart

Coach: Esa Staples (8th year, 60-57-4)

Conference: CAL National II

Group: Non-Public B South

Last year: 1-15

Returning letterwinners: 5

Key returners: Tyler Aullfo (Sr., Mid.), Ally Farrucci (Sr., Mid.), Mia Klekos (Sr., Mid.), Amanda Buirch (Sr., Mid.), Ivy Vinnick (Sr., Mid.).

Top newcomers: Gina Giannone (Jr., GK), Dayne Aulffo (Fr., Fwd.), Jana Martini (Fr., Mid.), Lauren Alcorn (Fr., Def.).

Outlook: Sacred Heart limped through last season with low numbers and a lack of experience. And while the team lost one of its best players and one of the top defenders in South Jersey in Brittany Harden, Staples is confident this year will be a step forward.

The senior class is talented and will benefit from the return of Buirch, who sat out last year to focus on basketball.

Throw in a solid group of freshmen, and the Lions are looking much improved from last year’s one-win team.

The offense will be the problem again though. Buirch is likely to play all over the field, but she is the best goal-scorer on a team that found the back of the net just five times all last season — two of those goals were scored by now-departed players and one was an own goal.

The Lions look to be strongest on defense, which is no different than any team Staples has coached. Working the ball up the field shouldn’t be a problem, but finishing it will be key.

Prediction: The Lions still aren’t a team that’s ready to challenge for conference titles, but they certainly won’t be a pushover either.

Delsea

Coach: Misty Russo (2nd year, 6-12-1)

Conference: Tri-County Royal

Group: III South

Last year: 6-12-1

Returning letterwinners: 11

Key returners: Tori Miller (Soph., Fwd.), Kailey Russo (Soph., Mid.), Shelby Patrick (Sr., Def.), Jane Grimley (Sr., Mid.), Laura Hunter (Soph., Mid.).

Top newcomers: Brielle Morella (Jr., Mid.), Autumn Price (Jr., Mid.), Hannah Seabert (Fr., GK), Jess Moneleone (Fr., Mid.).

Outlook: Delsea was a surprising team last year. While the Crusaders won just six games, they were competitive in almost every game they played. The team also took Group III South champion Moorestown to the brink, losing 1-0 to the top seeded Quakers as the No. 16 seed in the playoffs.

The Crusaders did it with a very talented group of freshmen leading the way. Miller scored 15 goals and is likely to be right at that mark or better this year as the group around her returns nearly completely intact.

The biggest loss was goalie Brianna Pender, who was solid and experienced in net, but Russo said she has a solid option to replace her in the freshman, Seabert.

Offense, which was lacking at Delsea for a few years, will not be in short supply. Along with Miller is Kailey Russo, who quietly scored eight times last year. She’ll play more of a playmaker role while Miller is the finisher.

Defensively, the entire group returns, making the loss of Pender easier to overcome as well.

Prediction: The Tri-County Royal is always hard to predict, but Delsea should be among the best teams and easily the most improved in the area from last year. Look for a .500 season, perhaps much better.

Cumberland

Coach: Bill Zeifle (2nd year, 3-13)

Conference: Tri-County Diamond

Group: III South

Last year: 3-13

Returning letterwinners: 13

Key returners: Katie McCormick (Sr., Mid.), Cassidy Clay (Sr., Mid.), Emily Ohara (Jr., Def.), Courtney Cline (Jr., Mid./Def.), Taylor Magee (Jr., Def.), Dayna Patitucci (Soph., Fwd.), Jessica Rottkamp (Soph., Def.), Abby Styring (Soph., Def.), Kenei Green-Scott (Jr., Mid./Def.).

Top Newcomers: Renee Bokma (Fr., Mid./Fwd.), Aracelis Alvarez (Fr., Fwd./Mid), Sydonnie Dawkins (Fr., Def./Mid.).

Outlook: The Colts return a lot of players, 16 in fact with varsity experience. That, and a drop down to the Diamond Division should provide a nice spike in the wins column this fall.

But there are some major holes to fill. Lauren Whelan, a former Daily Journal Player of the Year and owner of 47 career goals, graduated. Senior Amber Glenning, a solid keeper, is out for the year with a torn ACL.

The midfield should be solid, led by McCormick, and Clay and Ohara will lead the defense, which will need to be strong in front of whoever is playing in net. Right now, it’s still a battle between sophomore Dayna Miller and senior Lindsey Gaines. Both have experience and both could see time — the Colts have split time with keepers in the past.

Even though there are plenty of returning the players, the roster is still young. Five seniors are on the team, but only two of them started last year.

Prediction: The Colts will definitely improve their record from a year ago and if the keeper situation works itself out, they could be among the top teams in the Diamond Division.

Schalick

Coach: Christine Roeschke (10th year, 127-44-10)

Conference: Tri-County Diamond

Group: I South

Last year: 16-3-1

Returning letterwinners: 5

Key returners: Nikki Adams (Sr., Mid.), Eleni Dendrinos (Sr., Fwd..), Katie Farrell (Jr., Mid.), Lauren Saracino (Soph., Mid.), Courtney Miller (Jr., GK).

Top newcomers: Grace Milone (Fr., Mid.), Lauren Kenny (Fr., Mid.), Tiernny Wiltshire (Fr., Def.), Taylor Ismail (Fr., Def.).

Outlook: Any time you return a player like Adams, the reigning Daily Journal Player of the Year, the outlook can’t be that dim. But the Cougars lost a lot to graduation and have moved up to the Tri-County Diamond Division, meaning a couple of games against Gloucester Catholic, Cumberland and a matchup with Williamstown from the Royal Division.

So repeating last year’s mark of 14 wins and a trip to the sectional semifinal might be hard, but when the postseason rolls around, they’ll certainly be battle-tested.

Adams and Dendrinos are the goal scorers and Miller returns as a solid presence in net. The defense is young, but talented. Look for Ismail to be a nice player for years.

Possessing the ball and moving it forward will be the key. Adams can do that herself, but other Cougars in the midfield will need to step up when she’s double and triple teamed. Last year the team had more weapons, most notably Kendal Bernardini, who would dish the ball and also finish it when other teams focused on Adams. Saracino, Farrell and the rest of the midfield needs to pick up that role.

Prediction: The record is sure to take a hit, but the team can’t be overlooked come playoff time.

OLMA

Coach: Gary Jost (1st year)

Conference: CAL National II

Group: Non-Public B South

Last year: 13-9

Returning letterwinners: 5

Key returners: Sarah Buchanan (Jr., Mid.), Taylor Tighe (Jr., Fwd.), Caitlyn Covella (Sr., Def.), Gabriella Capriotti (Sr., Def.), Devon Donaghy (Sr., GK).

Top newcomers: Tziarra King (Fr., Mid.), Vashti Williams (Fr., Def.), Katie Kavanagh (Fr., Utility), Amber Raines (Fr., Mid./Fwd.), Dana DaSilva (Fr., Mid.).

Outlook: The Villagers are entering the season with heavy hearts following the loss of coach Phil Caporale, who was killed in a car accident in May. Jost, the assistant under Caporale for the last eight years, takes over.

The team returns solid players right up the middle of the field. At the top, the versatile Tighe will play the role of finisher with Buchanan as the playmaker from the midfield. Look for both to be along the area’s top scorers this year. Defensively, Covella is among the best sweepers in the CAL and Capriotti is solid stopper.

Scoring shouldn’t be an issue, but Jost wants to focus on the defense. There are holes to fill, mainly the one left by Elena Grady, who scored 14 goals last year and is now playing at William Patterson University.

A very talented freshman class is expected to contribute right away, but will need to adjust quickly to the physicality of the high school game.

Prediction: The team should pick up where it left off, score in droves and be a threat in the playoffs.

Bridgeton

Coach: Jeff Meeks (5th year, 7-63-4)

Conference: CAL American II

Group: II South

Last year: 3-15-1

Returning letterwinners: 10

Key returners: Javon Childers (Sr., GK), Simone Sweazie (Jr., Def.), Julianna Marchese (Sr., Def.), Raquel Ruiz (Sr., Def.), April Fortoul (Soph., Def.).

Outlook: Bridgeton enjoyed one of its best seasons in years last fall, but lost its top goal scorer in Liz Hernandez. Also, the team has to deal with a move up to the American Conference and a significantly more difficult schedule.

The good news is all four defenders return in front of Childers, who Meeks said is one of the most athletic soccer players in South Jersey. Sweazie, Marchese, Ruiz and Fortoul have a year of playing together under their belts and should be improved.

The trouble will be scoring. Bridgeton doesn’t have a true forward and, instead, is hoping a few girls who are relatively new to the sport can pick it up quickly. The goal will be to limit opposing offenses and try to sneak in a few tallies.

Prediction: Bridgeton will struggle with an inexperienced team and a move to the larger division.

Cumberland Christian

Coach: Christine Bennett (6th year)

Conference: Tri-State Christian Athletic Conference

Last year: 10-8-1

Key returners: Kaitlyn Riggins (Soph., Fwd.), Jada Fields (Soph., Mid.), Meridith Jones (Sr., Mid.), Brianna Paulus (Sr., Mid.), Sarah Hague (Sr., GK), Precious Bryant (Sr., Def.).

Top Newcomers: Allison Federico (Jr., Fwd.), Tori Djakow (Fr., Def.).

Outlook: Bennett feels this is the best team Cumberland Christian has fielded in her six years at the helm. Sophomores Kaitlyn Riggins and Jada Fields enjoyed fantastic freshman seasons as the top goal scorers and look to improve this season with a host of returning players around them. The Crusaders also benefit from the return of senior goalie Sarah Hague who missed last season with an ACL injury.

The team is well balanced, the offense should be potent. Figure on Bryant to lead the defense Jones and Paulus to play key roles in the midfield.

Cumberland Christian hasn’t won the TSCAC since 2004 and after a fourth-place finish in the conference last year, the Crusaders are hungry.

Prediction: The TSCAC should come down to Cumberland Christian and three-time defending champ Pilgrim Academy.

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