The Wardlaw-Hartridge girls soccer team will be making a move this upcoming 2012 season.
After becoming a member of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Gold Division two years ago, winning the division crown in both years (co-champs last year with Highland Park); the Rams will be making the jump to the Blue Division.
“I’m confident we’re going to compete in the Blue Division,” Rams coach Jackie MacLean said. “It’s hard to sit here and say we’re going to win it because we haven’t faced many of those teams yet. I know they are all pretty good programs. But, we’ve been building our program and I feel like we’re going to compete. It was time for us to move out of the Gold. It wasn’t good for us and it wasn’t good for some of the other teams.”
MacLean is hopeful that because of the move, and the tougher schedule the Rams now face, it will show up in her teams’ level of play come tournament time. But another thing MacLean is hopeful for is gaining the respect of the majority of school’s within the GMC. The Rams finished 17-4 last season, but she believes many thought the record was fabricated because of playing in the conference’s weakest division.
“I know as a Gold Division team you’re not always well respected,” MacLean said. “The best seed you’ll get in the counties as a Gold Division winner is the eighth seed. What’s tough about the eight seed is that after you win your first game you play the top seed, which is usually an East Brunswick or something. So, it might be better to get a little bit of a higher seed from the Blue Division and possibly make a little bit of a run. “
Tigers as contenders
The Tigers of South Plainfield are not known for its girls’ soccer, historically speaking, but they were able to equal its best season in school history in 2011, finishing 12-7. They could contend for a White Division title this season.
South Plainfield finished one game behind co-division champions Sayreville and Monroe and returns three All-White Division players including junior Carlee Gonzalez, a reigning Home News Tribune first team forward.
“We’re really counting on the leadership of our returning varsity players,” coach Danielle Chiera said.
Chiera enters her third season as head coach and has compiled an overall record of 20-17-1, which is remarkable considering where the program was. She took over a team that, before her first season, finished 3-15-1 in 2009, but went 8-10-1 in 2010 and to the school’s first winning season since 1999 last year.
“When I came here we had athletes but not soccer players,” Chiera, a former Division I soccer player, said. “One of the struggles was taking good athletes who played other sports and trying to make them soccer players. The program is going in the right direction. People in South Plainfield are starting to get excited about girls’ soccer, which was not always the case.”
Players to watch
The following players were All-Area selections for the HNT last season and will be returning to make an impact for their respective teams in 2012: Daija Griffin (Sr., Forward, Piscataway, first team, POY), Jessica Puchalski (Sr., Forward, South Brunswick, first team), Sydney Rosa (So., Forward, East Brunswick, first team), Carlee Gonzalez (Jr., Forward, South Plainfield, first team), Valentina Margiottiello (Sr., Forward, Wardlaw-Hartridge, first team), Natasha Ntone Kouo (Sr., Midfielder, East Brunswick, first team), Amber Adams (Sr., Defender, Piscataway, first team), Ashley Batista (Sr., Forward, Monroe, second team), Vedika Bandhi (Sr., Midfielder, Piscataway, second team), Liz Scoda (Sr., Midfield, J.P. Stevens, second team), Giselles Perez (Sr., Forward, Carteret, third team), Dana English (Sr., Forward, Metuchen, third team), Taylor Gerhart (Jr., Forward, Wardlaw, third team), Morgan Peachock (Sr., Midfielder, Edison, third team), Tamara Greene (Sr., Midfield, Piscataway, third team), Cagnie Antzcak (Jr., Defender, So. Brunswick, third team), Kristyn Shea (Sr., Goalie, Piscataway, third team).