Hopes are high for local girls' teams
The 2012 soccer season opens this week, and local teams surely have questions.
Can Belle Vernon Area knock South Park off as the team to beat in Sec. 4AA?
Will Charleroi make the playoffs for a third straight year under coach Jim Rue?
Will Monessen be able to lay the foundation for the future with an inexperienced team under first-year coach Bill Halinka?
Will Ringgold be able to take advantage of returning 10 full-time starters and make the playoffs?
Belle Vernon Area
The Lady Leps return eight starters from a team that won a playoff game a season ago. While that is a huge positive, the team is already facing a negative.
“We have to stay healthy,” coach Paul Sasko said. “We need to build some depth as injuries have already been a problem.”
BVA returns four senior starters and four juniors as well. The four seniors who have starting experience will all be captains: midfielders Lauren Kovalchuk and Rebecca Buza and fullbacks Kylie Kikta and Heather Wells.
Kovalchuk scored 17 goals a year ago and made all-section.
Junior returning starters are goalkeeper Ashly Gagliardi, midfielder Kelsy Lawson, fullback Maggie Lewis and forward Hayden Pascoe.
Gagliardi recorded nine shutouts a year ago, while Pascoe registered 31 goals and was named All-WPIAL All-Star.
As always, BVA sets its goals high as the Lady Leps are looking to win the Sec. 4AA title and make a deep run in the playoffs.
However, standing in their way is South Park, which has won 66 straight section matches.
“They have been on the top of the section and figure to be the favorite,” Sasko said. “Our section is tough, but we feel that we will be right there.”
The Lady Leps open in the South Fayette Tournament at noon Saturday against Class A standout Springdale.
Rue has taken his team to the soccer playoffs in both of his seasons, and he doesn't hold back in stating what it will take to get back there this season.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs again and we have a strong defense that is experienced and that is key,” he said. “We have some younger girls, but the experienced players know that we have to play a team game.
“If we can keep the ball out of the net because of our defense, it will help because we lost a lot of scoring from last year.”
Charleroi returns 12 players who started at different times last year, and they will be pushed by younger teammates.
In the back, senior Marissa Hansen is in goal while the strong defense consists of sophomore sweeper Marissa Johnson, senior Natalie Baker, juniors Kayla Francis, Demi Levandosky, Rachel Ritzer and Carina Gott-held.
The midfield players include Ritzer, juniors Chelsea Anderson and Ashlee Riebau and sophomore Jen Tilghman.
Up front, senior Joyce Addis and sophomore Haylee Fedrick are the forwards.
In Sec. 2 AA, Rue said Bentworth and Serra are favored, but he expects the unexpected.
“Those two are probably the favorites, but in this section anyone can beat anyone on any given night,” he said. “We won't take anyone for granted, that's for sure.”
Charleroi opens the season Sept. 5, hosting Chartiers- Houston in a section tilt.
It is safe to say that first-year Monessen girls soccer coach Bill Halinka has a challenge on his hands, but he is looking forward to it.
The Lady Greyhounds only return three starters, and of the 19 players on the roster, 14 of them have barely played since their time in youth leagues.
Halinka is realistic about this season while having a positive outlook on the future.
“We weren't even sure if there would be enough players to have a team this season,” he said. “I want the team to be competitive, but it would be a lot to ask this or that from these girls this year.
“I would like for them to build their skills up and be better players at the end of the season than they are now. This whole season is going to be a learning curve for them and for me.” Halinka will look to his three returning starters for leadership and experience.
The trio consists of junior forward Lauren Perry, senior defender Beth Halinka and senior outside midfielder Mikayla Borne.
“Lauren is going to be our scorer,” Halinka said. “Beth will anchor our defense while Mikayla will float on offense and defense.
“A huge key for us will be to get our first win under our belts. Once we do that, our confidence will begin to grow.”
The Lady Greyhounds will play in Sec. 2AA and open the season Saturday, hosting Geibel at 1 pm.
Fourth-year Ringgold Lady Rams soccer coach has a positive yet realistic outlook on his team's upcoming season.
“We return 10 starters so we have our nucleus back,” he said. “We are in a tough section, but our goal is to make the playoffs and we feel that this is attainable.”
The Lady Rams play in Sec. 4 AAA and won't waste any time in getting tested, opening Friday at Yough in an exhibition tilt.
“This is going to be a great test for us because Yough is a very good team,” Cameron said. “I like opening up with a tough opponent.”
Senior Nicole Wills returns at forward, while five seniors return as starters at midfield: Rose Jasko, Ali Dimoff, Ali Indof, Chelsea Bartman and Alisha Swalin.
Swalin missed last season with an injury but started previously while another senior, Harley Bobnar, will also start some matches.
Returning starters on defense are seniors Christina Wills and Kelley Donovan, junior Jill Bartman, and sophomore Alaina Nickolls.
Indof also started some matches last year in goal. as did junior Jordan Curry.
“We are excited to get it going,” Cameron said. “Our experience from last year will help us.”