Derry girls soccer continues improving in coach's 3rd season
It hasn't happened overnight, but things sure have changed for the Derry girls soccer team.
Gone are the days of barely having enough girls to field a team. In fact, this year the program has 33 players — nearly double from just two seasons ago.
Coach Mark Curcio's plan was to take baby steps year by year and change the culture of the sport within the school district.
The first two years were all about rebuilding the perception of the program and drumming up interest. Mission accomplished.
Now, entering the third year, Curcio is ready to start seeing the fruits of the labor in the win-loss column. The Trojans finished 2-13 overall and 2-10 in Section 1-AA last season. The record was a bit deceiving as Derry was competitive in several close losses.
“We just defeated Obama Academy in a scrimmage (2-1) and we saw huge increases in team play from just last year alone,” he said. “We're definitely heading in the right direction.”
If the Trojans are going to finish with a winning record this year the effort will be spearheaded by captains Nicole Reitz and Kaitlynn Piper.
Reitz is one of the WPIAL's best players many have never heard of coming into the season, according to the coach. A defensive force, Curcio said everything Derry accomplishes will start and end with her. Reitz, a senior, fell under the radar a year ago due to being on a young and inexperienced team.
Piper, a junior, will share time in goal with freshman May Hackman while also leading the attack from her midfielder position. Piper scored both goals in the Trojans' exhibition victory.
“Last year, Piper led the team in saves with 239 and a save percentage of 71 percent,” Curcio said. “With that many shots faced, I believe that percentage was very high. She won team MVP honors last year and is expected to lead the team in net or on the field.”
Curcio also is expecting a breakout season from sophomore midfielder Elizabeth Downey. Downey's season was halted early last year due to a concussion, but she is back fully healthy this season. She figures to be a huge part of the offensive attack.
In addition, Derry returns an abundance of game-tested, experienced players.
The other returning starters for Derry are juniors Megan Retallick, Skylar Cowan-Vasil and Renee Tempo; sophomores Elizabeth Skovira-Downey and Arianna Bush; and senior Tressa Kelly.
“Right now, our goal is (to finish) .500. … If that places us in the section, that would be an honor,” he said. “But for now we just need to focus on improving on the little things. The big things will fall as the come.”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.