Gateway girls soccer coach cautiously optimistic about season
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Gateway girls soccer head coach Kevin Sanders mixes enthusiasm for his team's chances coming into the season with the knowledge that his team has a number of things still to work on before they are a polished product.
Practices and scrimmages, he said, have produced both positive results and challenges to overcome.
Sanders hopes that everything will come together when the season begins Saturday at 11 a.m. against Hempfield at Antimarino Stadium.
“We're just trying to find the right mix right now,” Sanders said.
While several players moved on because of graduation, including Emily Stevens, the co-leader in points (23) and leader in goals (8) in 2013, there is a strong corps of returning starters and letter winners who will try to get Gateway into the WPIAL playoffs again.
The Gators finished 8-3-1 in Section 3, behind Fox Chapel (11-0-1) and Plum (9-3-1), and seniors Maggie Hilton (midfield), Cara Finoli (defense), Lizzie Pendice (midfield/defense) and Rachel Giannangeli (midfield), junior Kayla Trozzi (forward) and sophomores Maddie Hansmann (midfield), Mackenzie Reed (defense), Steph Vojtek (midfield/forward) and Kristen Greggerson (defense/midfield) are back.
Hilton finished tied with Stevens for the team lead in points, and she led the team in assists (11).
“She has really matured,” Sanders said.
“She is understanding of her role of getting others involved and helping others get better. She's playing faster instead of overanalyzing. She's reacting more than thinking. She's taking advantage of situations quicker.”
Junior Malak Shuman played as a freshman, but was not able to play last year. She returns to the field for the 2014 season hoping to make an impact in the midfield.
Sanders said he expects freshmen Gabby Adams (striker/midfield), Alyssa Beley (defense/midfield) and Courtney Seneca (defense) to come in and produce on varsity.
“We have good depth throughout the midfield,” Sanders said. “Playing sound defense and reducing opponents' shots will be the key.”
Sophomore Emma Skledar backed up three-year starter Allie Warsaw last year, and she hopes to be the one to take over after Warsaw graduated and took her talents to West Liberty State University in West Virginia.
Freshmen Erin Douglass and Kamryn Rozier also have been challenging for time at keeper.
“(Goalkeeper) has been pretty competitive throughout camp,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he got a good look at his team in a scrimmage last week with Elizabeth Forward and WPIAL newcomer Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.
“There were some good things, but we need to be better,” Sanders said.
“We saw some things to clean up. EF's been strong the past couple of years, but they lost some good players. They had some injured players, too. It wasn't the look we were expecting. North Catholic played well for a first-year team. It was good to go live against someone else. We had enough of scrimmaging ourselves.”
Gateway was slated to face Baldwin in a scrimmage Wednesday as a final tune-up before Saturday's opener.
“We've been pretty healthy,” Sanders said. “It's just been some bumps and bruises. There's no serious long-term injuries.”
Gateway opens section play next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Woodland Hills at Antimarino Stadium.
The Gators welcome Kiski Area and Franklin Regional back to the section.
The Panthers and Cavaliers just missed the playoffs last year out of Section 1.
Gateway hopes to turn around an 0-3-1 record against Plum and Fox Chapel from 2013.
“This is Plum's year to make a name for themselves,” Sanders said.
“They have one of their strongest teams in more than a decade with a lot of experienced players back. They handed it to us last year. We will have our work cut out for us in the section this year. We can take nothing for granted.”
Section 3 has eight teams this year, so there will be 14 section contests, up from 12 last year.
“It will be a challenge in the section. We have to come out prepared to play,” Sanders said.
“We can do well. We have to believe.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.