For the first time in recent memory, North Hagerstown does not begin the girls soccer season as the team to beat in Washington County.
The target is now on Boonsboro’s back.
“That’s good, that’s no problem,” North coach Rick Aleshire said. “Boonsboro is definitely coming in as the No. 1, and they may stay the No. 1. They’re pretty solid.”
Boonsboro returns seven starters from last year’s team that won the Washington County title to end North’s six-year reign. The Warriors also were MVAL Antietam champions and finished with a county-best record of 11-5-1.
All seven of Boonsboro’s returnees earned all-county recognition last season. Seniors Ashlyn Hawbaker (forward) and Tricia Hawkins (midfielder) and juniors Emily Cronise (defender) and Abby Duncan (forward) were first-team selections, while seniors Amber Smith (defender) and Morgan Thompson (midfielder) and sophomore Bre Springer (goalie) were on the second team.
Hawbaker’s 15 goals last season also make her the top returning scorer in the county.
“They’re all impact players,” Boonsboro coach Chris Lantz said. “And they’re all returning better than they were last year.”
The Warriors fell short of their ultimate goal last season, falling 2-1 to eventual state runner-up Mountain Ridge in the Maryland Class 1A West semifinals.
“Obviously, we’d like to take the next step and get out of the region,” Lantz said. “We’d like to win the county and conference again, but the next step for our program is to win the region.”
If any team in the county is going to give Boonsboro a hard time this season, the Wildcats might be the ones to do it.
They return nine starters from last year’s team that went 11-6-1 and advanced a step further than Boonsboro, falling 2-0 to Mountain Ridge in the region final.
“Our biggest thing now is just consistency,” coach Tim Salvagno said. “We were successful last year in how we finished, but we started pretty slowly. We want to come out and start strong this year.”
The returnees include all-county first-team selections Casey Arnone (senior midfielder), Erin Palmer (sophomore defender) and Julia Price (junior goalkeeper) and second-teamers Renee Barnes (senior midfielder) and Ashley Likely (junior defender).
Gone, however, is Amber Shumaker, who scored a county-high 18 goals last year — nearly half of Williamsport’s total — and was an all-state second-team selection.
“We have a nice foundation, but the loss of Amber is huge,” Salvagno said. “We have to learn how to score goals. We also lost a lot of leadership. Figuring how to fill those two gaps will be huge for us.”
The Wildcats also make the leap from 1A to 2A this year.
“It will be a challenge for us,” Salvagno said. “After (reaching the region final) last year, the girls were like, ‘We can’t wait to get back there.’ But we’ve got a long way to go now in 2A. Our goal is just to compete in every game we play and see what it brings us.”
The Hubs are coming off a rare losing season (6-7-2), they’ve moved from 2A to 3A and they’ve also lost eight starters from last season, including Beth Wagner, The Herald-Mail’s Player of the Year.
“It’s going to be quite a challenge this year,” Aleshire said. “The girls are young, but I think they’re up for it.”
The returning starters are senior defenders Tia Kline and Morgan Grunberg and sophomore midfielder Elizabeth Balog. Kline was an all-county second-team selection last year.
“We’ve got some real good freshman talent that came in, and a surprise player that moved in from New Jersey (sophomore midfielder/forward Morgan Wilcox),” Aleshire said. “It might take them a while, but I think by midseason, you’re going to see a big change.
“In the county, I think we’ll be fine. And by the end of the season, I think there’ll be some 3A schools we can play with in the playoffs. I think it will be fun for us.”
The Blazers return eight starters from last year’s team that went 6-8-1.
They’re aiming to improve on that mark this season.
“That’s my goal — to be better than .500,” coach Brian Albert said. “We have a tough schedule. We could have a really good year and be .500. That’s the reality. All the teams in the county are on the rise.”
The returnees include all-county first-team goalie Tori Albert, a junior, and second-team midfielder Miranda Kearney, a senior.
Their other three all-county selections from last year graduated, including their two leading scorers
“They’re going to be a big loss,” Brian Albert said. “We’re going to be struggling to find someone on offense.”
Junior midfielder Cayla Garner, who had five goals last season, is the top returning scorer. Senior midfielder Jess Barnhart is “the best ball handler on the team,” the coach said.
Defensively, he said, “We’re pretty solid. We’ve had some underclassmen step up to play some defense.”
Second-year coach Abibe Niang has only four starters returning from last year’s team that went 3-11. But momentum seems to be on the Rebels’ side.
“It’s picking up,” Niang said. “We’re still young, but the young players are eager to do whatever is necessary. ... We’re going to have a JV team for the first time in a few years. That’s big. If you have a JV team, it’s like having a farm team to groom. It’s wonderful. It’s a big step.”
The top returnee is Katrice Dickson, who turned heads as a freshman goalie last year and earned all-county second-team honors. She might be a standout at any position.
“She can score as much as she can save the ball,” Niang said. “She’s still going to be my goalie, but if I need her presence on the field, I’ll put her in. She’s not afraid of anything. She’s a player.”
Senior Danielle Langley returns as the leader on defense, while a trio of freshmen — Tori Mills, Elli Coburn and Paige Granado — will try to supply the offense, along with junior Madeline Niang.
“We’re building right now,” the coach said. “As long as we’re improving, that’s the key. The rest will take care of itself.”
The Leopards have moved forward from last year, when they went 2-13-1 with a new coach, Victor Della Mea.
“It was my first year — but no excuses. Other teams were better on the nights we played them,” he said. “You have to learn from it. It’s not like we were outplayed every match. You just have to build on the positive experiences.”
Six starters return, including all-county first-teamers Rachel Poffenberger (senior striker) and junior Elyse Koterwas (junior midfielder), who were their two leading scorers last season. Poffenberger had a team-high 11 goals.
“Rachel is a technically gifted player, and I have faith she’ll step up and be the leader of the team,” Della Mea said. “But there’s no person who can carry this team by themselves. We’re going to play as a unit and succeed as a unit.”
Filling the roster hasn’t been an issue.
“We have big numbers this year, and there’s a lot of competition for spots,” Della Mea said. “The key is how the new players integrate with the other players. The integration process is further along than it was at this point last year.”
Another key returnee is Bill Fowkes, who will be back on the Leopards’ sideline as Della Mea’s assistant. Fowkes was the head coach when the Smithsburg girls won back-to-back 1A state titles in 2005 and 2006.
The Panthers might not win many games this year, but just the fact that they have a team is a big victory in itself.
“We had a hard time getting girls this year. We almost didn’t have enough,” coach Karen Morgan said. “We had 10 girls, and then we got four more, so we have 14. We’re going to be young and struggling again, but the girls want to keep this going, as do I. They worked hard to get girls to come out.”
About a half-dozen starters return from last year’s team that went 1-14. Of their five seniors, three are fourth-year players — Tatum True (midfield), Kelsie Munch (goalie) and Jaclyn Hixon (defense). Sophomore sweeper Sarah Mann is a returning standout, and senior Emily Johnson, a two-time state placewinner in the 55-meter hurdles in indoor track, is a key newcomer.
“It’s a start,” Morgan said. “I’m looking forward to working with this group. There’s a lot of potential. We just have a lot of work to do.
“They’re young, but they’re eager. I just want them to learn the game and love the game and improve each game. I want to keep it fun and have the girls play.”
The Saints return six starters from last year’s team that limped home with a 5-9 record, including junior forward Mary-Kate Afzali, an all-county second-team selection.
“She’s our big gun,” coach Ted Camp said. “We’re hoping for big things from her this year.”
Afzali scored seven goals in the Saints’ first seven games last year, before suffering a season-ending foot injury.
“When Mary-Kate got hurt, it was like a domino effect and we lost five starters in five games,” Camp said. “I think we could have been .500 last year.”
Other key players include midfielders Leah Peterson, a sophomore, and Tessa Thomas, a junior, and Rose Chuimento and Nikki Jenkinson. Chuimento, a senior, has moved from keeper to stopper after suffering a broken wrist, and Jenkinson, a sophomore, now is in goal.
“Staying healthy is a big goal this year,” Camp said.
St. Maria Goretti
Mark Barone is the Gaels’ new coach, taking over for Greg Noe.
Barone — who’s coached for a dozen years in the Hagerstown Area Youth Soccer League — has six starters back from last year’s team that went 3-15-3, including senior forward Theresa Barton, an all-county second-teamer.
Barton had eight goals through 12 games last year before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. The Gaels only had 16 total goals all season.
“It was a tough season for them last year. Losing Theresa was huge,” Barone said. “But they came back this summer and worked really hard.
“We’ve got a young team, we’re a very freshman-heavy team, but they’re coming together as a team. ... I think we could surprise a few teams out there.”
Junior Lauree Lorensen, a starting midfielder last year, has taken over in goal for all-county keeper Colleen Costello, who graduated.
“Those are big shoes to fill for Lauree,” Barone said. “But she’s taken the bull by the horns and gone with it.”