DALTON — Entering the 2016 fall season, the Wahconah girls soccer team is ready to defend its Berkshire North title from last year.
And they're going to try and do it with a new head coach.
Meghan Smith is now the Warriors' coach, taking over for Pat West. The former MCLA soccer player has brought in Taylor Kenyon as assistant coach, another former Trailblazer.
"We're trying to bring the same formation we learned there," Smith said. "Because it was effective. We're bringing it to Wahconah to stay successful. It's a flat back with a four across the middle and two up top."
Wahconah returns many key players from last year's squad, including Emmy Cote (senior forward/midfield), Arden McKnight (junior forward), Ashley Zink (senior middle back), Kelly McMahon (junior center midfielder) and Victoria Gamberoni (sophomore outside midfielder), among others.
"We lost some people, but we do have a strong team," McKnight said. "We've always been hard-working.
"I feel like we just need to get used to the new players coming up. We're definitely working together as a team."
Wahconah is coming off a 15-4-1 season in which the team made a run to the Western Mass. Division III semifinals. That included a 7-1 mark within the Berkshire North, a good enough record to secure the outright title.
"We're walking into a program that's always been successful," Smith said of her and Kenyon. "We're asking these girls to play just a little differently. We're bringing in a new system that's been played other places, so we're just trying to stay successful."
Pittsfield went 6-2 in the North last year while Monument Mountain finished 5-3. The Warriors defeated Monument 1-0 in both meetings between the squads while the Generals picked up a 1-0 win over Wahconah last September before the Warriors rebounded with a 5-1 home win in October over Pittsfield.
The North is also comprised of Hoosac Valley and Mount Greylock.
In addition to the players listed earlier, Sage Howes will play a key role this fall for Wahconah. The sophomore is set to start in goal, replacing Kayla Kowalczyk.
Also, junior Hannah Ronayne, freshman Kate Matthews, senior Lily Pudlo, junior Briana Kasala, senior McKenna McIlquham and sophomore Allison Washburn could also make impacts this fall, among others.
But Smith and Kenyon both stressed multiple times that the entire varsity roster would be important to the team's success this season, not just a few key players.
"We're really working on putting 11 people out there that are all key players," Smith said.
Wahconah has good balance on this year's varsity roster, with six seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen comprising the 19-player squad.
In addition to the difficult Berkshire North schedule, which includes two games each against Pittsfield, Monument Mountain, Hoosac Valley and Mount Greylock, the Warriors will also have non-county games against Ludlow, Hampshire, Westfield, West Springfield and Monson, among potentially some others.