2019 Berkshire County high school girls soccer preview capsules

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MIKE WALSH — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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The 2019 girls soccer season is underway in Berkshire County. Defending divisional champions Wahconah (North) and Lenox (South) were unbeaten in league play last fall and put those titles on the line against some truly feisty competition across the region.

The Warriors return Eagle All-Star Defensive Player of the Year Abby Wells and a defense that seemingly can not be broken. However, the offenses of Monument Mountain, Hoosac Valley, Mount Greylock and Pittsfield will have their say. The Spartans return an elite talent in Molly Flynn, while Greylock's duo of Madison Ross and Clara McWeeny are as potent as they come. The Hurricanes have tremendous speed and the Generals are rapidly improving under second-year coach Juan Ramos.

Lenox may appear vulnerable after graduating some immense talent, but the returning players for coach Kyle Zinchuk are as battle-tested as anyone in Western Mass. after playing in huge games the past handful of years. Still, the field is looking to unseat the mighty Millionaires, and Drury, Taconic, Mount Everett and Lee are all trending in the right direction.

The Blue Devils in particular look dangerous after rocketing to a playoff spot last season under new head coach Maria Bartini. For her second act, Bartini's squad is chock full of talented youngsters chomping at the Millionaires' heels. Taconic and Lee rebuilt last season, but now boast the varsity experience necessary to become real threats to the throne. The Eagles have a new eye on the sidelines in first-year coach Josh King, who was greeted by excellent numbers and some veteran stalwarts who can steady the program this fall.

McCann Tech jumps back into the Tri-County League, where the regrouped Hornets are fully capable of pressuring for a crown.

Berkshire North

Wahconah

Coach: Meg Smith (4th year)

Last Year: 11-3-2, 7-0-1; beaten 1-0 (PKs) by Monson in Western Mass. D-III semifinals.

Key Returnees: Abby Wells, Sr.; Chloe Accardi, Jr.; Kate Matthews, Sr.

Outlook: The defending Berkshire North champions look to pick up right where they left off last season, with an impenetrable defense and opportunistic attacking unit. There are going to be some spaces within the lineup that coach Smith will need younger players to take strides forward, but along that back line things look solid once more. Abby Wells is the reigning Eagle All-Star Defensive Player of the Year. She's as tough to get by as anyone in Western Mass. Jilly Cote runs alongside her and stretches the field with her own power and Kate Matthews is another veteran on the back line. Behind them, Michaela Moncecchi was a starting-caliber goalie in a platoon last season, and now she has junior Kelly Anderson to spell her. Moncecchi, along with Wells, Matthews and midfielder Cat Boino are the captains of a unit that allowed just seven total goals in 2018. The flip side of that defense is that the Warriors don't return a double-digit scorer. Wahconah relied on seniors like Allison Washburn, Izzy Viner and Victoria Gamberoni to put the ball in the net last year. However, Smith's system prefers to spread the ball around, and Washburn was that team's top goal-scorer with seven. In 2019, Smith says the biggest thing is just for her forwards to have confidence and be willing to pull the trigger on attempts. Sadie Anderson has a strong leg, and Chloe Accardi is crafty with the ball. Maria Gamberoni, Morgan Marauszwski and Noelle Furlong are capable as well, and Cote is a marksman on set plays.

Quote: "We're working a lot on those plays to our forwards, knowing when to make the pass and finalize in that third. We are all good shooters, but getting us to do it and knowing when we are open will set that tone." — Captain Cat Boino

Monument Mountain

Coach: Jess Platt (8th year)

Last Year: 12-4-1, 4-3-1; beaten 3-0 by South Hadley in Western Mass. D-III semifinals.

Key Returnees: Molly Flynn, Sr.; Fiona Horan, Sr.; Helen Pajeski, Sr.

Outlook: The Spartans graduated around 50 points from one of the top squads in Western Mass. last season, including All-North MVP Aubrey Blanchard and a complete defensive back line. However, Monument Mountain soccer has developed the cache to look beyond graduation holes under coach Platt. The Spartans are a program with staying power, and will be looking to prove that in a big way in 2019. Monument is still one of the bigger, stronger teams in the region, and will lean on that size this fall. Senior tri-captain Molly Flynn has been scoring varsity goals for years, and Platt is flooding the space around her with young, talented attackers. The other senior captains are a couple more program veterans in Claire Sheridan and Emma McTeigue. They'll help sure up that depleted back line in front of senior keeper Helen Pajeski. Pajeski has started a lot of games between the pipes for Platt and brings elite size and athleticism to the position. She'll be backed up this year by Emily Mead. The Spartans will also benefit from the experience on the edges of junior Madeline Mason and senior Fiona Horan. Mason is a defense within herself, while Horan can out-stride anyone in the county to through balls up the sideline. In the midfield, Meghan Kinne and Olivia Ruggiero are back as sophomores who saw time last fall. Maya Cooney is a senior with a nose for the net and classmate Sophie Tenuta can put shots away as well.

Quote: "A lot of young blood coming in. I'm looking forward to developing that chemistry and seeing how we work best together." — Captain Molly Flynn

Mount Greylock

Coach: Tom Ostheimer (12th year)

Last Year: 10-5-3, 3-3-2; beaten 7-0 by South Hadley in Western Mass. D-III quarterfinals.

Key Returnees: Madison Ross, Sr.; Clara McWeeny, Jr.; MacKenzie Sheehy, Soph.

Outlook: Mount Greylock ended last season on a five-game win streak and earned a playoff victory as well. The Mounties look to carry that momentum into 2019. They'll do so without leading goal-scorer Ella Dudley and fellow All-North honoree Karen McComish. Also gone with the Class of 2019 are key defender Brook Masse and starting goalie Izzy Nicastro.

Coach Ostheimer isn't concerning himself with what's gone, however, as the Mounties return more than enough to remain competitive in the Berkshire North this fall. A quartet of senior captains leads the way, including elite attacker Madison Ross, an athlete with track-star speed and a nose, foot and head for the net. Fellow captain Anna Welch will also lend a hand to the forward corps, which hinge on center Clara McWeeny, a junior who led the Mounties with 25 points last season (No. 2 in the county). Captain Charlotte Rauscher brings a steady presence to the midfield, alongside junior Mia Vanduerzen and up-and-coming freshman Jane Skavlem. The final captain, Ciera Schwarzer provides experience to the back-line, which will be needed around a younger group that includes new goalkeeper Delaney Babcock. The junior netminder brings strong athleticism and power to the position. She'll be shielded by Rauscher, Zoe Armet, Emma Stevens and sophomore Mackenzie Sheehy, who was a standout freshman starting every game. Sheehy will call the defensive game for Ostheimer.

Quote: "We have a lot of young kids that people don't know about. Not going to say any names, but we've got some great up-and-coming weapons who are really fast, excited and ready to play." — Captain Charlotte Rauscher

Hoosac Valley

Coach: Kathy Budaj (5th year)

Last Year: 7-7-3, 2-3-3; beaten 1-0 by Wahconah in Western Mass. D-III quarterfinals.

Key Returnees: Sydni Jamros, Jr.; Riley Robinson, Sr.; Shaleigh Levesque, Sr.

Outlook: The Hurricanes graduated eight seniors, including four who made All-League teams, but the veterans who are left remain confident in the program set forth by coach Budaj. There is still plenty of talent on the Hoosac roster, and the Hurricanes are going to be a team that can score the soccer ball. Junior attack Sydni Jamros had some breakout moments toward the end of 2018. She may have the fastest feet in Berkshire County, and senior captain Shaleigh Levesque is as crafty with the ball as they come. Another senior captain, Grace Kronick, has played all over the field, but will lend her big boot the forward corps this fall. Budaj has a quarterback in the midfield in final tri-captain Riley Robinson, a supremely athletic senior who commands attention on the pitch. The big question for Hoosac is in net, but freshman Gabby Billetz has been steady in the preseason and junior lacrosse goalie Emily Godfrey can play the position as well. The back line is an area of focus for the Hurricanes, after the departure of stars Alie Mendel and Chloe Martel. Senior Cairagan Greene has stepped up early on, and Lily Boudreau is back after a solid freshman campaign.

Quote: "I think when we start talking and communicating at a high level, I don't think anybody can beat us. If we have confidence and stay together we can work through anything." — Captain Grace Kronick

Pittsfield

Coach: Juan Ramos (2nd year)

Last Year: 2-12-1, 0-7-1.

Key Returnees: Emily Mafuccio, Sr.; Lexi Swanson, Jr.; Liz Swanson, Jr.

Outlook: The Generals missed postseason play for the first time in quite a few years last fall, which was the first season under head coach Juan Ramos. Pittsfield simply couldn't get the ball in the net, scoring just nine goals all year. Ramos is back for Year 2, and the Generals are already seeming to pick up his system at a greater clip. The soccer lifer is preaching ball movement and possession, and he has the athletes to make that happen in 2019. PHS graduated a pair of All-North players, but also return one in all-around stud Emily Mafuccio. Mafuccio is a heady player who can put some serious pressure on defenses with her foot skills and also bolster the team's back line. The Swanson sisters, Lexi and Liz, are also back and boasting a mammoth amount of varsity experience. Liz is one of the top offensive options for Pittsfield, alongside fellow juniors Emery Sime and Sadie Tierney. Lexi is the team's starting goalie once again and is making strides to become one of the top keepers in Western Mass. Protecting her are a trio of juniors in Sydney Hover, Sadiya Quetti and Dakota Grosz. The attack will be bolstered by promising freshmen Cecelia Supranowicz and Allie Schnopp, along with midfielders like Sasha Grosz pushing up. Mafuccio is the senior tri-captain, along with Tierney and Grosz.

Quote: "Playing as a team, working together, knowing each others strengths. We're a small team, so using other tactics to win games is going to be key." — Captain Emily Mafuccio

Berkshire South

Lenox

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Coach: Kyle Zinchuk (7th year)

Last Year: 13-4-1, 8-0-0; beaten 1-0 (PKs) by Granby in Western Mass. D-IV final.

Key Returnees: Mary Elliot, Soph; Sophie Patella, Soph.; Taylor Knight, Sr.

Outlook: Lenox said goodbye to 46 goals scored by seniors last season. That includes two-time Eagle All-Stars MVP Nicole Gamberoni (37 points). The Millionaires had six seniors on the All-South team last fall. But just because the faces are unfamiliar doesn't mean coach Zinchuck's program will lose a step.

Lenox reached back-to-back Western Mass. finals, and this year's captains are looking to hold the team to that elite standard of play. Four seniors: Erin Czelusniak, Kat Nichols, Claire Lynch and Taylor Knight will helm the squad in 2019, and all have big-game experience. According to Zinchuk, the team isn't filling holes so much as they are looking to build a new identity. The Millionaires will build that identity from the back out this year, with battle-hardened sophomore Sophie Patella as skilled a keeper as there is in the county back in net. Nichols and Knight run the defense in front of Patella, who didn't surrender a regulation goal in the 2018 tournament. Knight is a sparkplug with a big foot, and Nichols moves the ball fluidly. As things move up the field, Czelusniak and Lynch are leaders in the midfield, with Czelusniak already embracing the opportunity with more shots on net through the preseason. Lynch and fellow senior Julia Haddad are also steady possession players. On the attack, lightning-quick Mary Elliot is the top returning scorer with 10 goals as a freshman. Along with classmate Solia Herndon-Schmid, that is a dynamic 1-2 for Zinchuk's offense. That talented sophomore class, which is the future of the Lenox program, also includes strong players in Aidan Burns and Molly Knight.

Quote: "Even though we've had a lot of rotation, it's still the Lenox soccer program. We still have the same passion for the game that we've always had." — Captain Erin Czelusniak

Drury

Coach: Maria Bartini (2nd year)

Last Year: 7-10-1, 5-3-1; beaten 2-0 by Monson in Western Mass. D-III first round.

Key Returnees: Kayla McGrath, Soph.; Elli Miles, Soph.; Alison Felix, Sr.

Outlook: Last season's darlings went from 2-16 to the program's first playoff appearance since 2011. That sweeping change came with an influx of young talent and the introduction of new head coach Maria Bartini. Her crew returns 13 from last year, including All-South performers Elli Miles and Kayla McGrath. Mcgrath led the county in goals as a freshman with 22, while classmate Miles also broke out with 19 points. Bartini says the team has plenty of weapons surrounding that duo as well, and the leader of the offense is senior captain Jackie Moulton. Moulton, who can put away goals in her own right, is excited about the team's young weapons and has been working on developing chemistry on the front line. Drury's other two captains helm different sections of the field, with Alison Felix a steady and possession-strong midfielder with impeccable defensive tendencies, and Tess Zoito providing the team with a stopgap on the defensive line. Zoito and returning goalkeeper Mackenzie Dobbert are in place to make sure the Blue Devils grow into a balanced team that doesn't need tremendous scoring to compete in the Berkshire South and Division III. That back line, which also may feature veterans Emily Burdick and Kayla Therrien is the focus of preseason for Bartini's crew and Zoito says communication will be key.

Quote: "It's a really hard-working group of girls and they've really bought in 100 percent with what we want to do. It makes it really easy as a coach." — Coach Maria Bartini

Mount Everett

Coach: Josh King (1st year)

Last Year: 3-12-1, 3-6-0.

Key Returnees: Madeleine Soudant, Sr.; Madeline VonRuden, Sr.; Makenzie Ullrich, Jr.

Outlook: With Jess Murtaugh stepping down, the Eagles didn't have to go far to find their new head coach. King comes over from the Mount Everett boys program and brings with him some serious soccer chops. He was also greeted by improved numbers, with the program fielding around 32 girls this fall. King has been pleased with the work and strides his crew is making early on, as seniors Madeleine Soudant, Madeline VonRuden and Shelby Tinker have taken a new flock under their wing. The big hole for the Eagles is in net, where All-South goalie Madison Ullrich has matriculated. Soudant and freshman Emma Goewey have been seeing time there in the preseason, but either way Everett will surround its keeper with some strong defenders like junior Makenzie Ullrich, who brings a high level of physicality and a big boot. Offensively, the top returning scorer is Hudah Ngoy-Nkulu, a sophomore. VonRuden is a stellar all-around athlete who will look to the net more often this fall. The Eagles also can get some scoring punch from junior Serena Batacchi, and King noted some big improvement coming from sophomore Mariah Broderick as well.

Quote: "Overall the attitudes have been great. The older girls are working well with the younger ones, bringing them into the program. They view us all as one. It's great to see them working so hard." — Coach Josh King

Taconic

Coach: Jenna Giardina (5th year)

Last Year: 4-14-0, 3-5-0.

Key Returnees: Kendra Buda, Jr.; Taea Bramer, Sr.; Sydnie Sherman, Sr.

Outlook: The Braves return three All-South starters from last season, including senior midfielder Taea Bramer, who will help co-chair the squad with senior two-time captains Sydnie Sherman and Abby Heath. Bramer is an elite athlete in the middle and capable of finding the back of the net with some regularity. Sherman was Taconic's top distributor last year, while Heath rounds out a midfield that will be the backbone of coach Giardina's crew. The other two returning All-South performers are juniors Kendra Buda and Ashlynn Healey. Bramer put in eight goals as a sophomore and is a fierce attacker when unleashed. Healey provides stout defensive leadership alongside senior Natalia Agrelo, in front of keeper Leeyia Hoose. Hoose, another senior, has grown immensely in her role and will keep the Braves in a lot of games this fall.

Giardina is also looking for some offense out of young forwards Tiffin Martin and Eboni Gardner, while relying heavily on those veteran midfielders to put goals on the board.

Quote: "We've got a pretty strong senior group and a good bunch of juniors too. Our communication is improving a lot and I'm excited to see what we can accomplish." — Senior Leeyia Hoose.

Lee

Coach: Lauren Finnegan (10th year)

Last Year: 4-11-1, 1-6-1; missed Western Mass. D-IV tournament.

Key Returnees: Carly McElroy, Jr.; Lena Simone, Jr.; Caroline Maloney, Soph.

Outlook: Confidence is the operative word for Finnegan's crew in 2019. The Wildcats are still a young team, but they were too young last fall. With a year of experience under their collective belt at the varsity level, her squad is looking to flex a little more this season. Gone are All-South midfielder Ann Macchi and a pair of second teamers, but top scorer Lena Simone (12 goals) returns. She'll work alongside sophomore standouts Carina Brown and Caroline Maloney — both double-digit point earners as freshmen — and athletic junior Maeve Finnegan to form a strong attack unit. That group, along with junior Carly McElroy who is developing rapidly in her role as sweeper, was counted on last season for goals as first-year varsity players. They'll be counted on again, but now Finnegan senses they're more up to the task. Defensively there are some questions, though senior captains Brady Cook and Hailey Bartini are seeing development there as well. Cook will start at left fullback, with Bartini in front of her in the midfield. They'll provide some leadership and protection for freshman goalie Bella Lovato.

Quote: "We look more cohesive now than we did at the end of last year. We're doing that through a lot of positive attitude and talking at all times." — Captain Brady Cook

Tri-County

McCann Tech

Coach: Mike Dowling (19th year)

Last Year: 0-17-1, 0-12-1; missed Western Mass. D-IV tournament.

Key Returnees: Dana Canales, Sr.; Izzy LaCasse, Soph. Sarah Fortini, Jr.

Outlook: It's a return to the Tri-County League for McCann Tech this fall, and as coach Dowling puts it, a return to teaching soccer. The Hornets struggled with a lack of numbers playing in an ultra-competitive conference in 2018, but the belief is they can now be a force in Tri-County. Senior captains Dana Canales and Reva Whitman certainly believe that. Canales has played all over the field for Dowling, and will man the left striker position opposite powerful junior captain Sarah Fortini on the right. Together, that's an imposing 1-2 punch on the attack. Sophomore Izzy LaCasse, a burner who was the team's top scorer last fall, only adds to the threat. Defensively, Whitman heads up a crew working to come out of its shell. She's the left fullback and leader of a backline sure to have improved with experience and numbers. Then-freshman Savanah Reynolds was pressed into service as keeper last season. She's back and splitting time mostly with current freshman goalie Kiera Lennon, but both are capable field players as well. Through the middle of the field, junior Brooke O'Neil is the chief name to look for according to the captains. Whitman also noted a host of freshmen who "have come in and know what they're doing. They know how to play the ball."

Quote: "We only had four or five subs last year and all we were doing was fighting for survival. This year we're back to teaching soccer. It's going to be competitive." — Coach Mike Dowling.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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