The local girls’ soccer teams head into the 2017 season motivated by past postseason experiences and ready to start new chapters.
Bald Eagle Area and Grace Prep hope to compete in the District 6 playoffs again, while Bellefonte has set even higher goals. State College, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola will be led by first-year coaches.
Centre County Christian Academy, meanwhile, looks to qualify for its league tournament.
Here’s a look at each team heading into the season:
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Bald Eagle Area
During the preseason, Jared Moore planned to play some video of the Lady Eagles’ win over Penn Cambria in the first round of the 2016 District 6 Class 2A playoffs.
With that experience and 10 returning letterwinners, BEA is shooting to return to postseason play again in 2017.
“I’ve seen them working very hard toward that,” Moore said.
BEA is coming off an 8-11-1 season, highlighted by that district playoff win. The Lady Eagles beat Penn Cambria 8-3 in a breakout offensive performance — BEA averaged just 1.3 goals per game during the regular season — to advance to the district quarterfinals. Moore is hoping to see more offensive production this season, but the coach knows the team will be relying on its solid defense again.
The Lady Eagles return starting goalie Charlee Harris and starting defenders Morgan Chambers and Emma Murgas.
“I think our defense is going to be pretty tough this year. I’m excited about how good they are,” Moore said. “I have faith in them. They’ll be pretty solid.”
Bellefonte wants to make history this fall by capturing the program’s first District 6 championship.
The Lady Red Raiders lost to Central in their first-ever trip to the district title in 2015, a memory that still serves as motivation for this year’s seniors.
“They’re looking to have the most successful season that Bellefonte soccer has yet to have,” Bellefonte coach Stacey Miller said.
The Lady Red Raiders return a talented and experienced roster led by six seniors and sophomore Mallorie Smith, who set a single-season program record with 28 goals in 2016. After Bellefonte lost in the district semifinals in 2016, the seniors held practices throughout the summer to prepare for this season.
Senior goalie Gabbie Pighetti returns along with starting defenders Alana Masullo, Hannah Robb, Harley Stahlman and Maddie Polkinghorn.
“They click because they’ve been together for so long,” Miller said.
This group has played together for years as Miller said many of the seniors have started since they were freshmen. They were sophomores on the team that reached the district championship game, and they’re shooting to return to that stage and win the title this fall.
“They’re eager to just work hard and do better and set their goals high,” Miller said. “You can’t ask for anything more as a coach.”
In 2016, Centre County Christian Academy turned to seventh-grader Moriah Smith as its starting goalkeeper.
Smith developed into a solid player, helping her team earn a win over Great Commission, the top team in CCCA’s division in the Allegheny Christian Athletic Association.
“For a seventh-grade goalie to be in a pressure game like that is amazing,” CCCA coach Martie Maholic said.
The Lady Bulldogs’ roster includes players from seventh through 12th grade each season. Maholic said the team will be relying on some seventh- and eighth-graders again this season. CCCA will also depend on veterans like sophomore Morgan Bair, the team’s leading scorer who has played varsity soccer since seventh grade.
“Morgan has a lot of talent. She’s a natural lefty,” Maholic said. “She’s really willing to try using her right (foot) and to develop her right actually, which gives her more balance and more scoring opportunities on the field.”
Smith will be back as CCCA’s lone goalie this year.
“If there’s a weakness, it is that I don’t have a backup,” Maholic said.
Grace Prep competed in the District 6 Class A playoffs for the first time in 2016.
It proved to be a learning experience as the Lady Storm fell 6-0 to top-seeded Bishop Guilfoyle.
“We could show them what we need to get to that position, where we’re all familiar with one another and play well together,” Grace Prep coach Jason Fisher said.
Fisher said he usually builds his teams around a strong midfield, which will include Megan Bolich, Maddie Denezza and Abigael Fisher this season. Fisher and Denezza are two-year starters along with Jordan Dawson and Abigail Galiano.
As they head into the season, Fisher said they’re still a “good ways off” from developing the chemistry needed for the playoffs.
“It’s going to take us probably halfway through the season to where we really get to a position where we’re starting to run like a pretty good machine,” Fisher said. “We’ll see what we have.”
Andrew Beverly saw and worked with Penns Valley girls’ soccer teams in the past.
During 10 years as an assistant with Central Mountain, his teams played against the Lady Rams. In the summer, he worked at various camps and enjoyed being around the Penns Valley teams.
“They were always a close-knit team that always worked hard no matter what, and I’ve gotten to know a good number of the girls that are on the team,” Beverly said. “When the job opened up, I just jumped at it.”
Beverly is taking over at Penns Valley after spending two years as an assistant with the State College boys’ soccer team. He’s already seen the same close-knit, hardworking qualities in the Lady Rams going into this season.
Penns Valley finished 11-6-1 in 2016 after falling to Richland in the District 6 Class 2A quarterfinals. The Lady Rams return top offensive players in Keira Whitman (11 goals; five assists), Hannah Montminy (six goals; seven assists) and Hannah Denger (seven goals; three assists).
With plenty of experience returning, Penns Valley will be aiming to make a run in this year’s district playoffs.
“That’s still something kind of in the back of our heads that if we put together some performances and get the results and do qualify, that we really want to try and have the right mindset and be ready going into playoffs,” Beverly said.
After Philipsburg-Osceola went 1-16 in 2016, first-year coach Olivia Sidorick would like to see the Lady Mounties finish with a few more wins this season.
“There are some girls who have played for a long time and who come out and who have worked hard for years,” Sidorick said. “I can already see the smiles on their faces if we were to win a handful of games.”
Sidorick hopes a few more wins can build confidence for her players. Philipsburg-Osceola struggled through a 43-game losing streak before beating West Branch for its lone win last season. Sidorick, who served as an assistant coach last season, noted that numbers have been an issue for the soccer team at P-O, where volleyball is popular.
This year, Sidorick said Loryn Hughes will lead the team offensively.
“She is a very skilled player,” Sidorick said. “She’s only been playing soccer for a couple of years, but she works so hard. I think she could really do some big things for us this year.”
The coach hopes Hughes and the rest of the seniors can help build the program’s confidence for the future.
“Getting some wins would be a great sendoff for them,” Sidorick said.
First-year coach Doug Bates feels fortunate to take over at State College, where his players are already pushing each other at practice.
“It’s kind of almost been instilled in this program that if you provide the environment for them to do that, they’re naturally doing those things anyway,” Bates said.
Bates spent a few years as an assistant under longtime Lady Little Lions coach Kevin Morooney before working as an assistant at Bellefonte. He knows there will be a learning curve in this first season coaching in the Mid Penn Conference. But early in the year, Bates wants to create a culture to maintain that competitive atmosphere at practice. The coach wants his players to challenge themselves to make plays, even if it means making a mistake.
“If we can do that, then the wins will start taking care of themselves,” Bates said.
Bates said senior defender Esther Seeland, senior defender Clara Plutzer, senior defender Ava Michael and junior midfielder Ellen Lee all impressed during the preseason for the Lady Little Lions, who went 11-9 and won the District 6 Class 4A championship in 2016.
But with a deep roster, the first-year coach needed the preseason to figure out his players’ roles.
“As I look down that varsity roster, I really don’t see any real weaknesses,” Bates said. “I’m really looking forward to a deep bench.”
Bald Eagle Area
Head coach: Jared Moore (fifth season)
Assistant coaches: Sierra Leitch
Last season: 8-11-1
Key losses: Madelynn Holderman, Shania Moore, Julia Cingle
Returning letterwinners: Charlee Harris, Emma Murgas, Morgan Chambers, Kiersten Walker, Grace Holderman, Chelsea Butterworth, Zoey McHenry, Addison Proctor, Emily Shield, Allison Cowan
Key newcomers: Sarah Holler, Rachel Veneziano, and Mara Hockenberry
Head coach: Stacey Miller (15th season)
Assistant coaches: Robert Litten, Skip Pighetti, John Elnitski, Anne Lorenzo, Jen Carroll, and Duffy Besch
Last season: 9-9-1
Key losses: Taylor Lair, Elle McCartney, Jennah Krout, Sara McClure, Kiara MacMath , Leah Simmon
Returning letterwinners: Harley Stahlman, Carolyn Seibel, Megan Elnitski, Hannah Robb, Alana Masullo, Bree McDaniel, Gabbie Pighetti, Maddie Polkinghorn, Mallorie Smith, Lynnsey Kauffman
Key newcomers: Addyson Manning, Mia Johnson, Madalyn Morelli, Jacqueline Cable, Jessica Eckard, Kirsten Snook, Leeanne Carmack, Leigha Schrader, Mykayla Cole, Alex Medford
Head coach: Martie Maholic (11th season)
Assistant coaches: Amy Smith, Kristy Maholic
Last season: 9-11
Key losses: Allison Rossman, Alberta Deng, Tiana Kline, Kiara Boughton, Leila Boughton, Hannah Crafts
Returning letterwinners: Ashley Kersteter, Devon Walker, Lucy Liu, Morgan Bair, Cassandra Poorman, Hannah Sides, Meagan Bair, Emma Myers, Moriah Smith
Key newcomers: Emma Rossman, Emilie Gore, Elle Biers, Elisia Shephard, Ossianna Mallare
Head coach: Jason Fisher (third season)
Assistant coaches: Tom Zubler
Last season: 8-5-3
Key losses: Shannon Brawley, Alex Madeira
Returning letterwinners: Jordan Dawson, Abigael Fisher, Maddie Denezza, Abigail Galiano, Abigail Bulick, Adda Fegley, Megan Bolich, Sarah Watkins, Rebekah Sechler, Sarah Shearer, Haoxuan Wang.
Key newcomers: Sarah Zubler, Clare Marsh
Head coach: Andrew Beverly (first season)
Assistant coaches: Haylea Myers and Hayley Wildeson
Last season: 11-6-1
Key losses: Alyssa Denger, Rachel Wert, Hailee Wingard, Olivia Corman, Alicia Houser, Kelsey Sweitzer, Devon Wasson
Returning letterwinners: Abby Martin, Keira Whitman, Lydia Hankinson, Dayna Brown, Aliyah Fetterolf, Sydney Riegel, Danae Hurd, Olia Corman, Emma Narber, Hannah Denger, Hannah Montminy, Elli Stamm, Cassondra Ulmanic
Key newcomers: Kylie Auman, Leah Beben, Anna Korman, Maria Lovallo, Marielle Gretok, Katie Martell
Head coach: Olivia Sidorick (first season)
Assistant coaches: Jenn Lindeman
Last season: 1-16
Key losses: Maggie Peck, Lydia Shively, Oda Soervik
Returning letterwinners: Jalyn James, Madison Lucas, Jayde Burge, Jordan Day, Loryn Hughes, Kyra James, Aneesa Karimushan, Eva Lumadue, Kylie Thal
Key newcomers: Jocelyn Hutton, Natalie Shaw, Riley Yurky, Megan Kosut, Anya Tocimak, Kylee Bartley, Lacey Potter
Head coach: Doug Bates (first season)
Assistant coaches: Todd Roth, Martha Michael
Last season: 11-9
Key players: Esther Seeland, Clara Plutzer, Ellen Lee, Ava Michael, Savannah Schoonmaker
Key newcomers: Myca Ingram, Kara Bates