The 2011 season was good to Section II girls’ soccer.
Schalmont (Class B) capped a dream unbeaten season with a state championship. Hoosick Falls (Class C) was declared a co-champ after the Panthers and Friends Academy battled through four overtimes.
Northville came up just short in its first Class D state final, and both Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (A) and Bethlehem (AA) reached the state finals.
For the Sabres to get another shot at playing for a state title, they need to fill a few holes.
“There are some little tweaks to be done here and there,” said midfielder Alexandra Cardinal, one of six seniors who started or played a significant amount of time for last year’s 23-0-0 team. “We did lose a lot of our defense, but I do think that we have strong players that will be able to live up to the previous years. I want to say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling, but we’d like to experience that again.”
“Everybody thinks this is going to be a rebuilding year. It’s not,” said senior defender Isabella Borini. “We have so many strong and skillful freshman and a number of players who came up from JV, and they’re going to fit right in.
“We want to prove it wasn’t a fluke.”
“We lost eight, and have 11 back, a lot of them starters,” said Lady Sabres coach Angelo Caschera, who also brings back seniors Allie Gallo, Rachael Gac, Dianna DiCocco and Ciara Vitallo, plus 11th-grader Madeline Saccocio. “Our young players are good, and they’re quick. We did lose a lot on defense. Isabella has more responsibility this year organizing the defense.”
Burnt Hills doesn’t know anything but postseason success under coach Brian Bold. His teams have won a sectional title in all seven years he’s been at the helm.
This year’s seniors don’t want that streak to end.
“It’s my last year, and you really want to end with a good year,” said midfielder Jillian Beatty, now in her fifth year of varsity play. “Everyone seems to have blended in really well. I like this team.”
“It’s hard to believe this is my last year,” said fellow co-captain Skye Kaler, on varsity since her freshman year. “Everything this year will be a last time — last time for tryouts, last time playing teams like Niskayuna and Shenendehowa. Hopefully, the last time playing at states.”
“Our concern was how we were going to replace Nicole Shively and Kaita Albanese in the back,” said Bold. “Michaela Hitt was the only one back. I’m very pleased at what I’ve seen.”
The addition of Lansingburgh transfer Jenna Retell will help the group, anchored by third-year varsity goalkeeper Florie Comley.
Bold is not concerned about the offense, with the duo of junior Morgan Burchhardt and 10th-grader Meghan Malone leading the way.
“Morgan has worked so hard in the offseason and been focused about this fall. She could be the best player ever to come through Burnt Hills,” said Bold, whose club will again prep for the postseason by banging heads with Shenendehowa, Niskayuna, Shaker and Saratoga Springs in the ultra-competitive Suburban Council North.
“We lost eight seniors, but I can almost start a full team from the returning players,” said Niskayuna coach Bryce Colby, whose team has the firepower in Meghan Doyle, Jenny Cascino, Anka Parzych, Liz Farley and Maddie McPartlon, and a defense anchored by Maddie Karafanda and Sophia Constantine.
The Suburban Council will again use a two-division format, with division wins worth a point and interdivision wins good for two points.
“I think home field is going to be huge. You need to win all of your games at home, especially the two-pointers,” he said. “If we lose a game to a Shen or a Shaker, we get to play them again and can split the two points. If you lose across, there’s two points you can’t get back.”
Shenendehowa has five seniors on its roster as it looks to bounce back from a tough loss in the Class AA final.
“We’re young, but it seems like we’re more technical this year. We connect passes better than we have,” said co-captain Kristen Connors.
“Everyone is talking, everyone is pushing each other,” said defender Jennifer Trainor, the other co-captain. “We’ve played together, but the transition from JV to varsity with the faster play, I think they’re getting used to it.”
Goalkeeper Makala Foley and forward Jaclyn Romano also return for coach Holli Mulholland.
“I love the fact that so many new faces have put in the work to improve their performance,” Mulholland said. “They’re working for each other. They’re working for the win. They’re working for the team.
“We’re going to share some responsibility in the midfield. The defense is relatively new. We’re going to have to keep working on it. They’re all great one-on-one defenders, but they have to keep that balance.”
Bethlehem has won the last four “AA” titles, beating Shenendehowa the last three times. Senior goalkeeper Katie Nickles and forward Tara Teal were first-team all-league choices in 2011.
“We’re bringing everyone up to speed, and it’s working pretty well,” said Nickles, in her fourth year as a varsity starter. “The seniors have to get the younger players involved so we can keep building on what we’ve done.”
“We know we’re always going to get the other teams’ best game.”
“Katie is a calming influence back there. It’s nice to have that luxury of having a keeper play varsity for four years. There aren’t a lot that have done that in the Suburban Council,” said Lady Eagles coach Tom Rogan.
Guilderland would like to unseat Bethlehem atop the SC South.
“We’ve got some speed and some experience, and we’re strong up the middle,” said coach Curtis Snyder, who brings back goalkeeper Jenna Cubello, Laurie Knapp, Lauren Kogelmann and Kara Carman among the veterans.
“This league is so strong, you have to learn on the fly.”
Saratoga Springs should also keep its place among the best in the SC North, with Briana Sirianni, Megan Nash and Libby Adams the top returnees.
“I look for Bri and Libby Adams, our center back, to lead the kids,” said coach Adrienne Dannehy, who must replace standout goalkeeper and team leader Liz Rogan. “Libby is very vocal. Liz was very vocal in goal, Libby will take over that role.”
The Foothills Council boasts two 100-goal scorers in Sammy Blizzard of Class A runner-up South Glens Falls and Miranda Haraughty of Glens Falls. Queensbury’s Brittany LaPlant had 36 goals as a freshman.
Broadalbin-Perth has a strong cast back from last year’s Class B final team, led by Katie Herba, Tori Marotta, Michaela Hills and the Washburn sisters, Carly and Cassidy.
That leaves Scotia-Glenville coach Lise Williams looking for her team to work itself into the mix.
“We’ve got 10 seniors, but we lost 10 seniors from last year,” she said. “We have to replace a sweeper, goalkeeper. But we have good speed.”
Troy returns league Player of the Year Liisi Vink-Lainas and defender Gen Stinton as it shoots to defend its title in the five-team Big 10.
Schenectady lost 100-plus goal scorer Gab Santorio.
Mechanicville got to the Class C final last fall, but needs to replace veteran varsity players Alysa Russell and Abby Maiello, the latter now at St. Bonaventure, as it challenges in the two-division Colonial Council.
Samie Hayner, Makayla Gowett and Madison Gowett will help.
Northville returns a solid cast from its first foray to the state tournament, led by Mary Ryan and Kelly VanNostrand,
The Lady Eagles will play in the Northern Division of the revamped Western Athletic Conference, joining Galway, Mayfield and Mekeel Christian Academy.
Fort Plain could be the best of the Central Division, with Jenna Barhydt, Allelah VanLoan and Jamie Fredericks among the returners. Canajoharie, Sharon Springs and St. Johnsville are also in the Central.
Duanesburg, Middleburgh, Schoharie and Berne-Knox-Westerlo are in the WAC Southern. Middleburgh went 15-0-1 before being upset in the Class C semifinals in 2011. Amanda Roney had 44 goals for the Lady Knights last year.
Wasaren power Hoosick Falls is well-prepared to make another deep postseason run, with defender Alice Hayden, freshman striker Jordyn Haynes and Grace DeLurey the top returning players.