CLIFTON PARK — With a new head coach and his new ideas, and a roster devoid of one of Section II's best players, the Schalmont girls' soccer team is in a state of transition.
What remains are a dozen players who remember how last season came to a stunning conclusion, and want to do something about it in a bad way.
"We're definitely motivated. We have talked about it," senior forward Sofia Cassano said of the Sabres' 4-3 double-overtime loss to Holy Names in the Section II Class B title game. "We're hoping to come out on top. Gotta keep getting better."
Ryan Fries has taken charge of a Schalmont team that, before last year, strung three Section II championships and claimed the state banner in 2015. Davia Rossi scored the game-winning goal in the state final that fall as an eighth-grader, yet opted not to go out for the team in this, her senior year.
Rossi, who has committed to Binghamton, had a scholastic career marked by big goals and a comeback from cancer that cost the star midfielder her freshman season.
"She took another opportunity that was presented," Fries said. "We will miss her."
In a phone interview with the Gazette Wednesday night, Rossi said she would be spending the fall season focusing on personal training.
All-state first-team forward/midfielder Vanessa Wainright is another significant loss.
"We have a motivated group coming back, and we will continue to push them," Fries said. "They are passionate. They love the game. They love competing."
Alaina Lange has moved on as well after guiding each of her six Schalmont varsity teams to sectional finals, and wins in four of them. Lange, who led the Sabres to a 17-2-1 mark last season, has taken the same position at Lansingburgh.
"We are trying to figure things out right now," Fries said after Wednesday's scrimmage at Shenendehowa. "Some things are going to change."
Fries, who led the Schalmont modified boys' team last season and had a two-year stint with the Jefferson varsity girls before that, learned something about the grit of his new cast during Wednesday's scrimmage. His Sabres fell behind 2-0 in the first half, but got one of those goals back in the second half while shutting down the Class AA Plainsmen.
"Rough start today, but we reconvened, and the group we had out there in the second half played well," Fries said. "That's good for our momentum. Something to build on. We are hoping to keep that momentum going forward."
As the season moves along, team chemistry should be no problem for the Sabres.
"We are close. We've bonded so quickly," said Cassano, a Bryant University commit who made the all-state second team in 2018. "It's starting to flow really well for us."
"Each of them are very self-driven, but as a group, they work well collectively as a team," Fries said.
Schalmont's lettermen include second-team Colonial Council all-stars Ashley Cirilla and Jules Monlea — who both scored when the Sabres outlasted Voorheesville 6-4 in double overtime in last year's sectional semifinal round — as well as Alison Waldron, Brooke Galka, Gianna Viscusi, Isabella Almodovar, Kelly Sanders, Simone Cassano, Sofia Pasquarella, Madison Byrnes and Teghan Older.
"I am excited about coaching this team, but there is some pressure because of the tradition here," Fries said. "I want to keep the ball rolling in the right direction."