The girls’ soccer team lost only lost five games in 2011—unfortunately, three of those losses came against rival Haddonfield, including a 1-0 loss in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals in which the only goal was scored on a penalty kick.
It was Haddonfield that blocked the Eagles from defending their Colonial Conference Liberty Division title and a chance at a Group 2 championship.
So it’s no secret: If the Eagles are to get back atop the division, or Group 2, they must find a way to beat the Bulldawgs.
West Deptford head coach Veronica McGinniss said the players are confident they can overcome their rivals.
“I think they know it is obtainable and that is the big game for us every season,” she said. “Every time we play them they are excited and if they play the way they know how to, they can pull it off.”
The Eagles return nearly a dozen players with some varsity experience, headlined by captain Megan Knoblock, who got glowing remarks from her coach.
“She is phenomenal,” McGinniss said. “She is completely positive. She encourages the other girls, maintains great relationships with the kids, is skilled and is 100-percent driven. All the girls respect her, look up to her and are not afraid to talk to her. She is just phenomenal.”
The Eagles were a balanced offensive bunch last year and look to be the same this time around. Juniors Paige Paratore and Payton McGinniss figure to be significant contributors, with seniors Shannon Neary, who missed time last year due to injury, and Megan Sullivan also poised for big years.
The one area that will feature a pair of fresh faces is goaltending, where the departure of Alicia Barger leaves a huge hole. Barger recorded nine shutouts last season and was widely regarded as one of the top goalies in the Colonial Conference. Freshmen Maggie Davis and Anna Kipp are locked in a battle for the starting job, with each likely to see time early in the season, according to McGinniss.
Whatever challenges come with having a new goalie—or two—could be made up for by the increased comfort level of the players in the 3-5-2 system McGinniss installed last preseason.
“I know when I first started teaching that formation, it was a big change for them and there was some confusion,” she said. “Now they all understand it a little better. We are still strong at possession and doing better at that.”
With a lineup full of experienced veterans and a team that seems much more comfortable with the formation, the Eagles have the look of a team that could be among the best in South Jersey.
“I’m very confident,” McGinniss said. “I think we have a lot of experience returning and some of the young girls are fitting in well and becoming solid contributors. I am confident in our success as long as we play as we know how to.”
Below is a look at the 2012 West Deptford girls’ soccer team.
Coach: Veronica McGinniss
Last season: 16-5
Returnees: Shannon Neary (sr./for); Megan Knoblock (sr./def); Megan Sullivan (sr./mf); Ashleigh Peterson (sr./def); Chelsea Ritchie (sr./mf); Jordan Stanek (sr./for); Payton McGinniss (jr../for); Kristina Furfari (jr../for); Paige Paratore (jr./mf); MacKenna Angert (so./mf)
Promising newcomers: Maggie Davis (fr.); Anna Kipp (fr.); Sam Budd (fr.). Nicole Pinto (so.)
Team to beat: Haddonfield.
Outlook: The loss of Barger will sting, but with the Eagles now comfortable in their 3-5-2 system, equaling or improving upon last year’s record seems an obtainable goal.
Three storylines to follow:
–The new goalie(s): Davis and Kipp have played well enough in the preseason to earn consideration to start in one of the most pressure-packed positions on the pitch as freshmen, an accomplishment that can’t be overlooked. If one or both can establish themselves, the Eagles won’t have to fill the position for four years.
“They have some big they have big shoes replacing Barger and they are still battling,” McGinniss said. “I’m excited, but it’s also a work in progress. They have a lot on their shoulders and there is still a lot for them to learn the game I want to play in terms of possession. They are working on it and I’m sure I will get it.”
–Wearing teams out. West Deptford prides itself in being a fit program and this year is no different. McGinniss said the team is in great physical condition after a tough off-season conditioning program. That should help the Eagles in the final minutes of each half, when play can slow down a bit for teams not in the best of shape.
–Keeping the defense stout. The Eagles were rock-solid in their own end last season, giving up more than two goals in a game just once, in a 3-2 loss to Haddon Heights. With two inexperienced goalies, the pressure on the defenders increases and their play must rise to match it. The graduation of Megan Kirschling will hurt, but with Knoblock still in the fold, the unit should continue to thrive.