The Episcopal Academy girls’ soccer team finished the 2018 season on a remarkably high note. The Churchwomen went 9-2-2 in the last 13 games and that included a shootout victory over The Baldwin School in the championship game of the Pennsylvania Independent Scholastic Athletic Association (PAISAA) tournament.
The team must deal with the loss of two All-American selections in Olivia Dirks (Penn State) and Anna Salvucci (UConn). Another key loss is defender Maddie Loughead.
“The team will have high expectations for the returners to have an impact on the season,” said head coach Andy Fraggos.
Five seniors have plenty of varsity experience dating back to freshman year. They consist of forward Raina Kuzemka, defenders Laila Payton and Devon Whitaker and midfielders Lauren Cunningham as well as Ali McHugh.
“We want to compete to win the Inter-Ac and hopefully win the PAISAA again,” said Payton.
One of the highest advantages for EA right now is an experienced backline. Having five seniors with four years of experience also helps.
“The spirit is high as we prepare for another challenging start to our season with games against Pennington School (NJ) and McDonough School (MD),” said Fraggos.
The William Penn Charter Quakers captured the Inter- Ac League title last season. The Quakers’ final record was 14-1-1 overall and 9-1-1 in the conference. They faced a tough loss to Baldwin in the PAISAA semifinal round but are all set to go even further this time.
While Penn Charter lost Emma Maley to graduation, they bring back plenty of veterans. One standout is junior Janae Stewart. As the Quakers’ leading scorer, Stewart was named Inter-Ac League MVP making All-State as a sophomore.
Quad-captains Antonia Linus, Sara Shipon, Kaylee Murphy and India Barnes are all stepping to the forefront by showing their team the way.
“We’re really excited,” said Linus. “We got a lot of new talent, a bigger team. It’s a really good league, always fun, always competitive.
The Baldwin School came in second place in the PAISAA tournament with a final record of 16-5-1. The Bears also placed second in the Inter Ac with an 8-4 league record. There is no doubt that they have some work cut out for them as ten players including six starters graduated.
Defenders Lauren Bracken (Dickinson College), Celia Page (Haverford College) and Natalie Sgro (College of Charleston) as well as midfielder Relly Ladner (Dartmouth College) and forward Gia Vicari (Georgetown) are all taking their soccer careers to the collegiate level. Goalkeeper Simi Bleznak, defender Azzaya Johnson and midfielders Jane McAleese, Juliet Peva and Lexi Phelan have left shoes to fill as well.
Back for the 2019 season are senior midfielders Sammy Baron and Alex Loomis who will assume the role of co-captains. Senior defenders Leah White, Katherine Yang, and junior goalkeeper Rani Bleznak will be leading the defense. Junior midfielder Taylor Levinson, and sophomores Clara Page, Josie Stockett, Callie Stoltz and Brianna Wright are key returnees allowing for a mix of players both experienced and youthful learning to play as a cohesive unit.
“There will be a lot of competition early on for starting positions,” said head coach Adrian Cox.
The team is very motivated and prides itself in cultivating a positive team culture centered around hard work, intelligence and versatility.
“The players are very motivated and ready for the season and are confident that they will be a tough team to play against,” said Cox. “The team culture and spirit is at an all-time high and we will be using our closeness and togetherness to outwork opponents.”
Germantown Academy finished 2018 with a final record of 15-7-2 overall and 7-4-1 in the Inter-Ac. They graduated three main starters; center back Riley Axenroth and midfielders Ally Clark and Katie Hackley.
Defense and midfield both look strong for the Patriots. They have four senior starters leading this year's squad. Kiley Kergides is leading the midfield. Two returning backs are Maddie Burns and Elizabeth Van Blarcom. Starting at goalkeeper is Elizabeth Altomare.
“With a sound defense in place, we’ll look to fine tune our offense over the coming weeks,” said head coach Christopher Nelson.”
"Like every year, we hope to find our footing early and to compete for a top spot in the Inter-Ac and the local area.”
The 2018 season was a rebuilding year for the Agnes Irwin Owls. They wrapped up their year with a final record of 3-12-1 overall and 1-10-1 in the league.
Captain and defender Grace Bartosh is the only starter from last year that graduated. Therefore, with nine key returnees this time around; four seniors, four juniors and a sophomore, it is likely that the Owls will pick up directly from where they left off.
“This year, we have a lot of positive energy,” said senior goalkeeper Amelia Leyden. “On the field we’re going to be a lot better than we have been in previous years.”
Senior starters are forward Natalie Pansini, Leyden and defenders Julianne Carey and Eve Frankel. Junior defender Cami Micheletti is also expected to pace the defense. Prevailing in the midfield are juniors Liza Richardson and Annabel Laveran. Junior forward Alyssa Hardin and sophomore midfielder Belle Fusco complete the list of veterans.
“We have some very exciting younger players coming through and I thoroughly expect to finish the season with a much stronger record,” said head coach Mike Welsh.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCHA) is also excited for a new year. The Blue Devils went 13-5-2 a year ago despite ending the season in the second round of the PAISAA playoffs.
The only key player losses the Blue Devils must contend with are midfielder Mo’ne Davis and Sena Adin, a part-time starting goalkeeper. There is quite an array of talent on the roster this year that includes four players that made All Inter-Ac; senior midfielder/striker Maddie Niebish who will be going on to West Point next year, junior midfielder/forward Jojo McShane, junior defender Esther Lamb and freshman midfielder Mary Trudeau. There are many freshmen, four of whom picked up time on the varsity squad as eighth graders to help shape the team’s future.
“There are a lot of defensive players,” said head coach Maria Kosmin. “We’ll have a lot of new faces on defense with a very deep bench. I’m really excited.”
Some of the Blue Devils are among the greatest soccer players in the area. One thing that they can do to make this season even better is improve team chemistry.
“Talent can only get you so far,” said Kosmin. “Players have to dig together and play as a team.”
The Academy of Notre Dame welcomes back head coach Steve Wilman and assistant coach Bill Bradley.
Defense is key for the Irish as they see the return of four senior captains, Rylee Kinka, Allie Lynch, Morgan O’Brien, and Mackenzie Koler. Junior goalie Megan Mackey will head the defense and junior Izzy Casale and sophomores Caeli Maher and Julia Rossi are returnees to watch for.
“We have a lot of experience in the back that will help to keep things defensively and we have a good midfield," said assistant coach Bill Bradley.
The Irish went 4-16-1 overall and 1-11 in the Inter-Ac. The squad will rely on the strength of their upperclassmen to be more aggressive on the field.
“We definitely want to be more competitive this year. We have 5 and 6 seniors that with their experience will help us even more."
Academy of Notre Dame kicks off Inter-Ac girls’ soccer action at home tomorrow as they play neighborhood rival the Owls of Agnes Irwin at 4 p.m.
Other league action commences this Friday with Springside Chestnut Hill (away) vs Agnes Irwin at 4p.m. Penn Charter will play at home vs. Academy of Notre Dame at 4 p.m.
You can see Germantown Academy in action at home this Tuesday against Episcopal Academy at 4 p.m.
The Baldwin School will start league play away on Saturday, Sept. 21 as they take on Agnes Irwin at 11:30 a.m.