NORTH EAST — The Rising Sun girls’ soccer team is thinking big this autumn after it returned a number of key starters from a 2018 club that defeated every one of its Cecil County opponents, went undefeated in Susquehanna Division play and competed deep into the sectional playoffs.
“We have a lot of starters coming back. Our back four are returning, as well as our goalkeeper. They only gave up a handful of goals last year and had seven shutouts. It always feels good having a solid back line to build a team around,” reigning All-County Coach of the Year John Hartnett said. “We also have some young talent that have a lot of potential and we look forward to seeing what they can bring to the table and add to the dynamic of our team.”
Most notably, All-County defender Katelyn Brooks and honorable mention defender Katie Willis are both back for the Tigers, who also welcome back All-County midfielder Tori Pietuszka and All-County forward Annalia Webb.
“It’s very exciting to have returners. They already know our system, our expectations and that helps. We’re looking forward to building off last year’s success and a lot of that chemistry is there,” he said. It’s about replacing a couple missing pieces and figuring out what works best for our team.”
Webb had a team-high 10 goals for the Tigers, who finished with an 8-3-2 record. They edged North East in shootouts in the section semifinals before falling to Fallston in shootouts in the section final.
Graduated midfielder/goal keeper Kira Watson, a rare four-year All-County recipient, graduated after a standout performance in net during the team’s playoff run. She is replaced by senior Rebekah Culver, who served as the starting keeper for much of the 2018 regular season but yielded the position during the postseason.
Overall, the Tigers remain stout from back to front and are poised for a strong campaign.
“They seem very motivated. That’s a tough loss [in the playoffs] and it left a bad taste in your mouth,” Hartnett said. “That could have gone either direction, but our team seems to have taken it and used it as motivation going into this season.”
Eagles hope to pick up where they left off
CHESAPEAKE CITY — Lissy Dean hopes the momentum from a strong 2018 campaign will carry into the new girls’ soccer season.
The longtime Bohemia Manor head coach brings back four seniors, including All-County players Katie O’Hare (forward) and Bailey Pressler (defender), honorable mention recipient Lexi Cook and Brooke Walz. The Eagles’ season ended after allowing just one second-half goal in a difficult playoff loss to Patterson Mill, which had advanced to the previous three 1A state championships.
“We’re hoping to pick up where we left off last year,” Dean said. “The seniors have basically been starters for four years. They’re all players that we’re going to rely on, not just on the field as more experienced and better-skilled players, but also the leadership quality off of the field. It seems like they’re stepping up and taking their role seriously.”
Bo Manor (9-7) must make up the loss of All-County forward Hannah Clarke, who led the team with 10 goals in 2018 and competed for Player of the Year honors.
“Honestly, I think our whole team dynamic is shifting a little bit. I don’t necessarily see us playing the same formation that we did with Hannah there,” Dean said. “It’s not necessarily filling that void. We’re just kind of revamping. The whole team is different than last year, so we’re just trying to find out who we are rather than try to fill in who we were last year.”
P.O.T.Y. Cudmore, Indians poised for big year
NORTH EAST — The return of reigning All-County Player of the Year Mia Cudmore and fellow All-County contributors Caroline Roberts and Delaney McDilda provides the North East girls’ soccer team with plenty of anticipation entering the new season.
“We’re very optimistic,” Indians head coach Matt Roberts said. “We have five seniors who have been four-year varsity players mixed in with a lot of good, athletic talent and a lot of potential coming up. I think it’s a great mix of veterans and young players. It’s a very athletic group.”
Cudmore, a junior forward, led Cecil County with 18 goals last season. She scored in all but two of North East’s 12 contests. Seniors Roberts (eight assists, seven goals) and McDilda (six shutouts) are back at midfield and goal, respectively.
Jazlyn McMillan, Kayla Russell and Regan Day round out the quintet of Indian seniors entering the 2019 campaign.
“If we play good team soccer, defensively and offensively, I think that’s key so we’re not relying on one or two people,” Roberts said. “We’re relying on the 11 that are on the field and the supporting cast coming off the bench.”
The Indians (7-7) hope the pieces are in place for a deeper playoff run after falling in shootouts to arch-rival Rising Sun in last year’s section semifinals.
The previous three meetings between the two county squads have all been decided by one goal.
“It’s a highly-contested but respectful game. I would expect it to be very intense this year,” Roberts said of facing the Tigers. “I don’t know that the way the season ended last year fuels us. I think there’s enough fuel already.”
Elks intend to take next step
ELKTON — Golden Elks head coach Shawn Caldarelli hopes that when opponents see Elkton on the schedule, they will prepare for a hard-fought game.
It’s been a steady climb under the third-year coach, who turned heads a year ago with strong play against local teams, including a double-overtime draw with division-champion Rising Sun and a 2-1 playoff loss to North East.
“A lot of times, whether you win or lose, it’s how you play, and I think last year we showed quite well. We gave them a fight,” said Caldarelli, whose club went 5-7-1 a year ago. “I think we earned a lot of respect in that [playoff] game and throughout the season. I’m hoping it carries over.”
While the team graduated several key contributors, it returns four seniors, one sophomore and three juniors, including Kelsey Caldarelli, who led the team in goals.
“It’s huge. Their biggest role is being able to integrate the new players into the team and get them to play as a team again. That’s one thing we did well last year,” Shawn Caldarelli said. “The girls always play hard.”
New coach takes over Panthers
PERRYVILLE — The Panthers are under new management in 2019.
Tom Murrell has taken over a program that won just three games a season ago.
“I would say this is something unique and different for me right now. In the short time I’ve had them, it’s been very enjoyable. The ladies want to play soccer to represent their school,” Murrell said. “It’s more about the pride of their school, being good kids and working hard than maybe the wins and losses.”
Perryville must move on from the graduation of 10 seniors, including All-County forward Maddie Carr, who currently plays for NCAA Division I program Towson.
“I only have three seniors and a few juniors,” said Murrell, who noted he will coach at least a dozen sophomores and freshmen. “It’s a very young group. We work a lot on the fundamentals with the ball and defensively. We’re starting to get into tactics.”
Seniors Brianna McCann and Alison Brown and juniors Krysten Schoerner and Ashely Buckson return as veteran leaders on the team.
“There’s going to be a lot of growing pains,” Murrell said.
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig