Steve Sabo’s been around the game of soccer long enough to know it is going to click for his North Tonawanda varsity girls soccer team, it is just a matter of when.
“We’re in our second year of rebuilding after graduating a strong core,” said Sabo, now in his 16th year at NT and 14th with the girls varsity. “We went from the sectional finals to last year starting eight kids who were eighth- and ninth-graders. I’m continually watching them grow to where they’ll be competitive for a full 80 minutes.”
Sabo said his squad will find consistency this year, it’s just a matter of maturation after a tough 2011. Also be sure that a down year for Sabo still included more than a handful of wins and an overtime loss in the Section VI quarterfinals.
He’ll be starting an undisclosed rookie at outside back and Samantha Hanes will take over running the center mid. If the name is unfamiliar, it’s because she’s an eighth-grader.
“She’s one of the first players who has the poise to run center mid since one of our best,” said Sabo, referring to Amber Smyth, who went on to star at the University of Hartford.
The Lady Jacks find their strength with their center backs: Emily Slominski and Lauren Testa.
— Nick Mendola
Coach Julie Schork is putting a very young team on the pitch for 2012 and is countering her small number of seniors by making an unusual request of her juniors.
“We’re just looking for the girls to treat these next two seasons as two senior years,” Schork said.
Playing with that sort of emotion will drive the Lady Warriors, who are lead by returning goal-compiler and three-year starter Kalyn Compeau.
The team is also looking to score for charity by hosting a breast cancer survivor night on Oct. 1 when the team hosts Eden. They are inviting the families who’ve been affected by the disease in both programs to be saluted at 6:30 p.m. between the JV and varsity games.
In the back, Chezney Belcher — who plies her trade for the Northtowns Soccer Club — looks to be really strong, according to Schork, and the team has a good backstop in Alanna Herne.
Additionally, Megan Tuskes is stepping up from JV to play forward.
“She’s done really well in the offseason and looks good,” said Schork, who also likes the look of Ashley Ostrowski and one of her captains, defender-slash-midfielder Alyssa Piggot.
— Nick Mendola
The Bulldogs will be young, maybe the youngest team in the NFL, but coach Chris Robey feels that his girls have shown a dedication and work ethic to learn as they go.
Leading the way will be senior captain and four-year starter Meagan Vrooman who will be counted on to provide leadership and set the tone for the younger girls.
The Bulldogs also return sophomore goalie Rose Mueller who is coming off of an impressive season. But Mueller will find the going a bit tougher without Gabe Boldinski in front of her. Boldinski and Jeannine LaCroix — leaders last year — both graduated.
Lexi Albano, Alicia Pooley, Megan Tallman, Hannah Coates, Rachel Fiore and Michelle Fiore also return.
Bulldogs are without Erin O’Brien who is still on the mend after knee surgery in May.
“They’ve been working hard,” Robey said. “They have a great attitude.”
— Dave Ricci
Coming off of back-to-back appearances in the Section VI Class AA championship game — co-champs in 2010 — the Blue Devils will have to replace some big pieces. But they will still be in the thick of the race for the NFL title.
The Blue Devils lost five starters including Lexi and Jenna Panepinto, goalie Taylor Smith, Sarah Albers and Jess Zawadzki. But coach Jen Gilham is hardly facing an empty cupboard situation, as the Blue Devils return a core of players who are eager to step up and be leaders.
Leading the way are tri-captains Marylouise Lindner, Bridget Gormley and Madeline Barker. Ken West also returns Danielle Hoare, Sharon Guarino and Caitlyn Burke who will be counted on to provide offense. Kaitlyn Simmons and Megan Albert also return.
“I feel very lucky,” Gilham said. “I think that the girls that graduated passed the torch.”
Keep your eyes on Guarino, Hoare and Lindner. Guarino and Lindner provided the offense in quarterfinal and semifinal playoff wins.
Hannah Post is the leading candidate to take over as starting goalie. While the Blue Devils will have a quality starting lineup, depth will be a concern. Gilham is also excited about speedy newcomer Lauren Lepovich.
— Dave Ricci
Coach Stephanie Allaire knows her team is in for a challenging season with the competition level in Monsignor Martin.
The biggest loss for the Hawks comes in the back, where Taylor Barone and Tamara Gonzalez held down the fort for the 7-7-0 O’Hara squad last season. The Hawks will miss that reliability in front of the keeper.
“Both players were great captains,” Allaire said. “They were able to communicate with their team with what they expected. They were strong defenders and very aggressive; they knew when to step up, especially in the backfield.”
This season Allaire will depend on her two senior forwards to keep pouring in the goals.
Leah McDonald scored 22 last season and Lea Stachura beat the keeper 21 times. The tandem has been together for four years and Allaire said their ability to score goals and be leaders will define the Hawks’ season.
“I have high expectations,” Allaire said. “I expect our team to train hard at practice and when game time comes to work harder. It’s going to be interesting season.”
Janelle Bartlett and Francesca Gariano join McDonald and Stachura as team captains.
— Matt Parrino
MOUNT ST. MARY’S
Marissa Dauria experienced glory rather often when she donned the blue-and-white of Mount St. Mary’s and she’s making sure her players know the tradition they’ve inherited.
Dauria has continuously brought in assistants and junior varsity coaches who’ve seen successful at Mount, like assistant coach Meghan Thoin. When last year’s JV boss, Leah Ponticello, departed for an assistant job at Hilbert College, Dauria moved former Canisius College and Niagara University players onto the coaching staff in Laura Ellis and Gabrielle Wilson.
“We’ve been surrounding them with girls who went on to play at a high level,” Dauria said. “The whole goal is to let them know what has been done here and what will again be done here.”
Dauria is using a smaller roster than in years past but says the size has brought the unit together, as has the desire to reclaim a spot in the playoffs. With only four teams making the postseason, the emphasis is on every single game to an almost college football proportion.
“It’s playoffs or bust,” Dauria said. “It used to be everyone got in and then they changed it last year to only the Top Four teams. Every league game has turned into a playoff game.”
Three players leap off the page as difference makers for Mount. Gabi D’Aguiar is a three-year All-Catholic team member and will guide the club as captain. Junior defender Carolyn Kennedy is a “huge piece of the defense,” according to Dauria, who looks forward to getting a full season from a strong talent injured most of 2011, sophomore Natassia Tuhovak.
— Nick Mendola