By BRIAN CUNNIFF
STONE HARBOR — To put it simply, the players on the Wildwood Catholic High School girls soccer team have had a lot of fun this fall.
“It’s been a blast with this team,” senior midfielder Bella Feraco said. “The past few years we haven’t been as talented, I guess, so this year’s been a lot of fun. We all work very well together. I’ve been excited since the preseason. It’s a great group of girls.”
Wildwood Catholic improved its record to 10-3-2 with Tuesday’s 2-0 win over a shorthanded St. Joseph team that fielded only 10 players with no substitutes. The game was limited to two 30-minute halves.
Wildwood Catholic was in a similar situation to the Wildcats not too long ago, often competing a player short and/or with no substitutes. Now, the Crusaders are 21 players strong and possess as much overall talent as they’ve featured in years.
Wildwood Catholic finished just 4-10 last season. But head coach Kara Saunders believes the foundation for this year’s success began to form last fall.
“I really believe the team last year is what is making this team so great,” Saunders said. “We were so small last year that we had to get along and we had to get better. We lost some seniors but the core of the team came back. And they had fun last year so they brought some of their friends out with them and they really got the incoming freshmen going.
“We all saw the potential this team had. We saw it last year, too, but we just didn’t have the numbers. This year we’ve been able to build on it.”
Feraco and defender Natalie Babore are the team’s lone four-year seniors. Senior Lena Cassidy is the team’s only other upperclassman. The rest of the group is made up of sophomores and freshmen, which should have the Crusaders poised for more prosperity over the next couple of seasons as well.
Sophomore Marianna Papazoglou and freshman Ivy Bolle scored the goals in the win over St. Joe. They lead the team with 12 and 10 goals, respectively. Sophomore Leona Macrina posted the shutout in goal.
Other top players include sophomores Gwen Orlowicz, Riley Kane, Lauren McCallion, Mia Caso and Caroline Deegler and freshman Kimmy Casiello.
“It’s been a fun year,” Saunders said. “Obviously having a winning season is better than having a losing season. But we haven’t had it easy. We’ve had some injuries, we’ve had a ridiculous amount of canceled (and postponed) games. But our girls are handling it well. They’re an amazing group of girls. They’re very easy to coach.”
Wildwood Catholic is scheduled to finish the regular season Thursday against Our Lady of Mercy Academy. Then, it’s a first-round state playoff game at home against Gloucester Catholic early next week.