By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The high school girls soccer season was scheduled to begin this week in Cape May County.
The following is a look at each of the area teams:
CAPE MAY TECH
Cape May Tech won three games a season ago with a very inexperienced roster. With many of the players back from last season, the Lady Hawks hope to be more competitive. Paige Dooley and Alejandra Garcia are the leaders for Cape May Tech. Some of the other returning players who saw significant varsity action a season ago include Jaelyn Baxter, Alyssa Hicks, Sammi Jennison, Katie Kepple, April Melino, Hailey Pinto and Sarah Shaw.
Cape May Tech is coached by Warren Wade (third season).
The team opens the season Monday with a non-league home game against Lindenwold.
LOWER CAPE MAY
Lower Cape May was another young team that struggled last season, winning just twice in 19 games.
The Lady Tigers bring back quite a few starters from last season, however, and should be much more competitive.
The team has already started well, posting a 6-0 victory over Pleasantville Wednesday in its season opener.
Some of Lower’s top players include senior Hadden Miller (D) and juniors Jordan Dougherty (MF/F), Chloe Lawler (MF/F) and Molly McGuigan (MF). Lawler, in her first regular-season action since suffering an injury midway through last season, posted two goals and an assist in the win over Pleasantville. Dougherty added two goals.
Other returning players with experience include senior Madison Owens (F), junior Christina McCann (MF) and sophomores Coral Stevenson (D) and Katie Suter (D).
New players expected to make an impact with the varsity include freshmen Kiara Soto (GK), Joanna Bonney (MF/F) and Lauren McKeown (D). Soto made four saves in posting the shutout win over Pleasantville in the opener.
“Last year several girls were thrust into positions that they were not prepared for due to the loss of several key players,” said head coach Brett Matthews (eighth season). “This year that group of girls have much more experience which I expect to turn into a few wins. I am hoping for us to compete and get a little closer to a .500 record.”
Lower’s next game is scheduled for Friday at Oakcrest.
Middle begins the season with a new coach in Tina Prickett, who takes over for Bob Wishart. Prickett has been the school’s girls lacrosse coach for the past few seasons, so she brought a good familiarity with Middle’s athletic program and quite a few of the players with her into the position.
The Lady Panthers bring back several players from last season’s 9-11 team, including seniors Kira Sides, Emily Mendel and Mia Rafter. Juniors Anna Bond and Morgan Adams and sophomores Isabella Aftanis and Brynn Bock (nine shutouts in goal in ‘18) also return.
Middle was scheduled to open its season Thursday with a home game against Absegami.
Ocean City enjoyed an excellent 14-6-3 campaign in 2018 that included a victory in the South Jersey Coaches Tournament, a shootout loss to Mainland in the CAL playoff tournament title game and two victories in the South Jersey Group III Tournament.
Senior Delaney Lappin and junior Faith Slimmer, who combined for 26 goals a season ago, return to lead what should be a rather potent Raider offense. Seniors Carly Reighard and Abbey Fenton and sophomores Summer Reimet and Hope Slimmer are also back.
Fenton goes into the season with 32 career victories and 22 career shutouts as a goalkeeper.
Ocean City, coached by Kelly Halliday (seventh season), opens the season Friday at home against Cedar Creek.
Wildwood struggled with numbers in the preseason and doesn’t appear to have much depth. But there is some experience and some good athletes returning, lending hope that the Lady Warriors can improve upon a three-win season from last year.
The top returning players include junior Jenna Hans (F) and sophomores Kara McLaughlin (MF) and Imene Fathi (GK/MF). Other returning players include seniors Luz Ferrer (D), Jeishka Hernandez (MF), Alexis Pappas (D) and Wendy Tlayoa (D); juniors Leah Benichou (MF) and Ninishka Moya (MF) and sophomores Aivlys Aguilar (MF) and Lisbeth Garcia (D).
Newcomers to the team include sophomore Kalei Budney and freshman Maya Benichou, Abigail Pruszinski and Brooke Steckel.
“We have more girls that have played soccer before, not just athletes playing soccer,” second-year coach Atta Serra said. “We’re hoping to get good numbers and keep building each season.”
Wildwood is scheduled to open the season Monday at Pitman.
Wildwood Catholic had previously struggled with numbers but stopped that trend last season by adding more depth. The result was a solid 10-5-2 season.
With quite a few of the top players returning, the Crusaders have the potential to have one of the best seasons in program history.
Wildwood Catholic features a talented junior class, led by Marianna Papazoglou (12 goals last season), Riley Kane, Mia Caso, Leona Macrina, Gwen Orlowicz, Lauren McCallion, Caroline Deegler, Jersey Rogers and Bella Tenaglia. Some of the top sophomores include Kimmy Casiello and Ivy Bolle.
Wildwood Catholic, led by coach Kara Saunders, should be a contender for the Cape-Atlantic United Conference title.
The Crusaders were scheduled to open the season Thursday at home against Buena.