Offseason Soccer Experience May Carry Pinelands Girls
On the soccer pitch, age isn’t necessarily the biggest indicator to whether a team might have success. Naturally, experience helps. But experience isn’t always dictated by how many years a player has been playing.
Pinelands Regional girls soccer coach Dawn Paget is hoping quality on-field experience, and not maturity level, is a huge factor in the success of her squad this fall.
With 12 of her Wildcats playing travel soccer during the offseason – the most the program has had in a single season since Paget took over the program 17 years ago – Pinelands seems to be in prime position to make a run at the Shore Conference Class B South title as well as go deep into the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II tourney.
Of course, time will tell just how much the Wildcats can improve upon their 8-10-1 record of a season ago. But Paget is highly optimistic and the chemistry might be right this time around.
“I’m hoping we can surprise a lot of teams,” she said. “We have a lot of kids who have a lot of experience playing the game. Even our younger players have a lot of soccer experience, so we’re hoping that bodes well for us this season.”
Fortunately, several of the team’s most experienced players are right up on the front line of attack. Returning forwards and seniors Tori Angelus and Dasey DiElmo are headed for solid Division-I college programs in Duquesne and Seton Hall, respectively, but first will close out their careers providing a lot of firepower for what could be a potent Pinelands offense.
“We’re expecting them to put the ball in the goal quite a bit,” Paget said. “We’re fortunate that we have two Division I-level forwards, and that’s only going to help us as we go through the season.”
However, without the midfield and backfield play secured, the forwards mean very little. Yet the Wildcats should be in good shape in both those areas of the field.
Running primarily out of a 3-5-2 formation, the Wildcats will rely heavily on the midfield crew of senior Ellie Sorrentino, junior Madison Doughty, sophomores Alex Hanna and Sam Volak and freshman Aileen Cahill, while the defensive crew of junior Rachel Staino, sophomore Emily Staino and freshman Catherine Hanna will be asked to hold up the fort in front of senior goalkeeper Angela Wismar. Sophomore defenders Alyssa Vitello and Sierra Mecca will be mixed in on a regular basis.
The rest of the squad consists of sophomore Jewel Swed and freshmen Erin Pomponio and Brenna Devoe, who will back up Wismar at keeper.
“For the first time in a long time, we have a lot of experienced players on the team,” Paget said. “Now, we’ll see if that translates into consistent, high-level team play that can generate victories on the field. We’re confident in the younger players that they’re going to help raise our level of play, and we’re going to work hard.”
Point Pleasant Borough, which won the division last season and knocked off Pinelands during the first round of the sectional tournament last fall, could be one of the tougher teams in B South again this year, along with Manchester. And with Lacey back in the division after spending eight years in A South, the Wildcats have plenty of competition on the schedule.
“I’d say 12-15 wins are a possibility,” Paget said. “We believe the harder you work, the luckier you get. And sometimes, that’s what you need to win a few extra games.”