Soccer stars ready to shine

Ireland Smith led Washington in scoring last year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Last year didn’t provide any champions, but we did have three finalists.

Once again, Northeast Philadelphia was home to some of the best girls soccer in the area and this year should be more of the same. There are contenders in all three leagues, and there’s a good chance we’ll be hanging a banner or two come November.

Here is a look at the local teams in girls soccer.

CATHOLIC ACADEMIES LEAGUE

Nazareth Academy

The Pandas just missed winning their league last year. It was a good season, and it will certainly help them this year when they look to get back to the championship. The team is loaded with talent and senior leadership.

The Pandas have a good midfield, led by Brooke Kane, Bridget Sherman and Mia Gallagher.

The defense should also be a strength, led by Cayla Chipperefiled, Ali Loper and Kass Zimmerman. They’ll play in front of goalie Katie McGinn.

The offense will be led by Katie Harmon, Kirstyn Kinniry and Maddie Maguire.

While the talent is there, the aspect coach Dan Bradley likes the most is the effort and work ethic.

“Our senior leadership is probably our greatest strength,” Bradley said. “They have a team-first attitude. They are great group of young ladies who set the example for the underclassmen. They model all that Nazareth Academy stands for on and off the field. I am excited to see how far this group can take us because they have set the bar high. Particularly since we graduated 10 seniors.”

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

Archbishop Ryan

The Ragdolls fell just short of winning the Catholic League crown, falling to Lansdale Catholic in overtime. It was a surprise season for Ryan, which came into the season with a very young team, but the players grew up in a hurry.

This year, Ryan should be among the elite in the PCL and could make some noise if it gets to the state playoffs.

The midfield will include Emily Deluisi, Ashley Pfeffer and Keirsten Montag, who will also see time in the midfield. The offense will be led by last year’s top player in the Catholic League, Gianna Monaco. Sarah Schyhulski will play both positions as well as defense.

The Ragdolls will also be stingy on defense thanks to Caityln Geiger and Grace Joyce, and goalie Emma Joyce.

Ryan has the potential to be one of the best teams in the area this year.

“We have nine returning starters from last year’s PCL finals team, several players from top-level club teams that competed in USYS regional and national tournaments this summer, and a level of competitiveness at training that should translate to some great soccer on the field this year,” coach Jon Geist said.

“It’s been an ultra-competitive preseason already, and many of this years players have a lot of experience. The defensive unit looks extremely tough and stingy, while the offense looks very creative and dangerous. We are as deep as we have ever been, and the young talent on the team is very impressive.”

Little Flower

The Ragdolls aren’t the only team that comes into the season with championship  aspirations. The Sentinels, who enjoyed a solid 2018 campaign that saw them battle for the top spot in the Catholic League for much of the regular season, have plenty of talent back.

They also have strong leadership in the strength of their three captains, center backs Molly Killion and Maura Kilkenny, and forward Brenna McCarry. They’ll be the leaders, but they aren’t coming alone.

Abby Galazka will work with McCarry up top, and Caitlin Garlick and Gabby McGowan will play defense with Killion and Kilkenny.

Little Flower also has a strong midfield with Maeve McGowan, Haley Kelso, Natalie O’Neill, Allie Bofinger and Abby Galazka.

Veteran coach Markos Pittaoulis has high hopes for this team.

“I think I’m going to be very good this year, and could win the championship,” Pittaoulis said. “The seniors are very good. I think I have a chance to be very good.”

St. Hubert’s

For the first time ever, the Bambies come into the season with a coach who isn’t Mickey McGroarty. Nettie Graziosi-Hibbs takes over and she’ll look to help the team recover from its first ever losing season.

Leading the way will be a defense that includes Caitlin Coll and Celeste Pizzaro. The midfield will include Keara Pizzaro and Tori Wolstenholme, also a defender. Freshmen Mia Tobin and Madison Marron will be responsible for scoring goals.

Last year was a rough one for the Bambies, especially after losing the bulk of their team to graduation after the 2017 season. It might take time for Graziosi-Hibbs to get things on track, but she’s happy with the effort and results thus far.

It also helps that many of the players gained experience during last year’s rough campaign.

“As a small team, every player is key for us,” Graziosi-Hibbs said. “Most of our team is comprised of returners to the program who are eager to make their mark on the program. We have added four new players that bring years of soccer experience to the team.

“We have a lot of new things being implemented into the program this year. We are relying on our seniors to help maintain some familiarity and tradition as we develop and continue St. Hubert’s strong soccer history.”

Public League

Abraham Lincoln

The Railsplitters won 13 games last year with just two setbacks, but the team lost a lot of production to graduation with six of its top players moving on.

Coach Paul Cammarota likes what he has, but knows improvement from younger players are needed to repeat last year’s success.

Supplying the goals will be strikers Najeli Quispe and Jennifer Diaz. And the defense will be anchored by Maybelline Molina.

It will be a year of hard work for the Railsplitters, who have talent, but certainly have to get better to compete in a tougher division.

“With nice girls who are willing to work hard, we plan to give this new division our best effort,” Cammarota said. “We may struggle since we advanced last year. We lost six seniors and our key scorer who had 37 goals last year.

“If we work together and discover new talent, we will hopefully put out a good product.”

Benjamin Rush

The Knights did a lot of learning on the fly last year, and while their 5-12-1 record wasn’t up to par for them, it certainly gave them a chance to gain valuable experience. The small school stayed competitive all year and that should pay dividends this year.

Knights coach Todd Corabi has a defense that includes Jordan Myers, Alycia Brickhouse, Emaleigh Calhoun and Aleyna Rodriguez. All of the players will see time at other places, but when needed, they’ll move back and keep other teams from scoring.

Mia Siner will play goalie, where she’ll share the net with Calhoun. Myers, Brickhouse and Siner will all chip in at forward.

Last year laid the groundwork for a better year this year, and that’s what Corabi is expecting.

“We have a pretty young team that can mature together,” Corabi said. “Our division record should improve. Rush stumbled through a rebuilding regular season last year before turning it on towards the end to capture their fourth consecutive Public League Class AAA title.”

Franklin Towne Charter

The Warriors are always one of the best teams in the city and that shouldn’t change much. Last year, they advanced to the Public League championship before falling to Central.

This year should be no different in terms of success. The Warriors have built a strong foundation and last year in her first year as head coach, Deb Ounan continued that.

To get back to the Public League championship game, the Warriors will need a strong season from junior goalie Megan Ware.

“We are looking forward to Megan stepping into the role of an upperclassman who can lead our defense,” Ounan said.

There are other reasons to be optimistic.

“Franklin Towne’s strength will be experience and leadership as nine seniors return for their final season,” Ounan said. “These players know what time takes to persevere through a long season and compete until the end. They are hungry to finish on a high note.

“We are looking forward to a competitive season where we can grow as individual players and as a team. The top division in the Philadelphia Public League is full of match-ups that will push us to be our best. We are excited to play some great soccer this fall.”

George Washington

The Eagles won 10 games last year and advanced to the round of 16 in the Public League playoffs. And this year, they’re back with a lot of strong players  including Ireland Smith, who is one of the best athletes to ever play at the school.

Smith, who plays basketball and softball, returns to lead the Eagles from midfield, where she’ll work with Alyssa Abbott and Miriam Aloyan. The defense includes Seyda Iskandarova, Siarah Williams and Kameliia Karypova, and Alexis Abbott will play striker.

The Eagles had a strong 2018 season and this year could be an even better one. Coach Jeremy Beatrice is optimistic.

“We have three attacking players (Smith and the Abbott twins) that have been with the program for four years, so I am hopeful that we should be able to score some goals,” Beatrice said. “We are looking to finish in the top half of the National Division once again this year, make the playoffs and see if we can knock off one of the top division teams once we get there.”

Philadelphia Academy Charter 

The Chargers graduated the best player in program history in Taylor Teal, who is now playing at Temple University. Losing her is a blow, but Philadelphia Academy had a great summer thus far. The team comes in young with seven freshmen on the roster and five battling for starting spots, but the team also has some veterans who can pave the way.

Leading the way will be Alyssa Przychowicz, who will move back to striker, and Casey Bibenour, who will anchor the defense.

Triplets Camryn, Hailey and Jordan Yaletsko, all sophomores, and Keira Kloehn, also a sophomore, will have bigger roles this year.

The young team with some experience should be competitive in the Public League.

“The team is shaping up and getting ready for the season,” said Chargers coach Robert Mottershead. “The team is young, with a potential of eight starters that are freshmen and sophomores. But with the talent they have and the strong leadership of the five seniors, the Chargers are looking to perform well.”

Penn Jersey League

New Foundations Charter

The Bulldogs won their third league championship last year, and hope to come out this year with the same intensity to defend their crown.

It won’t be easy, the team has a lot of newcomers learning to play high school soccer, but they do have some leaders in place to do that.

New Foundations will turn to forwards Ashlyn McDevitt and Liv Padilla to score the goals, with Natasha Campos-Santos playing midfield and Madysen Reynolds spearheading the defense.

Coach Tim Burke knows it will take some work, but he’s optimistic  thanks to good leaders.

“(Our) three returning seniors are already helping six freshman,” Burke said. “We’ll need the team to play within the system. The loss of senior goalie Liz Nulty will put the team to an early test.”