Junior Kelsey Coppinger and the Panthers look to continue progression this fall. File Photo. (click for larger version)
September 02, 2013MOULTONBOROUGH – With experience at a number of positions and a strong junior class ready to breakout, the Moultonborough Academy girls' soccer team seems primed for a strong season under second-year head coach Jeff Husmann.
"One of the big expectations this year is we're heavy with those juniors," began Husmann. "As sophomores last year, you're a little younger on the team but I'd really like to see those juniors step up their individual games and also take charge and command what they want from the less experienced players."
While the juniors represent a good chunk of the roster, MA does have a decent-sized senior class, led by forward Morgan Fuller, who returns to the school for the first time since her freshman year. Fuller will be a force up top for the Panthers this season, and she'll also be counted on to cover some defensive territory against certain teams.
Seniors Alexandra Cotter (forward), Erica Fell (defense), Gracie Hoefs (midfield), Bridget Ireland (defense), Mackenzie Savage (forward) and Steph Winsor (goalkeeper) round out the unit, with Winsor stepping into the starting keeper duties for graduated senior Courtney Delaney.
"She's definitely our number one right now," said Husmann of Winsor. "It does not go unnoticed the selflessness of playing a tough position. She's shown a willingness to come in and work extra."
The junior class is loaded with talent, with Elaine Velie holding things down at center midfield to lead the way. Classmates Jody Bezanson and Meghan Kinmond are also in the midfield mix.
"We have a lot of underclassmen, especially on defense, so some people are going to have to step it up," said Velie. "We have good speed though and I think that's going to be a strength."
That defense, which graduated several players from last year, will be a key. Junior Jordan Hough has taken ownership of a central defender slot, while classmate Lauren Blake will also see some time on defense. Junior Kyla Wyman is the backup goalkeeper.
"I certainly think that one of our strengths is our physicality," said Husmann. "We've got some tough kids in there. Some of the upperclassmen take a lot of pride in our ability to play tough and be physical both offensively and defensively."
The defense will also be boosted by the sophomore class, as Gwen Fifield will likely start next to Hough in the middle of the unit. Fellow sophomore Courtney Lylyk has impressed during preseason and is slated for the start on the left side of the defense. Classmate Eleanor Eaton will also figure into the defensive mix.
"We all get together really well and we all know each other, how we play," said Fifield of the Panthers.
Husmann admits that his defense will go a long way in shaping how far the Panthers go this fall. MA finished 9-8 last year, losing to Lisbon in the preliminary round of the Division IV tournament, 2-1. The squad also lost four overtime games during the course of the season.
"I think we've shored up a couple things with Gwen and Jordan in the middle, Courtney on left and then Eleanor Eaton maybe back there," the coach said. "It's definitely going to be key as far as attacking from the back and going from there."
Sophomore Alanna Fifield has been a consistent performer in preseason at the outside midfield position and Husmann expects her to take a step forward this season, while junior striker Kelsey Coppinger will be a scoring threat up top along with Fuller. Freshman Maddie Richardson is the lone member of her class on the varsity roster, but she'll have her shot at scoring goals as well as a forward.
"I think our offense will be a strength," said Gwen Fifield. "We're lacking in certain places after losing girls from last year but I think we'll have a lot more skill in other places as well."
MA was slated to open the season on Wednesday against Concord Christian.