The two top FCIAC girls soccer teams obscured what was a pretty talented upper class a year ago. Ridgefield and St. Joseph were a step ahead of the pack. The Tigers defeated the Cadets for the second straight time in the conference final. The Tigers again advanced to the Class LL championship before a repeat loss to Glastonbury; the Cadets regrouped and won a state title.
Just below were four teams capable of playing with anyone, and in some cases as skilled as league champions in past seasons.
The feeling this year is the Cadets enter the new year as the favorite, with four to five other teams in the hunt for high seeds in the playoffs.
In other words, the road to the postseason will again be a grind.
St. Joseph. The absence of 30-goal scorer Lindsey Savko, now playing at UMass, was the biggest blow to a St. Joseph team overflowing with talent and highly capable of compensating. Returning is the league’s best player, center midfielder Jessica Mazo, who is the quarterback, equally adept at distributing, defending and finishing. The back row is led by Tory Bike, a dogged and tireless defender. Veronica O’Rourke is the veteran goalkeeper, while the Cadets have several freshmen who will make immediate impacts. St. Joseph doesn’t need one player to make up for Savko’s production, but if the front line can split the scoring it will be a difficult team to take down.
Staples. The Wreckers finished third during the regular season and that is a probable destination, give or take a spot, this year. Reese Sutter patrols the middle of the field, Annie Amacker is sturdy on the back line and veteran Anna Sivinski is a strength in goal. The Wreckers’ lone conference losses last year were to St. Joseph and Ridgefield, and they may prove to be the Cadets’ biggest challenge in the league.
Wilton. After a stunning 7-1 season-opening loss to Westhill, the Warriors matured as a unit to become a dangerous team over the second half of the season. Expect a carryover effect, if the team can overcome some nagging preseason injuries. Lindsay Groves is the threat on the front line, Sophie Sudano is the midfield anchor and Taylor Floyd is a standout keeper, a position that seems to be a league-wide strength. A telling point will be a brutal early-season stretch in which the team will face, in succession, Staples, St. Joseph, Fairfield Warde and Darien.
Ridgefield. One would have to go back in the annals to find a team that graduated more impact players than the Tigers. Seven seniors with two league titles and two state final appearances on their resume have departed. All are either playing in college or opted to pursue club opportunities at larger schools. The temptation is the write off the Tigers, but that is not the case with league coaches. Kathryn Barlow is one of the league’s best defenders and a 50-50 ball specialist, while Claire Middlebrook is an equally staunch defender. Each was overshadowed a year ago. Much is expected of keeper Lauren Castle, and the hope is players like Erika Linke, Emma Jacobson and Caitlin Slaminko will flourish in expanded roles.
Westhill. The Vikings have two of the state’s premier players in Claudia Benz and Corinne Dente. The supporting cast holds the key.
Fairfield Warde. The Mustangs dipped to just holding on for the eighth seed in the conference tournament, but seem poised to rebound. Midfielder Lauren Tangney is one of the league’s best.
And, keep an eye on… We rarely go beyond a team or two in the sleeper category, but Trumbull, Darien, New Canaan and Brien McMahon deserve watching.
Preseason Honor Roll
Annie Amacker, Staples
Kathryn Barlow, Ridgefield
Claudia Benz, Westhill
Tory Bike, St. Joseph
Fabiana Bueno, Stamford
Corrine Dente, Westhill
Emily Denunzio, Darien
Braeden Dial, New Canaan
Chrissie Fiore, Darien
Taylor Floyd, Wilton
Katie Gallagher, Greenwich
Lindsay Groves, Wilton
Natalie Kelchner, Ludlowe
Olivia Leone, Brien McMahon
Alexa Mason, St. Joseph
Jessica Mazo, St. Joseph
Maia Moscova, St. Joseph
Peyton McNamara, Brien McMahon
Claire Middlebrook, Ridgefield
Anna Sivinski, Staples
Eva Solano, Trumbull
Sophie Sudano, Wilton
Reese Sutter, Staples
Lauren Tangney, Fairfield Warde
Hailey Vechiarelli, St. Joseph
Players To Watch
Danbury: D Victoria Corte-Real, Gaia Mistriel, Cristina Britton, Anna Gawley, Christina Syryla, Hayden Turk, Vanessa Dohoney, Leah Sarkisian, Jewel Ly, Alyssa Custodio.
Darien: G Christine Fiore, D Emily DeNunzio, Katie Ramsay.
Fairfield Ludlowe: G Natalie Kelchner, D Maya Newton, D Zelle Halloren, D Bridget Walsh, D Meredith Reynolds, M Kaleigh Brown, M Kelsey Brown, M McKenna Forrest, M Kiersten Morrisoe, F Emily Fishbach, F Georgia Hoey.
Fairfield Warde: G Caleigh Walklet, D Katie Rigione, D Olivia Seymour, D Clare Cherniski, D Cara Haney, M Lauren Tangney, M Teresa Andres, M Avery Orachef, M Janet Boldrighini, F Clare Corcoran, F Kaitlyn Walsh.
Greenwich: F Katie Gallagher, F Kim Kockenmeister, F Megan Murphy, M Sol Binaghi, M Sophia Ruelle, M Bella Tramposch, D Aubrey Dyckman, D Eduarda Dasilva, D Melanie Murphy, D Sofia Zajec, G Katie Large.
Brien McMahon: G Tatiana Arias, D Savannah Bromley, D Olivia Leone, D Jocelyn Lister, D Sophia Tarasidis M Mikayla Fosina, M Sarah Helms, M Marysia Slowik, M Emma Hargrove, F Peyton McNamara, F Chloe Ortolano.
New Canaan: G Jordan Patterson, D Zoe Jones, D Caroline Schuh, D Katie Kennelly, D Katelyn Sparks, M Braeden Dial, M Kendall Patten, M Julia Ozimek, M Maeve Selvaggi, F Freia Meirendorf, F Molly Mazabras.
Norwalk: G Sabrina Bailon, D Jenna Smeriglio, D Caila DeGrandi, D Clara Lazaro, D Brianny Garcia, M Stephany Escalante, M Julia Sferlazza, M Brenda Garcia, M Madyson Suda, M Ryan Camiglio, F Kelly Halloran.
Ridgefield: D Kathryn Barlow, D Claire Middlebrook, G Lauren Castle, Anna Landler, Erika Linke, Emma Jacobson, Caitlin Slaminko, Megan Klosowski, Tasha Reik, Mackenzie Robson, Faith Arnold, Eva McKinley, Emma Langis, Carrina Debroi, Carolyn Donovan, Amelia Hynes, Kate Vanni, Grace Michalowski, Kelly Chittiden, Kate Vanni, Scarlet Ball.
St. Joseph: G Veronica O’Rourke, D Tory Bike, D Hayley Vechiarelli, D Alexa Mason, M Maia Moscova, M Jessica Mazo, M Andriana Cabral, F Dori Grasso, F Nina Pizzicarola, F Julia DiCesare, F Maddie Freid.
Stamford: F Chanille Assevero, F Hannah Hodges, M Fabiana Bueno, M Kaitlyn Filanowski, M Juliana Burke, M Linnea Caraballo, M Karina Romero, M Brianna Gutierrez, M Emma Gamble, M Bailey Getlik, M Ella Rosen, D Dana Serricchio, D Lia Chichester, D Nat Medero, D Reaging Hyppolite, D Francesca Ordonez, D Ashley Arrubla, G Adriana DelTorto.
Staples: G Anna Sivinski, D Annie Amacker, M Reese Sutter, D Olivia Ronca, D Sally McGee.
Trumbull: D Brady Lynch, D Kristen Pagliaro, M Eva Solano, F Meghan Ahearn, Julia Jager, Julie Spillane, Valerie Eigenrauch, Morgan Mallozzi, Skylar Jorge, Meghan Lesko, Dani Milovanov, Jess Esposito, G Maryna Barone, G Avery Rice.
Westhill: G Niamh Keogh, G Molly Herckis, D Erica Shaulson, D Lily Gubernick, M Emma Sawch, M Claudia Benz, M Corinne Dente, M Sam Page, F Lindsey Sanchez, F Emelyn Hernandez.
Wilton: M Sophie Sudano, F Lindsay Groves, F Andrea Banalcazar, D Grace Rava, Lauren Chiappetta, G Taylor Floyd, M Zoe Lash, G Cova Perez, D/M Isabel King, M Elana Alber, D Olivia Gladstein, M Olivia Viteralli, M Olivia Borden, M Delia Freilich, D Kaitlin Reif, F Lilly MacDonald, F Olivia Roman, D Piper Chase, M Libby Connolly, M Ashley Carboneir, M Maddie Wecker, M Sara Wiltshire, D Victoria Curley, Paisley Eagan.