CHATHAM, NJ - Kelsey Burke enters her fourth varsity season for the Chatham girls soccer team with her eyes wide open.
A year ago, Burke and her teammates were caught off guard when they moved up from Group 2 to Group 3.
"It was a very big step up for us," Burke said. "It was surprising. We really didn't know going in what to expect. I think we did really well, considering how steep the competition was compared to Group 2.
Burke will play center midfield for a Chatham team determined to improve on its 6-10-2 finish from last fall.
"This team is definitely going to get better," Burke said. "We came into preseason in much better shape and, as long as we work together, we're going to play well."
Chris Mazurkiewicz, also known as "Maz," has been with the program for 11 years, but this will be his first as the head coach.
"Right now, I'm really looking for the seniors to step up and take ownership of this team," Mazurkiewicz said. "I'm excited. This is a talented group. Our first goal was to come into camp in better physical shape and we did that. Now we're working on getting into game shape."
A goalie during his playing career, Mazurkiewicz says he's concentrating on organizing the defense, playing a more traditional 4-4-2 alignment.
"I was a goalkeeper throughout my career and I'm looking to solidify the defense and make sure it's organized," Mazurkiewicz said. "I'd rather be safe in the back and build from there.
Senior Kara McMahon will be the sweeper and she'll likely be joined in the middle by junior Krista McKenzie. Senior Erin Terry and junior Giselle Easton play the outside back positions. Rising sophomore Beth Kuyk figures to play prominently in the defensive scheme.
Two senior captains play goaltender, Morgan Maltby and Casey Madura.
Sophomore Kelsey Terry is slated to run up front, along with senior Caroline Burd, junior Morgan Callahan and senior Julia DeMaria. Aside from the defense, Mazurkiewicz is going with a lineup he describes as "Swiss Army" knives. He sees the roster as a collection of multi-fraceted players, who can serve in more than one role.
The midfield features Burke in the middle, along with senior Lindsey Carson, junior Emily Walczyk and junior Lindsey Aloia.
The rest of the strong senior class includes: Katie Higgins (who is injured), Dana Pitonyak (MF/B), Morgan Smith (F) and Nicole Marsh (F). Adding to the team depth are juniors Danielle Terzer (F/MF) and Emily Muir (D).