BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston Lady Highlanders Soccer is ready to take this season head on. With the return of senior Julia Stirpe, after missing last season due to an ACL injury, they plan to execute and score goals this season.
"Julia is a big addition, that helps," said Girls Head Soccer Coach Mike Roof. "She was one of our better players as a sophomore and she is one of our best players, clearly, as a senior." Stirpe scored 9 goals and five assists as a sophomore. "She has a great soccer IQ, she knows what to do on the field in every situation."
With her quick pace game, she will develop different strategies within the game. We need to play quicker to play successful, said Roof.
The Lady Highlanders graduated six players last year, with the noticeable absence of Lauren Jankowski on offense, who is now playing for University of South Carolina. She was instrumental in scoring goals and setting up goals, said Roof.
"We lost a great player in LJ and we have a great player coming back filling that void," said Roof. "It is hard to replace someone like Lauren." However, he knows that he can look to Stirpe to set up the plays and execute the goals.
Stirpe and senior Isabella Bjorkeson have led the team by example with positive reinforcement during the pre-season and will serve the team as captains for the coming season.
Roof anticipates a successful season offensively with Stirpe along with inside midfielder and striker Bjorkeson, junior striker Lindsay DiStaso and sophomore midfielder Riley Jankowski. "We have to take our chances in front of the goal and not be wasteful in order to have sustained success," said Roof, who has expectations of competing for county and sectional titles.
Look for junior Sarah Pasquale and sophomore Hannah Pennington to have a larger impact for us this year said Roof. Adding, the Splaine sisters, Caitlin and Kristen, will see more play time this year, as well.
Roof likes what he is seeing in his top newcomers; identifying sophomore midfielder Megan Place, sophomore midfielder Emily Kearnon, and sophomore holding midfielder Nia Dawson as young players that should see some playtime.
Defensively, we are in transition there, in terms of knowing and learning our responsibilities, said Roof. "Juniors Logan Boenning and Alice Caballero will be expected to help solidify a slightly inexperienced and new defense," added Roof. Junior Olivia Emanuel and senior Rachel Mattera return in goal. Barring injuries and a quick learning curve, defense is Roof's "bigger question mark".
The team is 4-0 pre-season, finishing 1-0 against Madison. We were wasteful against Madison with missed chances, said Roof. "They gave us challenges and put us in awkward situations, too many opportunities weren't finished.
We will have to understand our defensive responsibilities and not be careless with the ball in our defensive third so as to not make more problems for ourselves."
The Lady Highlanders open away against Elizabeth on Friday, Sept. 5 with their home opener on Tuesday, Sept. 9 against Arthur L. Johnson at 4 p.m.