WEST ORANGE, NJ - Coming off the most successful two-year stretch in the history of the program, the West Orange girls soccer team will open its delayed and condensed 2020 season on Saturday at defending Essex County Tournament champion Montclair.
The season is starting almost a full month later than usual because of the NJSIAA's delaying of the schedule to adjust to COVID-19 guidelines, and, because of same, the length of the season will be condensed into about six weeks.
Although Montclair is the defending county champion, and West Orange would loom as a contender for that title, there will not be an Essex County Tournament this fall because of the way the season has become compacted. But there will be a regular season and, barring unforseen setbacks, some form of a state tournament.
West Orange, the 2018 county champion, finished with a 16-4 record in 2019. Graduated star Natalie Nevins (who had 27 goals and 24 assists as a senior) is among the key losses, but the Mountaineers still retain an exceptionally talented core.
"We finished #11 in the state last year and will look to compete to be a top team in the state again and compete to win the section," said West Orange head coach Sean Devore, in his sixth season heading the program.
The Mountaineers look to be strong in the center of field, with seniors Kaya Schultz and Gianna Festino playing midfield. Schultz has made a verbal commitment to Division 1 University of Buffalo. Schultz scored eight goals and her 11 assists were second on the team. Festino had three goals and three assists.
Senior forward Emma Mitchell finished with 11 goals and five assists last season. She'll be shouldering even more of the offensive load with Nevins now at Villanova University.
Junior Tori Rideau-Winds heads up the back line, which helped shut out 10 opponents in 2019. She'll have help in the back from junior Esme Solis Maurer and, possibly, freshman newcomer Danielle Malanga.
Junior Jessica Welcome looms as the replacement at goalie for graduated Cassidy Joyce.
Devore highlighted freshman Jaiden Schultz as a newcomer who could be a big asset to the Mountaineers in midfield. Other ninth-graders who could contribute include forward Hayley Rodriguez and midfielders Josephine Locricchio and Lucy Fishkin.
"We defend very well and are very good in the air," Devore said. "We have a lot of new players who are beginning to gel nicely with the team."
WEST ORANGE GIRLS SOCCER ROSTER
12 Isabella Cohen Senior
19 Elizabeth Duarte Senior
8 Gianna Festino Senior
6 Emma Mitchell Senior
22 Kennedy Morgan Junior
5 Tori Rideau-Winds Junior
9 Kaya Schultz Senior
4 Caitlin Bridgers Junior
3 Sidda Mitchell Sophomore
13 Anna Deer Sophomore
15 Charley Dvorin Sophomore
1 Jessica Welcome Junior
11 Jaiden Schultz Freshman
2 Hayley Rodriguez Freshman
7 Josephine Locricchio Freshman
14 Lucy Fishkin Freshman
-- Daniella Malanga Freshman
21 Esme Solis Maurer Junior