BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Nothing is guaranteed.
That's the message Ridge girls soccer coach has been conveying to her team in advance of what they hope will be the team's first game of the belated, condensed season Saturday at North Hunterdon.
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.
"I'm excited to watch these players play with joy in their hearts for a game they love," said Donahue, who is in her 14th season at Ridge and closing in on her 200th coaching victory. "Nothing is guaranteed this season, so we will plan to step on the field each game like it could be our last."
For the moment, all systems are go for Saturday's opener, and for the first home game next Wednesday, Oct. 7 against Hunterdon Central. And if the Red Devils are able to get the 2020 version of a full season in, they have some talented players who could make it an interesting fall--albeit one without the traditional incentive of a county tournament, since there will be no Somerset County Tournament this fall because of the late start to the campaign.
Gabby Allen, a four-year starter, will once again head up a back line that contributed to five shutouts last season. In another five games, Ridge (10-7-2) allowed just one goal, so the Red Devils allowed one goal or less in 10 of their 19 games. Other returning players in the back are senior Olivia Pikiell--who saw some time at goalie last year--sophomore Katie Keefe and junior Amanda Mertz. Alison Miscia, a senior, returns in goal.
The Red Devils have some potentially explosive creators up front and in midfield, including senior forwards Abigail McCrea, Becca Picardo and Kaitlin Aiello, senior midfielder Ryan Roseavear, junior midfielder Sam Balderson and junior Payton Uhrig, who can shift between the front line and the middle of the field.
"We have some dynamic players that we are excited to see on the field together to see what they can create," Donahue said. "We have several returning players who understand their role and the level of play in our competition. We're still unsure of who will emerge as our nine. We have potential for players that can show they can get the ball in the back of the net, but we're looking to establish an attacking rhythm that produces in a more clinical manner."
Donahue, who was a standout player at Boston College, enters the season with a career coaching record of 195-61-32. She should have a good chance to reach the 200 milestone provided that there are no more delays or postponements in a season that begins with guarded hope that--in a year when every plan is tentative and subject to change--the Red Devils can make it to mid-November and play as many games as possible.
"Our seniors (are) embracing their senior season without the normal traditions of the past," Donahue said.
In addition to the returning players listed above, Ridge counts on potential contributions from these varsity newcomers:
Anna Wilson- Defender- Junior
Grace Murray- Defender- Junior
Corrine Lamb- Forward- Junior
Giavanna Giuditta- Midfield- Junior
Alexa Mark- Defender- Senior
Stella Smith- Forward- Senior
Courtney McCaffrey- Midfield- Senior
Emma Krikston- Midfield- Senior
Tayler Mark- Forward- Sophomore
Carly Villa- Goalie- Sophomore