BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Governor Livingston girls soccer coach Mike Roof knows this season will be a challenge. Finding a way to replace 12 seniors would be tough for any coach.

But despite the heavy graduation losses, Roof still expects his team to compete for not just a county title, but also a sectional title.

“Realistically, I would like to reach the quarter round of the UCC Tournament and hopefully win two games in our section in the state tournament,” Roof, who’s entering his 14th season at the helm, said. “I also expect us to struggle at times this year due to the graduation of 12 seniors in addition to the influx of new players into the varsity squad.”

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Among those 12 seniors were All-Conference/All-County athletes Lindsay DiStaso and Alice Caballero and goalie Olivia Emanuel, who now plays for Washington University of St. Louis.

Replacing Emanuel will be a tall task which may explain why Roof is counting on two players to do such. “Goalkeeping responsibilities will be split between returning senior Meera Savage and junior Michelle Coyle,” Roof said. “We need to find consistency at that position.”

The midfield was hit hard by graduation -- luckily for Roof, he has one of the county’s best players returning in that area in senior Riley Jankowski. She will need to play an even bigger role this season, said Roof.

Roof will also lean on seniors Meghan Place and Paige Collins at midfield. “I expect Riley to be a major factor in midfield as well as Meghan and Paige,” Roof said. “At outside mid, we have good options in senior Hannah Pennington and junior newcomer Caroline Peer.”

Junior Ashley Echeverry is another returnee Roof will look to for contributions. Echeverry will be called on to help with the creativity that the attacking midfield role needs, said Roof. 

Roof’s striking options will include junior forward Maggie Zecca, sophomore forward Catalina Abusada and senior forward Lara Romano who will fill the void of DiStaso, who tallied 42 varsity goals. Newcomer sophomore Claire Donfield will also be in the mix up top.

Generating offense could be the least of Roof’s worries as he acknowledged that getting stops may prove problematic at times.

“Defensively, we are going to have to replace all of our players that helped us last year,” Roof said. “Players like junior Ava Delargy, senior Emily Kiernan, and junior Stacey Berliner are going to need to find a way to understand their responsibilities as well as how to play with one another.”

Junior Anna Pasquale rounds out the returnees at Defender

Other newcomers being broken in are junior midfielder Sarah Bachert, junior defender Sarah Polizzi, and sophomore midfielders Erin Splaine and Emily Pires.

The Highlanders drop down from the top Watchung Division to compete in the Mountain Division of the Union County Conference, a division in which they’ll compete against the likes of Oak Knoll, Rahway, Union Catholic, Summit, and New Providence. Performing better within the division will no doubt be a point-of-emphasis for Roof and his staff this season.

Roof acknowledged that taking more chances on offense will be crucial. Whether the Highlanders take those chances could go a long way in determining whether they win more games.

“I think we have talented kids who can create, but we will have to take our chances in front of goal and not be wasteful in order to have sustained success, “ Roof said. “I expect that the girls that had some success offensively for us last year to expand their roles and point totals from a season ago.”

Defensively, Roof reiterated the importance of each player knowing and doing their respective responsibilities.

“We’ll have to understand our defensive responsibilities and not be careless with the ball in our defensive third so as not to make more problems for ourselves,” Roof said.

Roof has a confidence in his team that many probably wouldn’t understand because of the graduation losses. But he sees something in this 2016 squad that Governor Livingston fans will have to wait and see as the season progresses.

But if Roof’s vision goes according to plan, fans could see what he sees sooner rather than later.

The Lady Highlanders open away at Westfield on Thursday, Sept. 8 with a 4 p.m. start. 

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