CHATHAM, NJ - It was a rough second half of the season in 2016 in relation to injuries for the Chatham girls soccer team. So much so, that Lady Cougars coach Gary Adair can't help but think of his senior tri-captains as "new" additions for the 2017 campaign.
"It's going to be like having three new players with Lauren Carini, Olivia Robertson and Sophia Reed because they missed half of the season last year," Adair said.
After a 7-3-1 start, consecutive injuries to midfielder Carini, striker Reed and central defender Robertson contributed to a 3-5-1 stretch run that put Chatham's finishing mark at 10-8-2.
Reed, who had three goals and two assists before knee surgery ended her season, worked her way back for her senior year.
"If anyone was going to come back from it, it was going to be Sophia," Adair said. "She's the old, experienced one now. It's nice to see she's recovered."
While the seniors were sidelined, striker Jen Olnowich stepped into the spotlight last year as a freshman, leading the team with nine goals. With Reed back to join her up front, Chatham's goal-scoring rate has the potential for an uptick.
"Nine goals as a freshman is great, but ultimately we want everyone to contribute and I think we have players who can do that this year," Adair said, "Either they're coming back from injury or they're further down the line in experience."
Adair has added another freshman to the mix this year in forward Sophie Straka, who has "showed a bit of promise and created a lot of chances already," according to the coach.
Senior forwards Serena Riback and junior striker Caroline Crouse adds to the talent up front.
"The core of the team is still the same, but we have some great young players," Robertson said. "Sophie Straka is super fast and really doing well."
Carini leads a midfield that is loaded with rising players. Sophomore Grace Van Sciver is pushing for playing time with juniors Meggy Mackessy, Emma Droner and Emily Vinick, and seniors Emilie de Keyzer, Tessa Luzi, Paige Guenther and Olivia LeRoy.
"Mackessy is a little destroyer in the midfield," Adair said. "I don't know how tall she is, but she's playing like she's 7-feet tall. Droner is a junior playing her third year of varsity."
The defense is anchored by Robertson, who teams up with junior standout Colleen Graham; seniors Caitlin Barnett, Claire Terry, Chloe Blanc and Katie Helman, and juniors Meredith Enslow (third year varsity player) and Frances Workman.
"For anyone who has watched the (preseason) games, we are getting better as a group," Adair said. "I think what you're going to see this year is that we're a little bit grittier. They're not scared to get their hands dirty and put a challenge in. They're learning that It's not the end of the world if you give a foul away at midfield to stop a break by putting in a hard challenge."
The goalies are junior Olivia Mathern and sophomore Calli Snyder, both varsity newcomers.
"Olivia has great hands and reads the game well," Adair said.
Chatham opens at home on Saturday, Sept. 9 vs. Bernards at Haas Field.