CHATHAM, NJ - With 25 players on the varsity roster, the competition for playing time is at a high level for the 2016 Chatham girls soccer team. The way senior captains Schuyler Bixby and Sophie Collins see it, that's a good thing.
"I think we have a lot of strong players," Bixby said. "We can basically switch our entire team off and put our entire bench on and the level of play is consistent. That's one thing our coach has been looking at. He's been playing every single person. We all have a really high level of play that we can use to our advantage. It's going to be really hard for other teams to pinpoint who our stronger players are because we have such a wide range of strong players that we can use."
The competition within the team already has made the team better, according coach Gary Adair, whose team was 4-11-1 in his first season last year.
"Our record didn't reflect the performances and we are hopeful to turn some of the "L's" into "W's" and continue to develop as a program," Adair said.
Goalkeeper Collins is protected in the back by junior Olivia Robertson returning to the defense with sophomores Colleen Graham, Meghan Mackessy and Emily Vinick; seniors Morgan Tobin and Mackenzie Breen, and juniors Chloe Blanc and Katie Helman.
The Chatham midfield is led by seniors Grace Larson, Shannon Lamb, Nicole Smizaski and Kate Mirabelli, along with juniors Lauren Carini and Paige Guenther; sophomores Emma Droner and Meredith Enslow, and freshmen Jennifer Olnowich and Grace Van Sciver.
Junior Sophia Reed and Bixby are the top targets on the forward line, which includes seniors Katie Farricker and Rebecca Nickerson, and sophomore Caroline Crouse.
"There are a lot of players who are fighting to their best ability to earn their starting spot," Collins said. "Previously, we had just one starting lineup with 11 people who you knew would start. Now you have 25 players who can all compete. We've been connecting really well on the field."
Chatham opens its season 4 p.m. Sept. 8 at Columbia.