CHATHAM, NJ - When the Chatham girls soccer team opens its season at Mendham on Wednesday, the roster will be filled with talent and experience. How far that takes the Cougars through a very competitive conference schedule is the question that coach Gary Adair is seeking to answer.
"We've got a good group of players," Adair said. "It's going to come down to how much we want to win. We've got the ability. Across the team, we're at the point now that we have a good amount of quality. It depends on how motivated they are. We could have a good little run."
The center of Chatham's midfield will likely be the engine that propels this team, with senior co-captains Jen O'Neill and Grace Van Sciver teaming up with indomitable force Sophie Straka, a junior.
"I think this team has the most skill, soccer-wise, that we've seen in a while," Van Sciver said. "We're playing a better brand of soccer with a bit more composure on the ball and better passing. Everyone is really looking forward to the season."
Some of the newcomers who could make an impact this season are freshman forward Ashley Kiernan, sophomore midfielder Kayleigh Coughlin and junior midfielder Elizabeth Droner.
Kiernan has added some spark to a veteran line that includes seniors Melina Panagakos, Lizzie O'Neill, Chloe McGlynn, junior Cleo Bley and sophomore Audrey Van Wie.
Coughlin could be a key player from her outside midfield position because of her ability to cross the ball, while Droner brings her distributive skills into the high school after playing club ball for Cedar Stars Academy.
"We have a new freshman, Ashley Kiernan, and Elizabeth Droner, who has committed to Purdue," Olnowich said. "All around we have a bunch of good players. It's just a matter of getting to know each other and playing together. We have a lot of talent on the team.
"I think that once everyone gets used to playing with each other it will be really good. The quality of play has been good, but it needs to be more connected, which takes time."
There is plenty of depth in the midfield with senior Grace Nickerson, juniors Olivia Larson, Iona Kallika and Caitriona Logsdon, and sophomore Meryn Dziemian.
"We have a lot of players who can do the job," Adair said. "If they want to play, we'll be tough to deal with. They have to find it as a group."
The defense has senior Callie Snyder and sophomore Cate Hackett as the goalies with returning starters in juniors Jessica Vespasiano and Isabelle Spagnuolo. The backline also features seniors Shannon Donohoe and Jane Workman and juniors Alyssa Mojares and Olivia Garman.