MAHOPAC, N.Y. – The Mahopac High girls soccer team is back—with talent, motivation, and a determination to finish something they started last year.

The Indians had a storybook season in the making going last fall, and after a dramatic playoff upset win over top-seeded Arlington, seemed poised to win a Section 1 crown.

But Mahopac lost to No. 2 North Rockland in the final, and finished the season 16-4. First-year head coach, Casey Carroll, earned League Coach of the Year honors, and the team graduated nine seniors, including All-Section forward and League Player of the Year Grace DiVincenzo, All-Section honorable mention center mid Jenna Daly, and All-League center back Christina Lopreato.

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The Indians welcome back a talented core, including one of the section’s most dangerous scoring threats, All-Section forward Mia Klammer, a fourth-your player. All-League center mid Hailey Pereira and All-League junior center back Maddy DeCola are returning standouts Carroll will look to for leadership.

“I’m definitely looking for them to be our leaders on and off the field,” Carroll said. “They’re all powerhouses on the field. Mia will run the top, Hailey at mid, and Maddy is fantastic with the defense. She’ll do a great job being a team leader back there. Those three are perfect for what we need.”

The Indians also return juniors Marissa McCarney and Piper Klammer, senior Sophia Curcio is back and set to start in goal, and seniors Amanda Beberman and Julia McGrinder are also back. Juniors Sophia Arenes and Aunchalee O’Brien join the squad this fall.

“I’m excited to have all of those returners back on the field with us this year as major contributors to the team,” Carroll said. “Sophia played significant minutes when our starting goalkeeper got hurt last year, and I’m excited to see her step up into the starting role. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Amanda and Julia are able to accomplish this year. And Sophia and Aunchalee had great tryouts, and I’m looking forward to seeing them grow as a part of the team.”

The goal is clear, and the challenges are plenty, considering COVID-19 protocols like masks during gameplay. But every team will be dealing with the same thing.

Carroll and the Indians will try to be ready for anything. “This year will be about overcoming a lot of challenges,” she said. “How much subbing will we have to do, how much will we come together in such a short [pre]season. We’ll really have to fix mistakes quickly.

“As far as masks, that will definitely be a challenge,” Carroll added. “Running with your face covered it is definitely new, but we also don’t want the season taken away. We’ll take it day by day, keep an open mind, and try to do everything for the safety of players.”

COVID-19 has already made its presence felt, before the season has even started. Mahopac was scheduled to open its season Saturday, Oct. 10, with the Indians hosting Carmel at 11 a.m., kicking off with the school hopes will be a 12-game regular season.

But Carmel has reportedly been shut down for one week, after an incident (report of a positive case) Monday. Saturday’s game has been postponed, and the Indians are now set to open their season Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Arlington at 4:30 p.m.—a repeat of last year’s sectional semifinal stunner, so the Admirals will be motivated. The ‘Pac hopes to open its home schedule the following Saturday (Oct. 17), taking on Somers at 2:30 p.m.

Carroll said her team understands the importance of playing well when they do finally get on the field. And teams that come into the short pre-season in shape will have an advantage.

“We need to play good games early in the season,” Carroll said. “All of my players play on outside teams, and have been playing, so I’m hoping they did their off-season workouts.”

As far as last year’s finals loss to North Rockland, unfinished business is definitely an issue. “Last year is definitely in our heads,” Carroll admitted. “We know what it’s like to beat No. 1, and not win the final. And we know it takes work [to get back there].”

Carroll said the overall mindset is appreciation, and hope—hope that the games can be played.

“Our seniors are so grateful to have something,” Carroll said of the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the fall season. “Many of them play spring sports, so they know what it feels like to lose the season. No one likes it (the various protocols), but they’ll do anything to get the season in. I like that they know what’s at stake. Obviously, they’re very happy to be on the field, and want to play good soccer. The girls are so happy there will be a sectional tournament… That’s what they’re striving for.”