MONTVILLE, NJ - After a disappointing 7-12 season in 2018, which ended with a double-overtime loss to Morris Knolls in the state tournament, the Montville girls soccer team has hopes for improvement in the early part of this season.

Under first-year head coach Nicholas Sands, the Mustangs picked up wins in their first two games of the season against Pope John and Morris Hills, before dropping a pair of decisions to Sparta and Jefferson. Its latest result was a 1-1 tie against a strong Morristown squad on Tuesday afternoon.

While it has been a mostly up-and-down start to the year, it is an improvement on the beginning of 2018, where the team won its season opener before losing seven consecutive games, which put the team in a hole that it was unable to recover from. This came after a preseason in which Sands kept a focus on keeping the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman levels together for practice in his first summer as head coach.

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"The goal of preseason was to keep all levels together and keep the mindset of a tryout," Sands said. "This allowed the coaching staff to look at every athlete in the program and choose players for the varsity level based on fundamental skills, tactical awareness, fitness, and being coachable. My initial impression (of this team) is we have the talent, but it will take everyone to be on their game for us to be successful. Overall, I would say we put together a solid group of players and now it's a matter of learning to play together and find what works for us, as a team, to be successful."

This year's team has been led by junior forward/midfielder Dani Vito, who has been the team's top scorer with six goals and two assists- including two goals in each of the team's wins. Her sister, Bella Vito, has also found the score sheet, with two goals and four assists to her name to this point.

"Both of them are true competitors and really provide an offensive punch," Sands said.

Sands also singled out senior defender Jillian Trizinski, who he says has been a stabilizing force on the defensive half of the field and has helped shut opponents down.

The overall goal for this team, according to Sands, is to improve upon last season's record. And in order for that to happen, it will come down to confidence for this team.

"We head into the rest of the season understanding that we need to constantly challenge ourselves to become better masters on the ball, become students of the game, and have the confidence as a group to know that we can play high level soccer," Sands said.

The girls soccer team will be back in action on Thursday when it hosts Mount Olive at 4 p.m.

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