NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Like many of the other varsity programs at New Providence High School, the girls’ soccer team experienced a significant turnover from last year’s squad. However, unlike their counterparts, the loss of one significant piece from last year has changed the entire dynamic of 13 year head coach Scott Murphy’s Lady Pioneers.
Gone are the days of Murphy and company hearing the booming voice of former captain Pioneer Lisa Caprara, as she streaked down the pitch, open and looking to score. The mere thought of not having Caprara at Lieder Field has brought a new identity to New Providence, one that brings a more team-oriented approach.
“Its different,” Murphy said. “We know that we lost a lot of goals from her, but knowing that we're looking to come more balanced in our attack. If we for example, score 50 goals this year and get five girls who get 10, it becomes much harder to defend. There were times last year where other teams doubled her and we didn't have that other option to stretch other defenders away from her.”
Enter Maggie Roughley and Lexi Everton into the picture. Relatively new faces in terms of the spotlight, but a duo of attack-oriented players tasked with not only replacing part of the goals New Providence lost when Caprara graduated, but also leading a squad that will include freshman and sophomores seeing regular time on the pitch.
“[Maggie Roughley is] the one that when she’s on the field she’ll talk,” Murphy said. “Even more so than what Lisa gave last year, is she’ll communicate direction and detail which helps the younger kids know where to play the ball if they have the ball. Everyone knows for the most part that she’s our top player.”
While Roughley may be the vocal leader to replace Caprara, it very well might be Everton who shows New Providence’s new faces exactly what is expected when they’re on the field, creating a two-pronged leadership built for success.
“I think it will definitely benefit because the underclassmen can see how we’re leading in a different way,” Roughley said of the team’s new leadership style. “We’re trying to have a cohesive group. On the field, its not freshman or seniors, its just one team that we’re trying to have work together and keep it calm out there, not panicky. We have high hopes for this season.
Clearly, from the looks of practice and the response from Murphy and Roughley, gone are the days of relying on a single player to score all of the goals. This year, the Pioneers expect a team-wide effort to reach the pinnacle goal of all high school athletic teams, a state championship.
While you may see the occasional long distance goal, starting with passes from closer to midfield, Murphy expects a lot more scrappy goals, which plays right into the game Everton excels at.
“She’s very scrappy,” Murphy said. “That’s the kind of thing we want to build through our forwards. We’re not going to have many forwards who did what Lisa did, take defenders one-on-one and score. There’s going to be a lot of scrappy goals, where its just a fight inside the box and you poke the ball into the net. She’s kind of our leader in terms of playing that style.”
The only true mainstay from years past is at the backend, as goalkeeper Jen Maluso returns for her senior campaign. Maluso has done nothing short of meeting every expectation Murphy has ever had for her, creating a level of comfort amongst the rest of her teammates.
“Knowing that we have Jen back there defending us and being that strong leader out there and communicating with her backs, it takes a load off the offensive leaders knowing she has the backs organized,” Roughley said. “Its just so calming. Its not like when there is a breakaway, ‘Oh, we’re going to be down.” Its like ‘Come on Jen, you can do it. We have faith in you.’ Its really peaceful having her back there.”
Murphy, Roughley, Everton, Maluso and company being their trek for a state title on Thursday when they host Summit at Lieder Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.