NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Despite last season’s 8-14 record, New Providence girls soccer head coach Scott Murphy is very optimistic about this season.

Maybe Murphy is optimistic because his squad returns a decent amount of players, including six seniors, who gained valuable varsity experience last season.

Maybe he’s optimistic because his team has shown much improvement on the field thusfar in preseason workouts.

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Or maybe he’s optimistic because he has a gut feeling that last season was a fluke.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all of the above.

But one thing is for sure: Murphy’s optimism has translated to his team.

“We return six starters, plus many girls who gained valuable varsity experience,” Murphy, who’s entering his 14th season as head coach, said. “Combine that with a group of younger talent, and the Pioneers looked poised to improve upon last season’s record.”

Among those key returning players are senior defenders Brielle Carleen, Rebecca Pappas, and Kelly Sherman.

Murphy couldn’t be more proud of the trio for taking over the leadership roles that were occupied last season by the recently-graduated quartet of Maggie Roughley, Jen Maluso, Megan Mahlstadt, and Lexi Everton.

Senior Jessica Trackim and sophomore Nicole Fusco rounds out this season’s defender group.

Junior Riley Kinum will anchor the midfield and she’ll be joined by sophomore Alana Ponte.

Seniors Jordan Detlet and Rachel Trackim will anchor the forward group and will be joined by junior Amanda Maurer and sophomore Olivia Faucher.

Sophomore Erin Lamanna will replace Maluso at goalkeeper. Freshmen Maddy Engelbrechten, Juliana DeGeorge, and Paola Salazar round out this year’s newcomers.

In addition to his seniors, Murphy suggests to keep an eye on a trio of sophomores who could play big roles in the team’s success. “Sophomores Nicole Fusco, Olivia Faucher, and Alana Ponte are poised to have breakout seasons.”

Murphy has been very happy with his team’s work over the summer and even happier that the work ethic transferred over to the preseason.

“The team has been working hard all summer and has really displayed improved ability to possess the ball and play at a faster rate,” Murphy said. He will be looking for a few girls to step up and take over the goal-scoring role.

“The talent is there to have an improved season, but I feel the closeness of this group of girls could lead to a very special season,” said Murphy, who is 11 wins away from 200 as head coach.

A very special season in Murphy’s mind are capturing conference and sectional titles. Considering Murphy’s resume as head coach and the experience he has returning this season, don’t count this New Providence team out.

The Pioneers open at Summit High School September 8 at 4 p.m.