SUMMIT, NJ - After a season that, in retrospect, looked less than stellar on paper -- the Hilltoppers went 5-10-5 in 2016 -- the importance of a key goal here, there or -- better yet -- here and there was further reinforced to the coaches and players of the Summit High School Girls Varsity Soccer Team, who know that they have to improve relative to taking their chances if they are to achieve the success they desire.
Chances, in soccer parlance, are opportunities, as in chances to score goals, something that the team did not do with enough regularity last season. Not taking your chances is a way of messing with The Soccer Gods and, in addition to being bad soccer karma, the missed ops increase a team's margin for error and lessen their chances of collecting 'Ws,' especially in tight matches.
The season in their rearview mirror was full of those, as Summit Hilltopper Head Coach Gary Healey -- while wincing a bit -- recalls vividly.
"We were ahead in three of the matches we lost, had two goal leads twice and ended up with draws. We have to improve our game management and find a way to get results."
If one does the math, flipping a couple of losses or draws to wins and the record could have looked a lot better, but Healey and his team are focusing not on looking back in a manner to rue what could have been, but rather to learn from margins they need to better exploit to positive effect in order to maximize their 2017 potential.
Hence the team motto -- 'Capitalize.'
Before they can take their chances, creating more of them is the first task, and Healy feels he has a lineup that can do that, possessing the ball more and more efficiently, playing the ball from the defense through the midfield and onto the forwards -- "playing from the back" -- and putting more pressure on the opposition.
Defensively, the 2016 Hilltoppers were solid, and even though they lost team captain and central defender Stella Spotts to graduation, Healey has seen the continued rise of junior Claire Murdock which will ease the transition. Murdock and sophomore Fritzie diMayorca -- who has had a strong pre-season -- will anchor the center of the defense in front of senior goalkeeper Catherine Maloney. The outside back positions in Healey's 4-3-3 formation will feature a mix of players, including seniors Iria Diaz and Leila Esposito, with Healey noting that a starting spots and 'minutes' were still rooted in intense competition between myriad players just days before the season's start.
The center of the park will see seniors Kaleigh Brennan and Anna Turk joined by freshman Skye Gilbert, with Healey looking for "more movement, pulling the opposition and creating channels" to exploit.
Up top, senior Helen Louise Johnson and sophomore Keegan Mayer will partner along with a committee of potential third attackers, likely to include senior Katie Bronikowski, junior Kelsey Space, and the versatile Esposito.
Team captains are Brennan, Johnson, Turk and Esposito.
Winning their division, an achievement Healey believes the team has "a legitimate shot at," doing damage in the County tournament, and getting some state tourney success are on the docket of goals set by Healy and his Hilltoppers, with the season commencing September 5 v. Union on the Upper Turf Field.
2017 Summit High School Girls Varsity Soccer Team Roster
13 - Kaleigh Brennan, Midfield, Senior (C)
10 - Helen Louise Johnson, Forward, Senior (C)
23 - Anna Turk, Midfield, Senior (C)
20 - Leila Esposito, Defense / Midfield / Forward, Senior (C)
1 - Catherine Maloney, Goalkeeper, Senior
8 - Iria Diaz, Defense, Senior
11 - Julia McGrath, Midfield, Senior
3 - Mary Nelson, Defense, Senior
5 - Carly Space, Defense / Forward, Senior
16 - Katie Bronikowski, Forward, Senior
14 - Emma Cho, Defense, Senior
19 - Kerri Palphreyman, Defense, Senior
9 - Charlotte Harris, Forward, Senior
12 - Claire Murdock, Defense, Junior
2 - Anna Griffith, Defense, Junior
6 - Kelsey Space, Forward, Junior
15 - Keegan Mayer, Forward, Sophomore
01 - Sophie Zachara, Goalkeeper, Sophomore
4 - Renee Hayford, Defense, Sophomore
25 - Ariel Schultz, Midfield / Forward, Sophomore
22 - Fritzie diMayorca, Defense, Sophomore
7 - Skye Gilbert, Midfield, Freshman
(C) - denotes team captain
Head Coach - Gary Healey
Assistant Coach - Matt Carder
JV Head Coach - Laura Cataldi
Freshman Head Coach - Anthony Ferrante
2017 Summit High School Girls Varsity Soccer Team Schedule
All home matches played on the Summit High School Upper Turf Field
Sept. 5, 4 p.m. v Union
Sept. 7, 4 p.m.@ New Providence
Sept. 9, 2:30 p.m. @ Rahway
Sept. 12, 4 p.m. v. Governor Livingston
Sept. 14, 4 p.m @ Cranford
Sept. 16, 2 p.m. v. Oak Knoll
Sept. 20, 4 p.m. @ Villa Walsh Academy
Sept. 28, 4 p.m. Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Sept. 30, Time TBD v. TBD @ TBD - Union County Tournament
Oct. 2, 4 p.m. v. Rahway
Oct. 5, 4 p.m. v. Westfield
Oct. 7, 4 p.m. v. TBD @ TBD - Union County Tournament
Oct. 10 , 4 p.m. v. Bernards
Oct. 12, 4 p.m. v. Union Catholic
Oct. 14, 4 p.m. v. TBD @ TBD - Union County Tournament - Quarterfinals
Oct. 17, 4 p.m. @ Oak Knoll
Oct. 19, 4 p.m. v. Governor Livingston
Oct. 20, 4 p.m. @ Chatham
Oct. 21, 4 p.m. v. TBD @ TBD - Union County Tournament - Semifinals
Oct. 25, 4 p.m. v. New Providence
Oct. 27, 4 p.m. @ Morristown
Oct. 28, 2 p.m. v. Ridge
Oct. 30, 4 p.m. @ Union Catholic