WESTFIELD, NJ — After a disappointing end to last year’s season, the Westfield Varsity Girls Soccer program is hitting the ground running this fall. The Lady Blue Devils won their first two games, defeating Governor Livingston 4-0 and rivals Scotch Plains-Fanwood 1-0.

The girls ended last year with a stellar 15-0-5 record but ultimately could not win a county or state championship.

“Losing in both the county tournament and the state tournament in PK's was tough, but has really motivated this year's team and has given them all a common goal,” head coach Alexander Schmidt said.

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The team includes 13 seniors, led by captains Natalie Bond and Grace Elliot, who are both entering their fourth year on varsity soccer. Most of them are returning varsity players, in addition Mount Saint Mary’s transfer Katie Butler.

“Not a single one of us has won a county or state championship, so we have a ton of motivation to leave our mark behind this season and to win the county championship and make a far run in states,” Bond said. “With it being my senior year, the time is now to beat teams we haven’t beaten before, win titles we haven’t won for years and to take chances that will ultimately pay off.”

The girls took their annual preseason trip to the Fairview Lake YMCA camp, a trip that their coach sees lots of value in.

“This is the fourth year in a row that we have gone to Fairview Lake in Newton, NJ. I love this trip because it is pure team-building — we don't even bring a soccer ball with us, ” Schmidt said. “As coaches you can teach the x's and o's, but at the end of the day, if you are not playing for your teammate next to you then what's the point? During the trip the girls learn to push each other through obstacles and long runs through the woods, learn the value of communication and learn that it's okay to be vulnerable with your teammates and let them see sides of you that normally they wouldn't see on the field. I'm grateful that the parents support our trip and give us the opportunity to help grow the team in an environment away from Westfield.”

The team is working to fill the gaps left behind by key players last year including Taylor Morgan, now playing at the University of Alabama, and Lizzie Brucia, now playing at the University of Georgia.

“With Lizzie Brucia and Taylor Morgan being gone, both remarkable players in their own ways, yes their shoes will be hard to fill, but we are definitely finding the pieces,” said Bond. “Both our goalkeepers, Caitlin Ammad and Erin Harris, are doing great things in goal and continue to impress. And in the middle and up top, we have a plethora of players who can score and get the job done.”

Some of the team’s strengths this year include a dynamic, physical offense and an organized defense.

“We are looking to high press this year and with our speed and physicality, I think we will be able to win the ball back in the attacking third and get shots off quickly,” Bond added. “In addition to our fast attack, our defense is very strong and I believe will come in clutch when games are on the line.”

The team’s next game will take place Thursday at home against Union Catholic.

Daniel Sokolin is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.