YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. - Led by Alyssa Francese, who registered two Yorktown girls soccer records, 96 career goals and 37 in a season last fall, the Huskers went 14-4-1 and lost to eventual state champion Arlington 3-2 in the semifinals of the Section 1 Class AA tournament.
The Huskers will have to move on without Francese, who is now playing at Stony Brook University but fortunately for Yorktown 17th-year coach Rich Armstrong, he has plenty of talent returning.
Yorktown, which opens the season 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 hosting New Rochelle, will be led offensively by returning seniors Ciara Frawley (captain), Ellen O’Callaghan (captain) and Angelica Castro-Avila.
“These three girls can run with the best and have a great deal of soccer sense to be very effective midfield players,” Armstrong said. “They will also see a bit of time as forwards this year.”
Sophomore forward Ariana Pjetri, plays another key role as a returning striker.
“The growth she showed last season should help propel us right from the start,” Armstrong said.
Key returning defensive players are senior captain Emily Metz, sophomore Hailey Soliz and senior goalkeeper Caroline Nachman.
“Emily is a very consistent defender and will lead our defense once again,” Armstrong said. “Her field vision when under pressure is top notch. Hailey is an extremely athletic and smart defender. She will be a key piece to our defense and will also get some time pushing forward as a midfielder. Caroline has come up huge many times over the last three years, is very sound and will lead us as a last defender with great hands and positioning.”
Returning after not playing her junior year is senior midfielder Caroline Keenaghan, who Armstrong said is curious to see the positive impact she will make.
Two key newcomers are juniors, midfielder/defender Jenna McPherson and defender Isabella Saljanin.
“Jenna is also very athletic and depending on her touch and field sense, she has the ability to make an immediate impact,” Armstrong said. “Isabella has developed very nicely and anchored the JV defense last year. We’re hoping she is ready for the jump to varsity.”
Armstrong said that the combination of the talented returners and the addition of some talented newcomers should help lead Yorktown to another winning season.
“We will learn from each match and be prepared come the playoffs to be playing great soccer,” Armstrong said. “Each day on the field will be key to our success and the leadership we get from our upperclassmen will also play a part.”
Lakeland is also coming off a winning season last fall, when it finished 10-9 and made it to the Section 1 Class A quarterfinals before losing at John Jay-Cross River 3-1.
Leading the Hornets into the season are their four senior captains Katherine Maurno (forward), Stephanie Shaloub (goalkeeper), Ashley Acevedo (defense) and Gabi Libretti (midfield). Senior defender Adrianna DeSantis also provides leadership.
They are part of a team that is full of veterans looking to navigate through a challenging Class A schedule.
“I have 13 returning seniors this year, and I’m looking for another great year with great leadership from them across the board,” said Lakeland coach Jon Hourahan, who will be entering his 10th year with the girls varsity soccer program.
Since Hourahan has so much experience on his team this season, he rightfully has high expectations.
“Our goals are to win our league with Somers, John Jay-Cross River, Walter Panas and Brewster and get a home sectional game,” Hourahan said. “We are aiming to do better than last year and make it to the sectional semis and finals.”
Lakeland will open the season at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, at Yonkers.
The Hornets’ home opener will be a very special occasion for the program as they host Beacon at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, in the Seventh Annual Michelle O’Brien Memorial Soccer Event.