With last year’s leading goal scorer suiting up once more for Beverly, the Panthers are gunning for a state championship. Senior Caitlin Harty netted 50 goals last season, leading Beverly to the Division 1 North title and a state tournament berth.
“We have pretty much our core coming back, so we’re looking really good so far,” said coach Kristin Simpson, whose team drops into Divisoion 2 this year. “We have a lot of experience, which I think will help us.”
In addition to Harty, the Panthers return four Northeastern Conference All-Stars. Eva Gourdeau, who had a conference-leading 19 assists, will join Harty up top, while Kristin O’Connor, Deandra Crowley, and Kacey Cook will hold down the midfield.
Cook switched from midfielder to goalkeeper last postseason, but will be freed up to play in the field full time.
“The biggest thing I’m worried about is there is a lot of expectation for us to do well this year, whereas last year there weren’t any expectations,” said Simpson. “It will come down to how we can mentally prepare for every single game.”
With Division 2 Player of the Year Lauren Berman of Canton and Mimi Borkan of state champion Medfield lost to graduation, the race for the Division 2 crown should be interesting. Cardinal Spellman, Newburyport, East Bridgewater, and Hamilton-Wenham are teams that return talented players and will make it tough for Medfield to defend. Duxbury’s Nicole Gavin, a junior, will not play because of a torn ACL.
Franklin, the defending Divsion 1 state champion, lost Division 1 Player of the Year Kristi Kirshe to graduation and things are not quite clicking for the Panthers.
“We don’t seem to be all on the same page yet for whatever reason,” said coach Tom Geyson, entering his 29th season. “We should be better than we are. We have a lot of kids coming back and there’s some talent here, so if we can straighten out whatever is going wrong at the moment we have the potential to be a good team.”
Central Catholic, however, is more than ready to reclaim the Divison 1 title — the Raiders captured the state championship in 2010 when this year’s senior class were just freshmen. Last year, their season came to a disappointing end in the North sectional final when Beverly prevailed on penalty kicks.
“That left a really bad taste in our team’s mouth,” said Central Catholic coach Casey Grange. “The girls started preparing for this season the next day.”
Twelve seniors fill out the Raiders’ roster, but it’s junior forward Alli Wiggins, who scored 12 goals last season, who is Central’s greatest threat. Fellow strikers Courtney Walsh and Aly Spencer also are returning starters. Expect center midfielder Kylie Regan to get up into the attack as well, while Stephanie May and Erin Berube hold down the back line.
“They know what it takes to win and know what it feels like to lose,” said Grange.
Other Division 1 teams in the mix are Lincoln-Sudbury, Needham, Oliver Ames, Newton North, Concord-Carlisle, Bishop Feehan, and Peabody.
In last year’s Division 3 Eastern Mass. final, Norwell played Weston to a 0-0 tie before losing on PKs. This season, Norwell has to fill the holes left by 10 graduated seniors if it hopes to again capture the South title. In the North, Lowell Catholic has a strong junior class that could challenge defending state champion Weston.
Also, girls’ soccer debuts this season in Division 4.