The players on the Newton South girls’ soccer team entered this season bearing the weight of a program history that few of them had any role in creating.
Now the very young Lions are on the verge of writing a surprising new chapter.
The Lions are minus 16 of 21 varsity players and 64 of 77 goals scored from a team that advanced to the Division 1 South final last fall. Globe All-Scholastic Audrey Lavey graduated and is starting at Wesleyan University. Speedy scoring threat Lucy Jenks opted to run cross-country after winning the All-State mile title indoors and outdoors as a junior. And Larissa Williams, one of the state’s most dynamic threats and a returning Globe All-Scholastic, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament while playing in the spring.
Cassie Lee returned as the only senior starter on a freshman-laden squad one season removed from being ranked in the top five in USA Today’s national poll.
“I talked with the girls at the end of the preseason and told them that this isn’t going to be easy,” Newton South coach Doug McCarthy said.
“Nobody cares that we lost 16 players from last year. All they want to do is come in here and beat Newton South. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. At first, they didn’t know how to respond. But then you started to see they began to believe they not only could they compete, but that they could win. They began to believe in themselves.”
Five games into the season, the Lions were 3-2 after a 4-0 loss to Westford Academy on their home field. But starting with a 1-0 victory at Lincoln-Sudbury on Sept. 17, the Lions have gone from rebuilding to reloaded with an eight-game unbeaten streak.
South beat Concord-Carlisle on the road Sept. 24, won the rematch at Westford on Sept. 28, and head into Thursday’s home match vs. L-S tied with Westford for first place in the Dual County League Large at 5-1-1 in the league, and 10-2-1 overall.
■ Winchester (11-1-1) currently sits in first place in the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division with an 11-1-1 record. The defending Division 2 champion features junior Hannah Curtin (18 goals, 13 assists), the Globe’s reigning D2 Player of the Year, along with league all-star Ally Murphy (13 goals, 7 assists) and Ella Stone (9 goals, 9 assists).
“Obviously those three have been key contributors and very important players for us, but our success as a team lies in our depth and balance,” said coach Rick Emanuel .
“We have talent all over the field that makes it very difficult for opponents to break us down. We’ve only given up eight league goals this season which can sometimes get overshadowed because of our goal scorers.”
■ Undefeated King Philip (13-0-0) and Natick (7-0-3) seemingly are on a collision course to meet in the Division 1 South tournament.
Games to watch
Wednesday, Franklin at No. 1 King Philip, 3:45 p.m. — A 1-0 final seems to be in the offing of this Hockomock clash. KP has yielded two total goals in 13 games. Franklin (7-3-1) have allowed six.
Thursday, No. 8 Wellesley at No. 6 Brookline, 4 p.m. — These teams have matching 7-1-3 records and each side has allowed eight total goals. Brookline took the first meeting, 1-0.
Friday, No. 3 Winchester at Arlington, 4 p.m. — A clash of the top two teams in the Middlesex League.
Saturday, No. 5 Whitman-Hanson at No. 10 Weymouth, 6 p.m. — The Wildcats aim to sweep the season series against W-H under the lights.
Tuesday, No. 9 Westford at No. 18 Concord-Carlisle, 4 p.m. — A Dual County League showdown on Walden Street. C-C can hand Westford its first road loss of the season.
Scott Souza can be reached at ScottSouza@journalist.com.