Hannah Reiter was sensational for the Mansfield girls’ soccer team last season.
The senior striker racked up 17 goals and five assists, earning an All-New England nod while leading her squad to a 14-1-4 record. She’s continuing her career at Quinnipiac University this fall.
Normally a team takes a step back with the graduation of a player of Reiter’s caliber. But the Hornets, ranked fifth in this week’s Globe Top 20 poll, have 19 returning letter winners, including 13 players who averaged at least 40 minutes per game last season.
Mansfield is one of several top programs that is playing on minus impact players who have either graduated or moved on to youth academies.
Each coach will face challenges, but with a few tweaks in philosophy and improved play from younger players, teams can remain competitive — and even improve.
“We never talk about how we’re going to replace this person or that person because it makes kids feel like we’re holding onto the past,” said Mansfield coach Kevin Smith . “We just have to find our identity and be who we are.”
One of the players stepping up is Mansfield junior striker Stephanie Kemp , who scored 10 goals last season, along with classmate Melissa Reef.
“We’re definitely going to miss [Reiter] on and off the field,” Kemp said. “But I don’t think it’s really going to be one person stepping up to fill that void . . . We’re definitely pretty confident playing together.”
Smith also received a big boost in the preseason with the addition of midfielder Taylor Smith, a University of Minnesota recruit who moved to town from the Seattle area.
Medway advanced to the Division 3 state final last season behind the Aviza sisters, Shannon and Isabella . But any Mustang run this season will come without the siblings.
Shannon, the reigning Tri-Valley League MVP, is a freshman defender on the women’s team at Syracuse University. And Isabella, a sophomore, is now with the Boston Breakers Academy.
While the Aviza sisters will not be drawing attention from opposing defenses, coach Jason Rojee is counting on his team’s speed and positional versatility to bridge the gap. Senior striker Abby Murphy has shown the ability to play anywhere from center back to center forward; her 15 goals last year suggested she can fill the stat sheet. Senior center back Anna Brewer is another versatile cog who will anchor the defense.
“We’ll be a little more dynamic, one through 11 this year,” said Rojee, who says the abundance of quicker players will lead to a more aggressive, pressing play style. “We’re out-pressuring [our opponent] from the beginning of the game.”
Coach Robert Sprague directed Brookline to an 18-2-1 season last year before the Warriors were eliminated in the Division 1 North semifinals.
Liz Dumas, who racked up 27 goals and 15 assists to earn Globe All-Scholastic honors, is now a freshman at Fairfield University. Emily Rabot, a second-team Bay State Conference pick, is taking the field at Wesleyan. And a trio of talented freshmen are playing academy soccer.
“We almost have to reinvent ourselves from an attacking standpoint,” Sprague said. “When we run up against teams that are big and strong [on defense], we may have some trouble.”
Luckily, reinforcements are plentiful. Senior captain Fiona Lobon moved up to striker to add scoring punch and fellow senior captain Lauren Mahoney pushed back to center back to fortify the defense.
And 20 of the 24 players on Sprague’s roster are upperclassmen.
In the back, Brookline has a dominant keeper in junior Katherine McIlroy , who according to her coach, has developed into a better distributor to ignite the attack.
The Warriors tallied a 2-1 win over Walpole in their opener, and then tied Braintree, 1-1. While they may not be the offensive juggernaut of a year ago, Sprague is confident his side will remain competitive.
“What I’m most proud about at this point is we could lose those type of players and still be in the mix,” Sprague said.
Oliver Ames trailed Sharon, 2-0, in the first half on Monday night. But the sixth-ranked Tigers rallied in the final 40 minutes, with Jackie Mills scoring two goals in a 4-2 comeback win . . . Rockland is off to a 4-0 start, thanks in large part to Grace Oliver , who notched two goals and an assist in Monday’s 4-3 win over Carver . . . No. 9 Medfield suffered its first loss of the season Monday, falling 2-1 at home to Dover-Sherborn . . . Central Catholic earned the top spot in topdrawersoccer.com’s Northeast regional poll, with Whitman-Hanson taking No. 2. Oliver Ames (4) and Hingham (7) also made the list
Players to Watch
Lauren Bonavita, Whitman-Hanson: With BU commit Taylor Kofton sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the senior forward (70-plus career goals) takes the reins of the No. 3-ranked Panthers’ offense.
Elayna Grillakis, Central Catholic: The senior Providence College commit, a two-time Globe All-Scholastic, had a hand, er foot, in 55 goals during the Raiders’ Division 1 title run last season.
Caroline Harkins, Hingham: The Harborwomen make the jump up to Division 1 this year, and the senior forward’s scoring prowess (25 goals and 19 assists last season) plays a large role in potential success.
Lexi Rothmann, Norwell: The junior tallied 20 goals and 16 assists for the Clippers last fall. She’s a key cog for a squad that reached the Division 3 South final last fall.
Kate Ryan, Winchester: The reigning MVP in the Middlesex Liberty is back to captain the Sachems. As a junior, she was an all-state selection after tallying 15 goals and 12 assists.
Games to Watch
■ Oliver Ames at Franklin, Friday (3:45 p.m.): After handily defeating North Attleboro, Franklin takes on the sixth-ranked Tigers.
■ Walpole at No. 10 Natick, Friday (3:45 p.m.): The 10th-ranked Red Hawks netted 12 goals in their first two games against Milton and Needham. Goals may be harder to come by when the Rebels come into town.
■ Hingham at Whitman-Hanson, Friday (6 p.m.): The Harborwomen’s staying power in Division 1 will be put to the test on the road against the third-ranked Panthers.
■ Scituate at Norwell, Saturday (10 a.m.): Last year’s Division 3 South runner-up faces its first true challenge of the year at home against the Sailors.
■ Bridgewater-Raynham at East Bridgewater, Saturday (11 a.m.): The 14th-ranked Trojans will travel less than 10 minutes for a matchup with the defending Division 4 champion Vikings.Correspondent Ethan Schroeder also contributed to this story. Matt MacCormack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.