The last thing its opponents want to hear is this: Northwestern, which has not lost a regular season Colonial League girls soccer game since 2011, has its top three scorers back.
William and Mary recruit Sarah Segan, the 2013 Morning Call Player of the Year who already has 101 career goals, teams up with fellow Morning Call first-teamer Sabrina Mertz (27 goals) to give the Tigers a solid scoring punch in two parts of the field. Figure in Angela Motolese (18 goals), and Northwestern will again be very difficult to figure out on its quest to win a 10th Colonial title in coach Kelly Bleam's 17 seasons.
But as has been the case for several seasons, the competition will come at Northwestern from several directions.
Despite heavy graduation losses, Bangor has a powerful scoring punch in Melissa Guydish and Danielle King. Behind Muhlenberg recruit Makenzie O'Brien (35 goals) and Annelise DePaulo, Moravian Academy is an up-and-coming threat.
Olivia Simone and Notre Dame of Green Pond won some big games down the stretch last season, while Saucon Valley, Salisbury and Southern Lehigh all have potential to win in October.
New coaches in the league this year include Chris Willman at Palisades and Michael Missmer at Pen Argyl.
Coach: Ken Wilson (15th season)
Key players: sr. F Melissa Guydish (25 goals, 2nd team CL), jr. M Danielle King (17 goals, 2nd team CL), sr. M Emma Daly, jr. D Allison Phillips.
Outlook: Guydish and King can score, but the Slaters lost eight starters to graduation. "We are looking at filling in those positions and hopefully our new players will be able to learn quickly and be competitive," Wilson said.
Coach: Trajano Bastidas (9th season)
Key players: sr. Christina Cawley, sr. Amber Weaver, sr. Krys Roberts.
Outlook: "Our goal is to compete with every team," Bastidas said. "We have had an excellent pre-season thus far. Now it's just a matter of putting our players in the right spots. We will be ready to play in the season opener."
MORAVIAN ACADEMY (13-5-1)
Coach: Lauren Calabrese (3rd season, 19-13-2)
Key players: sr. F Makenzie O'Brien (1st team CL, 35 goals), sr. M Annelise DePaulo (13 goals), jr. M Ashley Ender (2nd team CL, 18 goals), jr M Sarah Burcaw.
Outlook: The Lions moved closer to the top CL teams a year ago. Can they continue? It is possible, with O'Brien, a Muhlenberg recruit, and DePaulo, a Scranton commit. "Although we graduated a few key seniors this past year, the team returns a talented group of dedicated players," Calabrese said. "If we can establish consistent performance in both practice and game settings, I am confident that the team will be a formidable force in the league and district."
NORTHERN LEHIGH (2-13)
Coach: Jason Reinhard (4th season, 8-42-1)
Key players: sr. D Emily Bevans, sr. D Erin Fleischmann, jr. M Lexie Merkle.
Outlook: Can the Bulldogs turn the corner this year? "The girls have been working very hard this offseason and preseason," Reinhard said. "We hope to get better with each day as individuals and as a team."
Coach: Kelly Bleam (17th season, 290-66-12)
Key players: sr. F Sarah Segan (two-time all-area, 101 career goals), sr. M Sabrina Mertz (all-area, 27 goals), sr. M Angela Motolese (18 goals), sr. D Lexi Gawelko, sr. GK Laura Hill.
Outlook: The Tigers, a state qualifier a year ago, bring back their top three scorers, but Bleam will have to replace some defenders as she approaches 300 career wins. "My expectation for this season is to see this dominant senior class provide impeccable leadership for its team," she said. "We have not set team goals as of today, however with the above expectations met, I am sure our goals will be within reach."
NOTRE DAME-ES (6-7)
Coach: Shastri Spencer (2nd season, 6-7)
Key players: sr. GK Lizzie Pope, sr. D Allison Peeney, so. F Krista Kissell.
NOTRE DAME-GP (12-7-1)
Coach: Sue Aquilina (2nd season, 12-7-1)
Key players: sr. M Olivia Simone (1st team CL, 11 goals, 17 assists), sr. D Sam Cabone (2nd team CL), sr. D Lexi Fabey.
Outlook: Aquilina has 10 returning seniors for her second season, but that's not all. "We will be pairing a very talented group of upperclassmen with many skilled underclassmen," she said. "The entire team is excited for a successful year in the Colonial League."
Coach: Chris Willman (1st season)
Key players: sr. F Sydney Bartone (15 goals, 2nd team Colonial), sr. M Annie Lodwig, sr. D Amanda Nichols, jr. D Ally Badman (2nd team Colonial).
Outlook: Five one-goal losses prevented a much more successful season in 2013. Willman, a former assistant at Northwestern, Parkland and Palisades, hopes a defensive mind-set switch is the difference. "This year the team will focus on finishing and closing out games and team will also need to adjust to a different defensive style," he said.
PEN ARGYL (1-12)
Coach: Michael Missmer. (No further information available)
Coach: Rick Babyak (3rd season, 22-15-2)
Key players: jr. GK Jordan Kamp (1st team all-area), jr. M Sarah Reilly, jr. D Sophie Niesenbaum, jr. M Emily Batman, so. M Caylin Meikrantz.
Outlook: We hope to be a competitive team in the Colonial League. Babyak hopes that a strength of defense translates into more offense. "We are a young team with high potential," he said. "Key will be organizing our young defense and generating goals from multiple sources."
SAUCON VALLEY (16-5)
Coach: Stevie Ochse (10th season, 119-64-4)
Key players: jr. M Lauren Binn, (19 goals, all-area), jr. M-F Paige Jones (10 goals, 2nd team CL), jr. M Annika Sundlof, sr. GK Helen Ross.
Outlook: "After graduating five multi-year starters, 2014 could be a rebuilding year for the program," Ochse said. "We have a nice mix of returning veterans and young, eager players. Although we may be inexperienced in some positions the girls' never-quit mentality and positive attitude will help us in the close games."
SOUTHERN LEHIGH (15-5-1)
Coach: Doug Roncolato (16th season, 212-115-17)
Key players: sr. M Abbey Cerciello (14 goals, 2nd team CL), sr. GK Ali Moyer, sr. M Mackenzie Koziel, jr. D Bridget Cerciello (8 goals, 2nd team CL), jr. D Erin Donnelly.
Outlook: "With only five seniors, we will be a young team," Roncolato said. "Once we figure how to get our best 11 working as a unit, we should compete with everybody in the league and hope to make a postseason run."
Coach: Chris Mease (6th season, 48-57-3)
Key players: sr. D Ariana Caiati, sr. M Shelby Soliwoda, jr. D Alexia Claudio, jr. M Sydney Brannon, jr. M Akaylah Mease.
Outlook: The Warriors hope that this is the year they return to prominence. "The mix of experienced girls and newcomers is creating a lot of energy," Mease said. "The drive to return to district play is creating competition all over the field."
Tim Shoemaker is a freelance writer.Copyright © 2015, CT Now