South centered in debut

New roles don’t stop Pirate girls

By: Bob Nuse
   You couldn’t blame Chris Miller for having some concerns about how her West Windsor-Plainsboro High South girls’ soccer team would perform in its opening game on Friday against Ewing.
   After all, the Pirates graduated four key players who basically provided the Pirates with their strength down the middle of the field.
   "We did lose the whole center of the field," Miller said. "We lost our top goal scorer, Kristina Shemming, we lost Kelly McLaughlin, my playmaker, Kate Wyman, who was a great tackler and someone who I could count on to win things in the air, and I lost my goalie, Lauren Fucetola. So that’s the whole middle of the field. The only one left was the sweeper, and we moved her up one spot."
   The Pirates who took over in those roles certainly responded well, opening the season with a 2-1 win over Ewing. Maura McLaughlin assisted on both goals for the Pirates — the first to Bailey Mintz and the second to Megan Voigtsberger — as the team played well at both ends of the field.
   "It’s a nice way to start the season," said defender Nicole Brand, who helped limit the Blue Devils to just eight shots. "You lose people and we have a lot of new people, so it’s good to see that we can work together well.
   "We’re optimistic. We feel like we can do even better than we did last year. We’re pretty balanced on the field. We have a nice combination on offense and defense."
   Those combinations are new in a lot of ways. While many of the players return from a year ago, they find themselves in different spots on the field this year.
   "We moved our two central people up a spot each," Miller said. "We moved Kira (Mangone) up from sweeper to stopper and Voigtsberger, who was the stopper, up to defensive mid where Kate Wyman had played. We moved (Lauren) Ruta into the center to offensive mid, which I could do because Steph Hagen is healthy after being out last year. Alexa Suarez is on the left mid and the two outside backs are Nicole and Jenna (Weinstein), who are returners. So we have a lot of experience there."
   Brand is happy to be part of a defense that looks like it will be able to stop a lot of teams. The goalie — Liz Huttner — is new, but the rest of the unit has played together. And Brand, for one, has always enjoyed the idea of playing defense.
   "I just like denying the offenders the goal," she said. "They’re the ones with the big names, so if you shut them down it’s a good feeling. We’re all pretty comfortable together back there and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses."
   For a first game of the season, Miller was more than pleased with the effort she got from her team.
   "I thought the Ewing girls really played well," Miller said. "They have some dangerous players and their keeper played well. I thought we moved the ball around well. We got a ton of shots, but we have to finish better at the end. Maura had both assists today. She makes some pretty plays."
   The whole Pirate team made some pretty good plays. And that helped the team get off to a nice start with an opening win.