Youthful Indians intend to repeat as division champs
The reigning champions of the Susquehanna Division will be without a few key members from last year’s team, but the North East girls’ soccer squad expects to compete once again for the lower division crown.
“It will take the same formula of hard work, improving every day and playing together as a team,” said Indians coach Matt Roberts, who earned AllCounty Coach of the Year last season. “The one difference this year versus last year is we had more senior experience. This year we do we have senior leadership, but we’re going to have a lot of freshmen on the field.”
On the front end, North East must overcome the graduation of forward Brianna Christie, who netted a team-high 12 goals and dished out eight assists en route to All-County honors. The Indians must also move past the graduation of All-County defender Jamika Pugh and honorable mention recipients Delaney Bodine (goalie) and Madison Roberts (defense).
“We have some young talent coming in,” Matt Roberts said. “[We will have to gain] experience in the early part of the year, we’ll build on that and I think we’ll be ready for the Susquehanna Division. Again, when you’re playing with young players you have to take it one game at a time and every opportunity to learn is great.”
The Indians will look to returning senior midfielder Rose Benjamin, a back-toback All-County player who finished second on the team in goals (nine) and assists (seven) in 2015, as an on-field leader.
“It’s huge,” Matt Roberts said of Benjamin. “When I talk about the young people, Rose has the opportunity to really step up in the midfield and take control as one of the best players in the county. If she does that I think the freshmen will feed off of her and thrive with Rose’s ability as a passer and a scorer. I think it opens a lot of opportunities and takes the pressure off everybody else.”
Freshmen Regan Day and Jade Tabbs are expected to play significant time at forward as they attempt to fill the roll left vacant by Christie, while freshman Caroline Roberts and senior Makensie Kilby will anchor the midfield along with Benjamin.
Freshman Delaney McDilda and sophomore Grace Buegel have been battling for the starting goalie position.
“Both have been working hard and competing for the spot,” Matt Roberts said. “I wasn’t sure what we were going to have with losing Delaney, but I feel much better after a few weeks of practice.”
While the team expects to compete for a division title, a deep run in the postseason remains difficult due to a pair of Chesapeake Division teams that share the 2A East Region. Fallston, the reigning state champions, and Rising Sun, which swept its Cecil County opponents a year ago, also compete in the same playoff bracket.
The Tigers ended the Indians’ season last year with a win over their Cecil County rival in the opening round of the playoffs.
“Hopefully, [with] the experience we gained from playing against that caliber of a team, the [returning] seniors [who played in that contest] will help the freshmen for [a potential playoff rematch],” Matt Roberts said of facing Rising Sun. “Sometimes when you’re young, you don’t know any better, you just go in and play hard. They don’t know what happened, they’re just coming out to play a new game. We have to be at the top of our game because they’re by far the team to beat in the county.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig
Senior midfielder Rose Benjamin, left, will assume a leadership role on North East after earning All-County honors for a second-straight season last year.