Youth­ful In­di­ans in­tend to re­peat as di­vi­sion champs

Cecil Whig - - & - By JOR­DAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

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

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

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.

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