Girls soccer hopes to take a step forward
The Emmaus girls soccer program took a big step forward last season.
Even though the Hornets failed to fight their way into a crowded field for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs, they used the time off to focus on districts and it paid off. The Hornets, who finished the season 8-6-2, reached the District 11 semifinals before falling to rival Parkland by a 1-0 margin.
This season, the Hornets are on a mission to make it into not just the conference playoffs and districts, but to go deep into both, at the very least.
One of the selling points for a good season is the experience and depth that the team has coming into the season.
The roster features 14 seniors and seven juniors, many of whom have been three-year starters with the team. Add to that some talented young players who have joined the group and head coach Sarah Oswald, who is entering her fifth season as head coach, has plenty of reason for optimism.
“We’re returning a ton of talent and returning a lot of players with experience,” she said. “The players that are just joining us this year – three juniors and three freshmen – they’ve stepped up their game. They’ve done everything that we’ve expected from them and fit in very well.
“I think this season is going to be a success because everyone is so into working together and we’re on the same page.”
Goalkeeper Alexa Ryan showed herself to be one of the better keepers in the Lehigh Valley last season and returns for her senior season. Ryan recently committed to Bloomsburg to continue her academic and athletic career in college. She’ll be backed up by two players who are new to the varsity roster.
“We have two other keepers who have joined us,” said Oswald. “We have Angelica Clifton, who moved here from Texas, and we have Gabby Kreiner, who moved from the JV team. So, in goal, we’re very solid no matter who is in there. We’re looking for Alexa to kind of control the game between the posts and command what we’re looking for from our back line.”
Forward Lily Schmitt, who scored seven goals last season, will team with fellow senior Gianna Albanese, who added five goals, to form a strong duo up front. Seniors Morgan Dill, Maddie McWhinney and Grace Eisenhard have junior Isabella Ingato to help defensively in front of Ryan.
Graduation took away Maddie Fey, Kellie Reith, Maggie Grant and Sarah Smith, among others, but Oswald has had players who have stepped up in practice and in scrimmages to slide into opportunities for extended playing time this season.
“Because we have so many kids who were rostered with us last year and got experience and got exposure, the rolls that we’re filling from the varsity players who left us – in our back line, in our forward line – kids have absolutely stepped up and filled those rolls nicely,” said Oswald.
Emmaus will open the season on the road for two games, starting with Northampton (7-11 last season) on Saturday. They won’t have to wait long to get another shot at Parkland (23-3), which hosts the Hornets next Wednesday in Emmaus’ second game of the year. Their first home game comes next Friday against Nazareth (13-8-1).
The EPC won’t get any easier this season with conference and district champion Parkland coming back with a strong roster and Nazareth, Stroudsburg (14-6) and Whitehall (17-4) all looking to build on success from last season. Emmaus’ run through districts opened eyes and the program won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season as the Hornets navigate the schedule with targets on their backs.
“Our kids know what the expectation is from them and from this team and know what our competition looks like coming into the season,” Oswald noted. “There’s really no easy game when we step onto the field, especially in our division, so they’re ready to hit the road running. They’ve challenged themselves and each other in the offseason to just make sure the seniors have a successful final season in every aspect.”