By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — The Tioga girls soccer team has just 12 players on its roster in 2019, but that’s old hat for the Lady Tigers, who have had similar numbers in each of the last two seasons. Coach Jim Walsh believes his team will improve on its one-win season in 2018.
(Tioga opens the 2019 season Tuesday at Moravia.)
“The nice thing is these girls went through it last year, so they know what to expect this year,” said Walsh. “They know they have to be conditioned.
“Except for one senior, they are all back, and we only have two newcomers. I see more cohesiveness, and they know what they have to do,” he noted. “This is not unexpected, they went through the trial of it last year, and I think that will help them this year.
“That said, conditioning, with just one sub, is an issue we will have to contend with.
“I told the girls, I’d like to at least double our win total, and cut our catastrophic losses — make those games much closer, and possibly pick up a couple wins in those games,” added Walsh.
The Lady Tigers will once again employ a goalkeeper-by-committee rotation with sophomores Abby Foley and Gabrielle Foley, and junior Eve Wood all seeing time in the net. Senior Tessa Holstein could also be in the mix.
“Our goalie situation is my biggest concern,” said Walsh. “We have goalies capable, but not thrilled with playing the position. As a coach, it’s something I will have to finagle.
“We used a rotation there last year, and I’ll probably start with one there this year, although it’s possible newcomer Gabrielle Foley could become our full-time goalie,” added Walsh. “It’s still a work in progress.”
The Lady Tigers will also employ a different formation this season, featuring junior Cassie Birney center-back, and Holstein and one of Wood, Abigail Foley, or Gabrielle Foley at fullbacks.
Junior Madison Howey will play holding-defensive mid, which allows her to play both ends of the field.
“We made a slight switch in our alignment to a 3-4-3,” said Walsh. “Cassie (Birney) is a good defenseman, and with this switch, she’ll have a lot of pressure to be the one in the middle.
“She’ll have some help there from Madison Howey in the holding-mid position, though,” he added.
Senior Jocelyn Bradley will play right-mid, junior Jenna Smolinsky will play left-mid, and Wood, Abby Foley, or Gabby Foley will play the inside-mids.
Senior Mackenzie Macumber will man the center-forward, while junior Destini Sweet and sophomore Rachel Feeko will play on the wing.
Walsh is looking for last year’s IAC all-stars as part of an experienced core of returners to carry the team in 2019.
“We had two IAC all-stars in Mackenzie Macumber and Destiny Sweet, and I’m expecting the same types of performance this year.
“We have experience, and the girls look pretty good so far,” said Walsh. “The team unity is there, the team chemistry during the preseason has been very good.”
ON THE IAC SMALL SCHOOL DIVISION
“I think the league is a toss-up this year,” said Walsh. “A lot of the teams, throughout out both divisions lost a lot of seniors.
“We have a small division. I think our divisions a toss-up,” he said. “If we can get a couple early wins under our belt, and some confidence, we could make some noise. It’s not expectation to win the division, but I think it’s up for grabs.”
IN PHOTO: Tioga’s Mackenzie Macumber.
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