STAC GIRLS SOCCER: EXPERIENCED, BUT YOUNG WAVERLY ENTERS NEW FRONTIER IN 2023 — THE STAC
(2023-08-30)By TIM BIRNEYValley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Longtime Waverly girls soccer coach Tara Hogan says her Lady Wolverines are experienced, but young heading into a new frontier in 2023 — the Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC).
“I’d say our experience, outside of playing on this team, is definitely a strength,” said Hogan. “We have more girls that play club (soccer) than we’ve had in any other year.”
The Lady Wolverines are coming off a 13-2-1 season that included the program’s second IAC Large School championship, and a berth in the Section IV, Class B semifinals, where it dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Owego.
Waverly joins the STAC’s Central Division, which also includes Chenango Forks, Chenango Valley, Owego, and Seton Catholic.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be a very humbling experience.
“The veterans on this team are not use to losing, and they’re not use to having the day-to-day challenges we’ll see in the STAC,” said Hogan.
“The IAC is very up and down … we had some really good games, and challenges, and we had ones where we could catch our breath, and get a lot of girls playing time,” she noted. “I’m curious to see how our veterans are going to deal with adversity if we lose a game or two,”
“Every year, before the first game I ask the girls, ‘what message do you want to send?’
“Now, it’s more than ever, we’re in a brand new league. We don’t know a lot about these teams,” added Hogan. “We play Norwich, we haven’t played them in five year. What message do we want to send our STAC opponents.”
The Lady Wolverines only lost three seniors, but one was Kennedy Westbrook, who is now at Division I NJIT, but will miss this season with a knee injury.
“Losing Kennedy (Westbrook) is the like the equivalent of losing three players on the field,” said Hogan. “More than just her skills, he actual presence on the field and everything she brought to the team.
“I need a presence like her,” added Hogan. “I’m hoping our experienced seniors step up.”
Waverly took a big blow on the first day of preseason practice when Kennedy Westbrook’s sister, junior Addison Westbrook also suffered a knee injury.
“Her season is to be determined … her injury going to hurt us,” said Hogan.
“Addison (Westbrook) went from being a solid forward to an extremely reliable midfielder last year,” she added. “I was expecting big things this year … it’s just a tough situation.”
Waverly opens the season Wednesday at home against Norwich, and the day before the game Hogan said she still had some decisions to make.
“We scrimmaged (Monday) … it was very informative, and gave us a lot of insight into what we’re working with,” she said. “We still have some question marks.
“As of right now, we have five spots that are question marks for our staring line-up,” Hogan added.
Junior Lea Cole will start in net for the Lady Wolverines, with sophomore Claire Clonch serving as her back-up.
“Lea (Cole) has some experience, we just need to work on her confidence,” said Hogan.
Former Waverly standout Zoe Mennig, who played at SUNY Oswego, has been working with Cole during the preseason.
“Zoey Mennig has been working with her on technique and strategies … now, she has to take what she’s working on in practice and use it in the game,” said Hogan.
Clonch will start at left-defender, with senior Paige Robinson at center-defender, and senior Olivia Robinson on the right side.
“Claire (Clonch) can play in the midfield, go up top, or play in goal, like she did last year,” said Hogan. “She will do whatever I ask of her, and do it well.”
“(Paige Robinson) is a brick wall, saving us time and time again,” noted Hogan. “She is smart, and incredibly reliable.
“(Olivia Robinson) is a smart player … she’s started for the last two years, and is very reliable,” added Hogan.
Junior Isabella Gonzalez and freshman Hannah Carpenter will also vie for time on defense.
Freshman Makenzie Olmsted will man the defensive-midfield position
“Makenzie played for a national championship on her travel team this summer,” said Hogan. “She can play and is ready to go.”
Hogan said there are still decisions to be made in the center-mid.
“Still messing around with who will be our center-mids,” she said.
Senior Lea VanAllen is an option at center-mid, but will most likely see time at forward.
“Lea is strong enough to shoot from well outside the box, and knows the position,” said Hogan. “We don’t want to steal too much from our forwards, though.
“Center-mid is a question mark, but Lea VanAllen is not,” added Hogan. She’s reliable, and I’m hoping she takes her game to the next level and is even more of a leader for our team in her fifth varsity season.”
Sophomores Delaney Wheeler, who is back after a year away from the program. and Madison Cron are also options at center-mid, as is 8th-grader Kendal Rockwell.
“Delaney (Wheeler) played with more confidence (at the scrimmage) than I thought she would, and I was happy to see that,” said Hogan.
“I would love to try (Rockwell) in the stopper / sweeper because she is tall and athletic, but she could need her in center-mid if we move VanAllen up top,” added Hogan.
Senior Abby Blauvelt is another option at center-mid.
“Abby Blauvelt works well under pressure, we’ve seen good things from her in the past.”
“As of right now, outside-mid’s are question marks, too,” said Hogan.
Sophomore Haley Larrabee, senior Abby Blauvelt, and 8th-grader Maci Wheeler are among Waverly’s options at outside-mid.
“Larrabee has really shown a lot of effort and that bodes well for her,” said Hogan. “She is strong and more physically fit … she wants to learn, and wants to be on the field.”
Junior Loralye Anthony, who is new to the program, could also factor in in the midfield, or at forward.
“She really surprised us (at the scrimmage) … she was everywhere,” said Hogan.
If VanAllen stays in the midfield, Hogan has other options in junior Kiley Stillman, freshman Ryleigh Judson, senior Faith Blauvelt, and 8th-grader Kaylin Twedt at forward.
“(Stillman) has really gotten more vocal, more confident, and more comfortable on the field. And, she’s reliable,” said Hogan. “She could also see time at center-mid.
“(Judson) is a tried-and-trued forward right now, but with a year under her belt and a better understanding of the game, I may try her in the midfield, noted Hogan. “Her speed is much-needed, that’s why I like her up top.
“(Twedt) may be the fastest player on the team,” added Hogan. “If we can get her up to speed technically, she could be very dangerous. She shows a lot of promise.”
Hogan believes experience is a strength for the Wolverines. What is her biggest concern?
“It’s kind of the same answer in a different way,” she said. “We have a lot of newcomers … because we are so young, it’s a gift and a curse.
“We have some newbies who aren’t playing travel, and it takes those girls time to find their niche.
“I’m hoping my five seniors realize they’re helping to prep these girls for next year,” added Hogan.
Another concern is how her veteran players react to the influx of young talent.
“I would say some of our veterans are too comfortable, and with these new girls coming in, with the strength they have, I think my veterans are going to be pushed.
“If the veterans don’t realize it already, they will realize soon that some of our new girls are showing effort, grit and determination to get on the field,” said Hogan.
“I’m not fearful, but I am wary … I’m hoping they will step up, and not shut down,” added Hogan. “I’ve experienced it both ways in the past.”
IN PHOTO: Waverly’s Lea VanAllen. … VSR STOCK PHOTO.
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