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Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — After several years of battling to field a full 11, the Tioga girls soccer team has 18 on its roster, and longtime coach Jim Walsh is hoping 2023 will be the first step in “changing the culture” surrounding the program.

The Lady Tigers enter the season riding a 20-game losing streak, which dates back Sept. 17, 2021 — a wild 6-5 win over Newfield.

“Right away in the preseason, we talked about changing the culture.

“For years, we’ve been a door mat,” said Walsh.

“We’re looking to compete this year,” he noted. “If we can compete, and develop a winning attitude, we can change the culture.

“Hopefully, we can create a spark … not only compete, but win some games,” Walsh added.

Freshman Marcy Moniz will start at keeper for the Lady Tigers, with junior Taliah Speer, sophomore Raegan Foley, and possibly senior Sadie Parker serving as back-up.

“We had good competition for the keeper position this year, with four girls vying for the position,” said Walsh.

“It was nice to see that four girls wanted the position. It’s not an easy position to play,” he noted. “We were blessed in that regard.

“It’s been since 2016 since we’ve had any kind of competition for positions. It’s very refreshing,” added Walsh.

Seniors Kaitlyn Vasey-Hunt and Sadie Parker will start at center defensive backs, with sophomore Izzy Carter and senior Emma Jaye at wide fullback.

Senior Elyse Haney will man the defensive-midfield position, with junior Erica Bradley and sophomore Sophia Haney playing the midfield.

“Our three midfielders probably won’t be coming off the field that much,” said Walsh.

Seventh-grader Grace Howey will play the center-forward spot, and sophomores Ava Smolinski and Emily Zwierlein will start on the forward wings.

Junior Lyla Labour, senior Jenn Miner, Foley, and Speer will all vie for time on defense, while sophomore Mia Hall, 8th-grader Vida Rossi, and senior Kaylee Noyes will vie for time at forwards.

Walsh has really liked what he’s seen in the offensive end of the field.

“Our strength is in the midfield,” he said. “We have returning league all-stars in Erica Bradley and Elyse Haney … they can do it all, that’s why they’re in the midfield.

“Of course, the return of Sophia Haney, who played volleyball last year and was injured in 2021, is a big boost for us, too.

“Another strength is Grace Howey,” noted Walsh. “She’s a 7th-grader, but she’s a travel player and showed us she’s in great condition and has a lot of skills.

“Those four are a clear strength for us, and they are going to be our playmakers,” Walsh added.

Walsh is hoping the increase in numbers doesn’t become a double-edged sword.

“There have been a lot of changes this year,” he said. “We’ve had such low numbers the last few years that the girls automatically had a position.

“We had a lot of competition for positions this year, so we hope there are no setbacks there with players who started before,” added Walsh. “Hopefully, they’ll be team players and contribute when given the opportunity.”

Walsh said his team is still working on becoming a cohesive unit.

“The only other concern is it’s a new mix for us.

“We have young players, we have some older players, we have two seniors who haven’t played before,” he said. “It’s a bit of an unusual mix, but it could play to our favor. We’ll see how we gel.”

AROUND THE IAC SOUTH SMALL SCHOOL DIVISION: Tioga will once again be joined in its division by Watkins Glen, O-M, and Newfield.

“The team to beat has been O-M in the past, but this year it’s Watkins Glen,” said Walsh. “They went to the New York State quarterfinals last year, and lost a close game … they only graduated two or three, and are clearly the team to beat.”


IN PHOTO: Tioga’s Elyse Haney. … VSR STOCK PHOTO.

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