Heartbreak last October turned into offseason determination for the Burrell girls soccer team.
The Bucs saw their 2017 WPIAL Class 2A playoff runcome to a sudden end with a 3-2 overtime loss to Yough in the quarterfinals. But that disappointment wasn’t able to wipe out the success of the campaign, including a 12-4-1 record and a runner-up finish in Section 2.
The players are hoping they will be able to take that next step, challenge for a section title and make a deeper postseason run.
“We worked so hard in the offseason,” senior defender Kaylee Pagane said. “The whole summer, we were focused in workouts to get to this season. I think we are well prepared. We just have to put the finishing touches in before the season begins.”
Ten players with starting experience are back. Coach Shelby Noll said the team is showing strength through versatility.
“We’re focusing our attention on the way we play and the positioning of the players,” Noll said. “We’re still trying to find where everyone fits and what their role is best on the team. Someone might start the game at one position and then move around to a different position by the end of the game. There is a lot of flexibility among the players in playing all of those positions and fitting all of those roles.”
Noll and the other coaches hope to get a good look at where the team stands Tuesday in a scrimmage against Greensburg Salem at 6 p.m. at Burrell High School.
“You can practice and scrimmage all day against your own teammates, but until you get into a game-type atmosphere with game speed, that’s the true test,” Noll said. “I know everyone is looking forward to the scrimmage to see where we are right now. That will give us a better idea of where we can move girls around.”
Burrell said goodbye to leading scorer Leesha Wagner, who is on the women’s soccer team at Waynesburg University.
Midfielder Morgan Weeter, forward Maggie Schwartz and goalkeeper Ally Klems also graduated.
There is a large contingent of juniors on 22-player roster, which includes only two freshmen.
Noll said there will be no junior varsity team.
“We lost a few key players from last year, but we have some returning players who can fill those spots nicely,” she said.
Skylar Dale (midfield), Danica Johnson (midfield/forward) and Cara Fiore (forward) are among those who will be looked upon for scoring.
Fiore finished with 12 goals last season. Johnson scored a goal in each of the team’s two playoff games.
“Hopefully, we can find even more scoring and keep it balanced,” Noll said.
Jordyn Kowalkowski and Maia Ferra also will be counted on heavily in the midfield.
The backfield will have Pagane, who will be joined by Annie Weimer, Allison Vescio and Bella Glaister.
“They are forming a strong defense, and we can rotate some of them to the midfield and possibly to forward if needed,” Noll said.
Delaney O’Brien saw time in goal last year and will take over full time this year after the loss of Klems.
“She will fill in nicely there. She’s a solid keeper,” Noll said. “It was important to get her as much experience last year because we knew she would be in there this year. She’s definitely ready.”
Freeport enters the season as the defending Section 2 champs. The Yellowjackets went 11-0-1 last year with their only blemish coming in a 0-0 tie against Springdale.
The Dynamos and Deer Lakes also were playoff qualifiers. However, Springdale was moved out of the section in the offseason.
In its place is Apollo-Ridge which moved up to 2A after earning a playoff spot in Class A in 2017.
“There will be a lot of good competition and a lot of good games,” Noll said. “A lot of the teams are in the same situation where they lost some key players but also have some talent back. It should be pretty competitive. I want close games and games that are exciting.”
Burrell kicks off its season Aug. 31 at the Indiana tournament. Their opening match will be at 3 p.m. against DuBois, a 4A team from District 9.
“That will really set the tone for the season, and we want to be prepared as much as possible,” Noll said. “One of the biggest things is to keep the girls healthy and injury free. We have 22 girls this year, and a lot of them will get varsity time and experience.”
The Bucs jump right into section play Sept. 5 at home against East Allegheny.
“We’re just focusing on our first couple of games and coming out strong and building from there,” Dale said. “We want to make it back to the playoffs and do well there, but we can’t look too far ahead.”