by Tom Utescher
Last fall, the girls of Friends Central School eked out a 1-0 victory over Germantown Friends in the soccer championship game in the Friends Schools League, and judging by the results of early scrimmages last week, the Phoenix and the GFS Tigers appear to be on a collision course that will pit them against one another in the 2013 league finals.
Toward the end of their first week of practice, both teams scrimmaged against the Friends School of Baltimore, which was on a two-day swing through the Philadelphia area. The Maryland team visited Friends Central on Friday afternoon and GFS on Saturday morning, and each of these practice matches ended in a 0-0 standoff.
Germantown Friends displayed more offensive punch in a another scrimmage on Friday, easily outscoring host PhilMont Christian Academy while keeping its own goalcage sealed.
The Tigers’ defensive stinginess on the scoreboard has a lot to do with the play of senior goalie Caroline Myran, who would now be a full-fledged four-year starter for Germantown if her freshman season had not been cut short by a concussion. It’s a good thing the team has the experienced Myran as its backstop, because while the club only lost two 2012 starters to graduation, both Sophie Mercuris and Katherine Walden were All-League defenders.
“It’s tough to lose Katherine and Sophie on defense, but I’m confident that we have players who can step up and fill those gaps in the back,” said second-year mentor Adrian Cox, a former head coach at Immaculata University.
Featured in the defensive unit will be Myran’s fellow senior tri-captains, Rachel Allison and Claire Schmidt. The team’s fourth senior, Schuyler Nissen, sat out Saturday’s scrimmage with a minor injury after playing against PhilMont on Friday. She is the only senior who has made her college choice, having given a verbal commitment to play lacrosse at the University of Cincinnati.
The defense in front of Myran will also include strong, skilled junior Grayson Melby, as well as a freshman standout, Hannah Hanson. Coach Cox was also able to work junior Emma Wagner into the defensive rotation on Saturday, and he’s happy with the way things are shaping up. His back-up goalie will be junior Schuyler Alig, who, like Myran, has good height and plays for the GFS basketball team in the winter season.
Farther up the field, Cox said that athletes are demonstrating a lot of versatility, and he’s still experimenting with different combinations. Two players who could perform capably at the important center mid position are junior Sophia Linguiti and sophomore Sarah Walker. Walker, a track athlete who recorded the fastest freshman 800-meter time in the nation back in May, has decided not to focus all her attention on running just yet, and that’s a boon for the soccer squad.
Another track team member who is also a returning soccer player is sprinter Taryn Millbourne, She helps round out the Tigers’ 11th grade delegation along with Greta Meyer, Sophie Trotto and new addition Julia Mankoff. Walker’s sophomore mates are three-sport star Lizzie Becker and Claire Schmidt’s younger sister, Isabel. One grade below, Hanson’s lone freshman class companion is Caroline Caroballo.
To help his squad prepare for Friends League competition, Cox has scheduled games with a number of other private school teams from the Girls Inter-Ac League: Agnes Irwin, Baldwin, Germantown Academy, Penn Charter, and Springside Chestnut Hill.
Rachel Bradburd will reprise her role as varsity assistant coach, while new arrival Jami Dansingburg will be the new JV head coach and will also help out with the varsity. Like Cox, Dansingburg is a former collegiate head coach, having piloted the Hartwick College team back in the 1990’s.