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SHALLOTTE—If the West Brunswick High School girls’ soccer team struggles this season, it won’t be because of a lack of experience.
Coaches Laura Libero and Steve Nagy have 17 players returning from last year’s squad, led by all-state candidate and senior midfielder Mary Dorn.
“I’m really excited about this year because we have so many returning players, and the new players have added to the chemistry,” said Libero, the team’s head coach.
“I know it’s going to be a really successful year. We have tough competition as always, but I think they’re going to do really well.”
Dorn, who plans to continue her soccer career next year at Appalachian State, is one of five seniors returning. Others are Jordan Clear, Erin Dingess, Erin Nolan and Monica White.
Libero said she plans to use Dorn at center midfield, where she can have an impact offensively and defensively.
“She really keeps everybody in their position and is a good distributor and can take those opportunities to move forward,” she said. “Mary is fired up for next year, and I can’t wait to see how that motivates her to play this year.”
The talented junior class includes returning players Mariah Evans, Katelyn Humbert, Jordan Shaw, Elise Winner and Monica Young. Evans scored a team-leading seven goals last season, and Young is a defensive stalwart.
“Monica is going to be a key part of our defense,” Libero said. “She keeps everybody very structured, especially with a young goalie. She really is a leader back there.”
Returning sophomores include Gabby McClanahan, Kenzie McDuffie, Miriah Milliken, Rebecca Sidelinger, Sheena Suttlemyre, Mattie Tippett and goalkeeper Ariel Gravino.
“I’m really excited to have Ariel,” Libero said. “I know she’s only a sophomore, but she already is an amazing goalie. She’s going to fill those shoes well.”
Newcomers to the squad include Taylor Ambrose, Erin Oepen, Amanda Silva, Abby Harrell, Taylor Harris, Ann Frye and Deanna Leavitt.
West Brunswick finished 0-11-1 in the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference and 7-16-1 overall and qualified for the state playoffs last year.
The only two players lost to graduation were goalkeeper Amanda King and fullback Jessica Poe. Junior Jordan Winters is not expected to play this season because of a knee injury.
Libero won’t get six of her players until the end of basketball season, so the Lady Trojans could get off to a slow start.
Last Saturday, West Brunswick took a limited squad to Richlands High School and played four scrimmages. The Lady Trojans suffered 1-0 losses to Clinton and D.H. Conley and 2-0 losses to East Duplin and West Carteret.
“We only had 15 girls due to flu season and basketball season. We were a little bit short on subs,” Libero said. “The defense was extra strong. We’re missing a lot of key offensive players due to basketball.”
Evans, Clear and Suttlemyre—three of the basketball players—are expected to provide much of the scoring punch this season along with Dingess, a four-year starter.
“Their shooting and speed worked for us last year, and I hope that will carry on to this year,” Libero said.
“All of our girls have worked hard. A lot of them have made huge strides since last year. We’re starting at a much better place than last year.”
Doug Rutter is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org