Talk about a different look.
There’s very little that’s the same these days at Garnet Valley, from the former All-Americans plying their craft in college to the former coach, well, plying her craft in college.
The Jaguars took home the state title last year for the second year in a row on two-time All-Delco Halley Barnes‘ overtime tally to beat Strath Haven, 10-9. That came as favorites a year after upending Downingtown East as underdogs for the first title in school history.
Yet everything’s different these days.
Barnes is playing at Rutgers. Two-time All-Delco Ally Heavens is starting for Penn State as a true freshman. Passer extraordinaire and All-Delco AnnaElise Morello is at Yale. All-Delco goalie Kate Stroup is gone, as are a bevy of others who made big contributions to those two state titles. Oh, and the coach who led them to those titles? Well, Kate Henwood is the new head coach at the University of California-Davis.
So yeah, things are just a little bit different, but new coach Jenny Purvis insists that those new things don’t change expectations.
“We are the team that everyone wants to come after regardless of who graduated and who’s gone,” Purvis said. “But I think it’s fun, especially coming in a bit as an underdog.”
Don’t expect the Jaguars to completely fall off, though it might take a few games for Purvis to get everything going. However, there’s still a wealth of talent available at her disposal, and that starts with All-Delco defender Coley Ricci. Ricci, the Central League basketball MVP, is as fierce and tenacious a defender as there is in the area and she’ll be the sparkplug for Purvis’ first defense.
“She’s the kind of kid that coaches trust and we put a lot of responsibility on her,” Purvis said. “She has it all. She’s a leader. She’s a complete role model for the girls and it’s a great thing to have seniors like that. She gives 100 percent every second of every drill and that’s something we, of course, want everyone to do.”
Defensively, Purvis also thinks that sophomore Rachel Glenn can help out a lot and freshman Kara Nakrasius should contribute. Nakrasius recently suffered a concussion, but she should be back in the next week or two and should provide help on defense and out of the midfield.
“We’re more of a younger team and that creates a group of fresh kids working together,” Purvis said. “There’s a lot of creativity.”
Speaking of creativity, look for junior midfielder Haley Warden to have a breakout year for the Jaguars. Warden committed to James Madison over the summer and she already has a plethora of experience, including five goals in those two state title games. There’s a good chance that Warden will inscribe her name among the county’s elite this year and she’ll be the player that makes Garnet Valley’s offense go.
Joining her in the midfield will be senior soccer All-Delco Julia McGrath (William & Mary), who played more of a defensive role last year. On the offensive end, senior attack Ashley Pyle (West Chester) should have the best year of her career. One player that should help out in both areas is freshman Emily Mathewson.
“I keep changing my mind as to where to put her,” Purvis said. “She’s tiny but tough and she’s exceeded my expectations. She’ll go where we need her at that time.”
Taking over for Stroup in net will be junior Paige Mitros. Mitros saw spot duty as Stroup’s backup last year, but this year, she’ll take over full-time duties.
“She’s working on a lot of things,” Mitros said. “She’s really helping the defense and the defense is really helping her. She’s definitely athletic and a good communicator.”
With Strath Haven, Radnor, Harriton, Conestoga and Springfield all jockeying with the Jaguars for positioning at the top of the league, it remains to be seen whether or not Garnet Valley can come together quickly enough to take the title. But there’s enough experience to mold into form quickly, especially in the postseason. The Jaguars will be tested in Central League play right off the bat when they host the Panthers and visit the Red Raiders in the first week of league play. That will provide a quick barometer for Purvis and her team.
“I’m happy to be the underdog,” Purvis said. “And I don’t care where we start. It’s where we end and the goal is to be three-time state champion.”
Lofty? Sure. Possible? Definitely.
– MATT CHANDIK