Meagan DiCave remembers how young her Ridley team was a year ago.
DiCave would take a look around the field and see mostly sophomores running around with a few juniors sprinkled in and while the Green Raiders took their lumps at times, there was also a lot to be excited about.
This year, DiCave is hoping that the additional experience pays big dividends for Ridley as it eyes up a spot at or near the top of the Central League standings.
“The upperclassmen bring a lot of experience to the table, which is nice, because last year we were very young,” DiCave said.
And while there are a lot more juniors and seniors headlining DiCave’s roster, things start with a freshman in goal for the second straight year. Kristin Saraceni, last year’s goalie, moved to midfield, so Ridley is relying on Caitlyn Johnson to make sure shots don’t go in the net.
“She’s extremely coachable,” DiCave said of Johnson. “She has a really great attitude, a good head on her shoulders and she’s very vocal. You’d never know that she was a freshman with how she is with coaches and teammates.”
Johnson will have a pretty solid team in front of her to work with, though. It’s an experienced defensive group with senior captain Amy Loftus, fellow senior Lisa Saraceni and junior Nicole DiNardo tasked with keeping the amount of good looks sent Johnson’s way down. Loftus is a vocal leader who will anchor the defense, while DiCave singled out DiNardo’s energy level, aggressiveness and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Ridley’s also going to score goals and lots of ’em. At the forefront of a balanced offense should be seniors and Shippensburg signees Jamie Hills and Annemarie Cericola. Hills will be the attack’s leader, while Cericola will be the engine that makes the midfield go. Shae Risley is another senior midfielder that should make noise for the Green Raiders.
“Jamie’s a great personality, a great role model and a great leader for us,” DiCave said. “She’s upbeat and energetic and she anchors our attack.”
Twins Lisa and Sam Brennan will also be counted upon for key contributions. The juniors are asked to do different things – Liz is an attack, Sam is a defensive midfielder – but DiCave thinks both have carved out roles for themselves on the team. They’re one of four sets of sisters on the team, which, according to DiCave, makes a big difference.
“It’s nice to have so many sisters on the team,” DiCave said. “They’re all very supportive and positive, plus, they’re obviously familiar with each other.”
Ridley has its work cut out if it wants to join the likes of Strath Haven, Radnor, Garnet Valley, Springfield, Harriton and Conestoga in the race for a league title. All but Springfield made the state tournament a year ago and the Cougars were the last team out as the No. 8 seed from District One, and they’ve come out for this season guns blazing and scoring goals like it’s going out of style. However, DiCave knows that an experienced team can go a long way, shock prognosticators and blow up preseason predictions.
“The biggest thing in my first year is that we had a lot of young players,” DiCave said. “At one point, I think we started six sophomores and a freshman last year. Everyone’s back, which is really nice. Caitlyn being the solid goalie that she is will only help us. We had a really good indoor league and everyone’s on the same page.”
Always a good start.
– MATT CHANDIK