High school girls soccer preview

| 28 Aug 2017 | 04:16

    By Josh Lashley
    — A pair of local girls soccer programs — Sparta High School and Pope John XXIII High School — are doing their very best to be as prepared as possible once the regular season arrives.
    Pope John has a home match scheduled versus Randolph on September 8. The Lions return a whole host of varsity level student-athletes to the roster including Jaime Walton (senior), Rebecca Moore (senior), Cat Aranda (senior), Grayson Smetana (senior), Camryn Stoner (junior), Mary Leno (junior), Heather Kretsch (junior), Taylor Collins (junior), Cristina Lloyd (junior), Serena Mulligan (sophomore) and Ellie Mulligan (sophomore).
    Promising newcomers for Pope John include Teja Brown (sophomore), Devin Brown (sophomore), Emily Somers (sophomore), Grace Pinsonault (sophomore) and Tea Magner (freshman).
    “[I look to] the four seniors to lead this young group on and off the field,’’ Pope John head coach Ryan Barbulescu said.
    The Lions compete in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference American Division along with Morris Hills, Mount Olive, Jefferson and Sparta. Last season they finished with an overall record of 11-10 and advanced to the NJSIAA Non-Public North A Sectional quarterfinal round where they were defeated, 1-0, by Paramus Catholic. They downed Benedictine in the opening round.
    “[Our goals are] winning the American Division, making the finals of the Tri-County Tournament and make the finals of the State Non-Public A Tournament,’’ Barbulescu said.
    On the same day that Pope John faces off with Randolph, Sparta will be hosing Roxbury. The Spartans advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 2 Sectional quarterfinal round last year where they lost to Ramsey. Sparta topped Jefferson in the opening round of the bracket.
    Key returning student-athletes for the Spartans this fall include Carly Seeland (senior, midfield), Haily Mead (senior, defender), Tori Seeland (junior, midfield) and Julia Flake (junior, goalie).
    Caitlyn Botti, Sparta’s head coach, mentioned junior midfielder Anya Helmer as a promising newcomer to the varsity level this year.
    “All upperclassmen [will be looked upon to lead],’’ Botti said. “We graduated nine players and are looking for all team members to step up.’’
    The Spartans are slated to host Pope John on September 29.
    “Our Division is highly competitive, so we take each game seriously,’’ Botti said. “We are looking to contend for the Division this year.’’