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NEWPORTâ€“"We couldn't have been any younger than last year."
Those were the words Coach Peter Alexander used to describe the 2010 Falcons girls soccer team. They had only four returning seniors try out for the squad last season, and one of them, Ashley Jenne was the meat and potatoes of the Falcons offense, scoring a team high seven goals for the club.
This season, the team is still young, with five sophomores on the team, but the rest of the team is more mature after going through a tough 6-6-2 season in the Capitol Conference.
However, and it is being seen across the board with the 2011 North Country fall sports teams (and I imagine it will hold true for the other seasons as well), there are a fair number of seniors (8) coming back to the team.
One of those eight, Lindsay Geoffrey, makes her way back in the nets for co-coaches Batista and Alexander. Geoffrey has been working hard to improve her overall game, and Alexander has seen some moves into the right direction.
"We've been working on her punts, (and) they're much better. She has been working on it on her own as well. Her throw is not her strength, but we are working on that too. She bowls well, and has always been a great communicator, and that is her strength. She is a senior and it is her turn to step up."
Sophomore Jenna Moss will be the back-up, and while she may not see a lot of game time action, she will no doubt benefit from having a year to work with the team in practice and to see the difference between the J/V and Varsity level of competition.
Defense will again be the focus for the Falcons, and the coaching staff is will look to a blend of youth and experience to man the backfield in 2011.
"We have a mixture of proven older players and some younger ones, so right now it looks like maybe some starting sophomores, Lindsay Gaboriault and Lizzy Alexander, those two have been playing back there and have been playing well, and they have played plenty of soccer. The more seasoned players, (like) Tiffany Morin, a third year sweeper starter and Baylee Jacobs played back up in the stopper position (in 2010), so we've got a good mix of young and old."
"I think we will be really strong," said senior Tiffany Morin, "We gained a lot of strong marking backs and we are still strong in front of me, and our stopper is still really strong."
On offense, the team focus, in Alexander's' words is to "knock the ball around, have possession, and build up from the goalie" to generate scoring opportunities. Last year offense was the teams Achilles heel, as they could not finish, or get the ball near the net.
A seldom seen face, yet four year varsity player, Cara Worth hopes to stay healthy this year as injuries have really inhibited her ability to properly showcase her skills on a consistent bases.
"When she is on, she is very dynamic," says Alexander, "She is the best dribbler on the team and has explosive speed, so if she can stay healthy that will make a difference up front."
He will also be relying heavily on the tandem of Noelle Pinard and Kate Meunier to provide the fire power to get the ball into opposing teams' nets.
"Kate and I work well together, we have played together since we were little girls so we know where each other are on the field so we can play off each other," said Pinard.
Meunier, who is making the jump to offense this season, echoed Pinards' statements saying "When we get the ball I sometimes don't have to look because I know where she is going to be from playing with her so long
Defense will again be the foundation on which the Falcons will base their style. North Country is well aware of what can happen if a team gets down by two goals or more.
"If you give up one goal the best your going to hope for is a tie. We sincerely believe that, and then two goals you're going to lose, sorry it's automatic. It is all about defense first, and the way you build an offense is through possession, breaking the field into little segments.
"So we are trying to do that and when we've looked good, we've looked great."
The Falcons hope they will look great this afternoon as they kick off their season at 4:30 as they play host to Northfield.