CATTARAUGUS — Before the Cattaraugus-Little Valley girls soccer team laced up its cleats for the season opener, coach J.J. Niemi thinks they’ve already won something.
Just by getting on the field to play, after a cancelled spring season and a summer of uncertainty, marks a victory of sorts for soccer teams.
“I'm already happy,” Niemi said of what would make the 2020 season successful. “I consider the season a success even just starting it. The fact that we can actually play is a miracle. But I think these girls and the talent that they have, I don't want to put my hopes way too high, but I think we'll have a successful season.”
The fourth-year coach admitted she didn’t know what to expect when practice finally began a little more than two weeks ago.
“I always start my season in the middle of July training with my girls, so we've been doing virtual training sessions together since then,” Niemi said. “So overall I'd say they were fairly well-conditioned, but obviously the first week back was more excitement to be back, the second week they're a little bit laggy because they did a little bit more with me in-person than we did virtually.”
The Timberwolves start the season with strong numbers: 22 girls listed on the varsity roster, including eight seniors. CLV lost only two seniors from the 2019 roster, both on the defensive side including a goalie.
“We have sort of a mixed bag of a team this year,” said Niemi. “We lost only two last year, but we gained six new little ones. I've got eight seniors, which is great because they're well-seasoned, but sad at the same time (that they'll be graduating). They're great communicators, great influencers. Overall I think the team is looking pretty good this year.
“I have almost all of my starters from last year, which is great for me, then these young ones that come up, they have so much talent, it's impressive what they can do already, jumping from a modified level to a varsity level.”
CLV went 4-13 last year. Alex Minnekine, now a junior midfielder/forward, led the team with four goals and three assists.
Seniors this year include Madison Cannon, Morganne Chapman, Chloe Covell, Maegan Ellis, RoseMarie Ellis, Lexi Mikowicz, Samantha Mowry and Allison Ritchie.
“I would definitely say my senior group are by far the leaders,” Niemi said. “They've been here the longest, they've been with me since I started coaching at CLV. They're very hands-on with the girls. If the younger ones don't understand, they're very helpful. They're just great girls.”
2020 Cattaraugus-Little Valley girls soccer schedule
(all games 4:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted)
6 — at Franklinville
8 — Salamanca
10 — at Gowanda/Pine Valley, 11 a.m.
13 — Portville
17 — Ellicottville, 11 a.m.
20 — at Randolph, 6 p.m.
22 — Franklinville
24 — at Salamanca, 11 a.m.
27 — Pine Valley
29 — at Portville
31 — at North Collins, 11 a.m.
3 — at Ellicottville
5 — Randolph
7 — North Collins, 11 a.m.