SALAMANCA — The Salamanca girls soccer team took a big step forward last fall. Now, even after some key losses to graduation, the Warriors don't want to look back.
Coming off a 9-8 season, Salamanca hopes to build on that with another winning year. Coach Michelle Hill said the team’s first priority will be staying safe, following all the COVID-19 protocols put in place by Section 6 and the school district; the second will be “remaining together, by doing everything right” and the third will be winning games.
“We're going to do that with that positive, hard-working attitude and effort and just fighting and battling each and every moment together as a team,” Hill said.
The team had a little more than two weeks together before Tuesday’s season opener, after a scrimmage against Eden on Saturday. The limited prep time wasn’t ideal, but Hill is confident her team will be prepared mentally.
“Even when we have a full preseason, you're never 100% ready for game action and that's what the scrimmage is going to tell us, what we need to do to improve on fitness alone, not even talking about soccer,” she said, “but also strategically as far as placement on the field, positions or just style of play. Mentally, we're ready: hard work, attitudes, they're ready. I don't think any one team is going to be 100% physically ready to start, but that's OK.”
The Warriors will need to find new sources of offense, with top scorers Aly Hill (14 goals, five assists) and Rachel Chamberlain (seven goals, 10 assists) both graduated. Losing those two created a leadership opportunity for the Class of 2021.
“That is a huge loss and Aly’s leadership was something that the girls really depended on,” Michelle Hill said. “I think at the beginning of the season, because of the circumstances some of the girls didn't even feel like the seniors on the team, because they're not in school, you don't have homecoming coming up. I think it took that first week for them to realize, 'Wait a minute, this is my last season and I've got to help make some decisions and determine what kind of season I want for myself as a senior and the rest of the team.'
“I have to say, from these seniors and two of my junior leaders, they did just that (last week) and had a phenomenal talk with the rest of the team and we had the best practice of the season just from hard work ethic from first-year players to our returning starters, intensity level, communication, working together, it was phenomenal. If they can continue to build each and every day, we are extremely excited about the prospects of this season.”
Hayli Wilson, Ryleigh John and Marla Warrior are Salamanca’s three seniors, all in their fourth varsity season.
Wilson was near clearance to return to play last week after suffering a broken ankle while running over the summer.
“She's been there and she's been a vocal leader and has not missed a practice and is an inspiration in that respect,” Hill noted. “But we are very hopeful that we'll have news that she can return to play and ease into it. She is a leader on the offensive end of the field.”
John is the team’s top returning scorer with eight goals last season.
“(Ryleigh) is a tremendous leader in her work ethic and communication and the athletes and she certainly will be an athlete that we look to to be an offensive threat for the Lady Warriors,” Hill said. “Marla Warrior is another phenomenal leader through how she models what work ethic is supposed to be in practice and she is a double-threat. She can be an offensive threat, she sees the field well as far as looking for open players and making great passes to them and creating offensive opportunities, but she also is a defensive leader in the fact that she can close that end of the field down and help to protect our own net.”
Juniors Laila Zolner and Alex Ricketts were both key defenders for Salamanca last year, though Hill hinted at a possible new role for Zolner.
“Laila Zolner has been a phenomenal leader and she is the fastest girl on the team and we've utilized that on the defensive end. We're looking to see maybe a different position for her this year... we'll just leave it at that,” Hill said. “And Alex Ricketts is another junior who, like the others, has been a terrific role model as far as work ethic and attitude in practice and helping to teach our new first-year varsity members and she is a leader on the defensive end of the field as well.”
2020 Salamanca girls soccer schedule
(all games 4:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted)
6 — at Randolph
8 — at Cattaraugus-Little Valley, 6 p.m.
10 — Ellicottville, 11 a.m.
15 — at Franklinville
17 — Gowanda/Pine Valley, 11 a.m.
20 — Portville
22 — Randolph
24 — Cattaraugus-Little Valley, 11 a.m.
27 — at Ellicottville
31 — Franklinville, 11 a.m.
3 — at Gowanda/Pine Valley
5 — at Portville