The Newark Charter girls soccer program is experienced, young and hungry, all at the same time.
The Patriots return nine starters from last year’s team that finished 8-7. That’s the experience.
Only two of those starters are seniors. Therefore, head coach Matt Hammond is relying on several young players who he hopes, despite their youth, will fall into key roles to round out the starting 11 and first few off the bench.
“They have a chance to make an impact,” the fourth-year coach said with a hint of optimism.
The hunger comes from the fact that the Patriots narrowly missed the state tournament last season after playing in it for two consecutive years.
“[Our] expectation for this season is to return to the state tournament,” Hammond said.
Co-captains Adison DuVilla (midfield/forward) and Lawson Schultz (defense/midfield) are the lone seniors who Hammond will rely on to perform on and off the field in their veteran roles.
“They will be key as far as setting the tone for the season,” Hammond said. “Schultz is a returning all-state player and DuVilla is the team’s fastest player and will look to get behind the opponent’s defense.”
Hammond is relying on a trio of veteran juniors – Danielle Ferris, Maya Scott and Claire Reader – to make significant contributions. Ferris (defense) and Scott (defense/midfield) started as eighth-graders, and Reader is one of the top goalies in the state, according to her coach.
“Ferris is an outstanding player and will anchor the defense,” Hammond explained. “Scott’s ability to play a variety of positions makes her invaluable.”
Despite her prowess as a keeper, Hammond also plans to play Reader in the field.
“Her field vision and physical presence make her an outstanding midfielder,” he explained.
Last season, Newark Charter was shut out in four games and scored just one goal in three others. Hammond hopes junior Joanna Carter and sophomore Mackenzie Hennessy can provide additional scoring for the Patriots.
“Joanne is a team player who always gives maximum effort and understands the importance of positioning,” Hammond said. “Mackenzie is an outstanding athlete who has all the tools to be a game-changer.”
Other players who return with varsity playing experience include junior Sydney Spagnuolo and freshmen Brady Doyle, Reagan Ferris and Riley Hevelow. Eighth-grader Ava Ciriaco has shown promise during the winter league and preseason.
“Ava has the skillset to contribute early,” Hammond said of the rookie.
Newark Charter is off to a 4-3 start, outscoring opponents 21 to 8. Two of the losses have come to traditional powerhouses Caravel Academy and Caesar Rodney. The third was a narrow 1-0 loss to an undefeated Archmere squad.
"This team has a chance to be very good,” Hammond said. “The key will be how they play as a team and understanding individual roles. If we play smart and don't let our youth cause us to make mistakes we will be a tough team. Last year we did not do enough of the little things that winning teams do. If we stay disciplined, even when facing adversity, we could surprise.”
Edris Graves excels at Regionals
Newark Charter freshman Edris Graves returned from the Region 7 Men’s Gymnastics Championships decorated in medals.
Graves placed second in the high and parallel bar events, third in all-around and fourth in pommel horse. The event was held April 4-7 in Landover, Md.