By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern girls soccer team is returning several upperclassmen for a program that just finished under .500 last season but expect that crew to be even better in a new, revamped division.
The Lancers showed some grit in 2016 and behind the likes of eight seniors and four juniors, this is a group who wants to, not only win the Central Connecticut Conference Southern Patriot Division, but make a deep run in November during state tournament time.
So, what’s the deal with Eastern girls soccer this year? Let’s take a quick peak:
Head Coach: Scott ‘Redeye’ Redman (second season at BE, 7-9-1; 47-49-6 career record as a head coach).
Last Year: 7-9-1 overall (runner-up in CCC South at 6-3-1, Blue Division ranked No. 20 in Class L state tournament bracket, lost to No. 13 Joel Barlow 6-1 in the first round).
Strengths: Experience, goal scoring punch
Losses: Mikayla Lewandoski, Emily Stadnicki, Miya Laprise, Emily Rivoira, and Mallory Crisafulli.
2016 All-Conference: Myah Croze (second selection), Kailey Laprise, and Leah Policarpio
Players to Watch (Probable Starters): Brook Dauphinee (senior, Midfielder); Perry Megan (senior, Defense), Macy Fernance (senior, Defense); Julianna Larue (senior, Defense); Karly Martin (senior, Keeper), Jenna Soucy (senior, Midfielder/Forward); Sara Tyminski (senior, Midfielder); Myah Croze (junior, Midfielder/Forward); Meredith Forman (junior, Defense); Kailey Laprise (junior, Midfielder/Forward); Leah Policarpio (sophomore, Midfielder).
Impactful Reserves: Kasey Simpson (senior, Defense); Hanna Richards (junior, Keeper); Avery Arbuckle (sophomore, defense); Kate Kozikowski (freshman, Midfielder).
Analysis: Eastern should have a very good season and in the newly formed CCC South Patriot Division, the Lancers only competition for the league title is Bristol Central and Plainville – both coming off losing campaigns.
Bluntly put, it’s a three-horse race and the Lancers have the firepower on offense and ability on defense to shutdown opponents.
However, Redman isn’t making any bold predictions to start the campaign and the longtime coach expects his squad to at least finish with an even slate.
“We should be around .500, hopefully a little better,” said Redman, noting the schedule was challenging. “[We] should be contender for our division.”
Eastern is high in the varsity experience department, a squad that won seven matches and tied one more in 2016.
In terms of offense, the Lancers return Myah Croze – a sensational junior – who has been a bulldog for the program over her past two campaigns.
A two-time All-Conference selection in 2015 and 2016, Croze led team with 16 goals while chipping in six assists.
Croze can turn on the afterburners, attack in 1v1 situations, and simply outworks her opponent to get to the goal.
And she nabbed more than a couple game-winning goals last season.
Leah Policarpio was a CCC South All-Conference as a freshman last season, leading the Lancers with nine assists while finishing up second in goals scored on the team with eight.
Policarpio did an excellent job setting up her teammates, netting a game-winner or two along the way, and expect more of the same in 2017.
Kailey Laprise was a slick sophomore for the program last year, earning plenty of field time, and now one year older, the midfielder/forward will be another important cog in the Eastern offense.
She also earned All-Conference honors, netting five goals of her own.
Between those three athletes, the trio netted nearly thirty combined goals and that’s who opponents will be forced to contend with.
Also helping the offense will be seniors Brook Dauphinee (Midfielder), Jenna Soucy (Midfielder/Forward), and Sara Tyminski (Midfielder).
And while the defense lost a couple critical components from last year, Redman can turn to some good ball stoppers this time around.
Including in that group are seniors Perry Megan, Macy Fernance and Julianna Larue – all bringing something to the fold and, along with Meredith Forman, another valuable jack-of-all trades performer, should keep opposing offenders running in circles and the ball out of the net.
And it’s hard to forget senior keeper Karly Martin, another underrated goalie, who is going to have a big finish to her scholastic career as the Lancers last line of defense.
Redman doesn’t have the depth he would like on his bench but he will turn to Kasey Simpson (senior, Defense), Hanna Richards (junior, Keeper), Avery Arbuckle (sophomore, Defense) and Kate Kozikowski (freshman, Midfielder) to spell the starting crew.
Redman doesn’t have unrealistic goals for his squad and qualifying for state tournament is certainly obtainable.
Winning the CCC South Patriot Division and finishing above .500 also aren’t out of reach and if the squad stays healthy and shows consistency, something Croze and crew will continually strive and push for, the Lancers have a good chance of being very successful as this year.
CCC South Patriot Division Outlook: Bristol Central (5-10-1) was better than its record indicated last season and Plainville (4-9-3) did not qualify for the state tournament last fall.
However, both programs should be improved and the Rams will probably sneak into the postseason.
But the division is truly the Lancers to lose and if the squad can bring its ‘A’ game to every match, Eastern is the team to beat in the fray.
“Given there are only three teams in our division it is anyone’s” division to win said Redman. “I would say Bristol Eastern is favored but Bristol Central has some young talent and should make improvements this year.”