The Lions made a lot of changes heading into 2017 and have higher expectations to go along with it.
There was a different feel in preseason for Cherry Hill High School West girls soccer compared to previous seasons.
The program has a new head coach in Katina Anthony, who has brought new drills and strategies to the team. There was also a lot of energy and enthusiasm from the players who are looking to put girls soccer on the map at Cherry Hill West.
“We have really high expectations, especially for our veterans coming back with the new girls and getting them into the system and seeing how they work,” Anthony said.
Anthony is hoping the changes translate to wins and new highs for the program. She said Cherry Hill West’s goal is to win a minimum of eight games this year, something the team hasn’t come close to doing the past four seasons. Since 2013, the Lions have won just 12 games combined.
However, the Lions’ confidence is high entering the season after Cherry Hill West nearly pulled off a massive upset in the first round of South Jersey Group III playoffs last year against №1 seed Delsea Regional High School. The №16 seeded Lions and Delsea were tied, 1–1, all the way into penalty kicks, where the Crusaders finally prevailed.
Anthony, who served as the varsity assistant coach on last year’s team, believes that game proves Cherry Hill West has the talent to win on a consistent basis.
“We’re taking what we did in that game and using it for this season,” she said.
Senior Melissa Marini said there was a lot of energy in practice this preseason. Some of the changes implemented in August help motivate the team to give a better effort.
“We’ve been trying to do the little things, like jog to every drill, just have 100 percent focus,” Marini said.
Senior Gabby Angelucci said the team put a particular focus on skill building during the early part of the preseason.
“We’re working a lot more on our ball work and really getting the little things down that will help us win games,” she said.
A slew of new players are expected to complement Cherry Hill West’s returning upperclassmen. Anthony spoke highly of the freshmen class’ talent and expects some of the new players to have an impact in 2017.
“We want them to show effort and determination and show they want to be a part of this program and they want to be on the field,” Anthony said.
Marini felt it was important for the older players to gel with the newcomers as soon as possible, saying team chemistry was a very important ingredient to the team’s potential success this season.
“This year, we’re already looking at the younger girls,” Marini said. “It pushes me as a senior to do my very best, and I think seeing the older girls work super hard makes them want to work hard, too.”
Cherry Hill West understands they have a chance to put together the program’s best season in years. The last time the Lions registered a double-digit win season was in 2010, when the Lions won 12 games and advanced to the sectional finals. This year, the Lions are motivated to break new ground and return the program to its winning ways.
“Our coaches are helping us in practice and pushing us to do the little things right,” Angelucci said. “It really helps us motivate ourselves.”
UPDATE: The Lions got off to a fast start in 2017, winning three of their first five games. They entered a Sept. 16 game against Eastern Regional High School with a 3–1–1 record.