The Falcons will have a younger team in 2018 as they try to achieve double-digit wins for the second straight year.
Last season, Burlington Township High School girls soccer had its best season in at least a decade, winning 14 games, qualifying for the South Jersey Coaches Tournament and winning a game in the Central Jersey Group III playoffs.
Despite last year’s success and losing a number of key parts from the 2017 team, the Falcons don’t want to rest on their laurels. They are ready to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.
“We want to keep improving,” head coach Kim Lamanteer said. “We got a taste of the victory last year with getting invited to the Coaches’ Tournament and we had a five-game winning streak to start off the season. So we’re definitely building on that.”
Burlington Township will head into 2018 with a new look. The Falcons lost a strong senior class from 2017, including three players who were named first team All-Burlington County Scholastic League Liberty Division players.
Despite the losses, Lamanteer is excited about a number of young players in the program, such as sophomore midfielder Jiselle Daniels, who missed some time as a freshman due to injury.
“She is a phenomenal player, very skilled, has great awareness,” Lamanteer said. “She’s also great at recovering and shutting down marks as well.”
In the backfield, the Falcons lost a strong player in Kate Field, but will gain Kate’s younger sister, freshman Brenna Field, this season. Brenna is expected to start at center back for Burlington Township and Lamanteer said Field is ready to take on the challenge.
“She knows it’s coming,” Lamanteer said. “We do summer leagues and she came up one time and never left the top team.”
Two of the Falcons’ top returners are also serving as team captains this year. Caitlin Mbuakoto scored seven goals last season and was selected to the All-BCSL Liberty Division second team as a forward in 2017. However, Lamanteer hinted Mbuakoto could see some time at midfielder in 2018.
“She can easily slide into a more defensive role if we need her to,” Lamanteer said.
As captain, Mbuakoto said she is helping to build a winning tradition at Burlington Township through building up the confidence of the younger players.
“Last year was the first year making the Coaches’ Tournament and beating these high-caliber teams,” Mbuakoto said. “We’re just saying we did this last year and we have the potential to continue this forward.”
The team’s second captain is junior goalkeeper Erin Turpin. Turpin emerged as a sophomore last year, making more than 100 saves for the Falcons and helping the team earn 10 shutouts.
As a captain, Turpin preaches encouragement, saying the 2018 squad has the potential to top what last year’s team did.
“It’s just encouragement,” Turpin said. “Just because it may have been intimidating last season stepping up to a bigger role, it’s just (about) keeping your head up high and that you deserve to be here.”
Turpin and Mbuakoto both said a big goal of the preseason is for the returning players to get on the same page with the newcomers. Even with a younger team this season, both captains believe Burlington Township has the talent to surprise many people across South Jersey.
“We’re trying to prove we can continue this, even though we have a younger squad,” Mbuakoto said.