By Jim Sullivan
---- — As the returning Cape Ann League champion, the Amesbury girls soccer team would naturally be feeling some pressure this season. Add to that the fact that the Indians lost eight of their starters to graduation over the summer, and coach Cathy Berry has her work cut out for her.
“You’ve got to buy into that fact that we’re going to look different and capitalize on our strengths,” said Berry. “We’re definitely feeling the pressure, especially after the preseason where we’re trying to figure out who we’re going to fit into all of these open positions. Those eight girls worked so well together last year. Where they played, they just played. So now it is like a puzzle.”
The Indians lost, among others, CAL Small Player of the Year and forward Meghan Cullen. All-league defender Emily Martin, center mid-fielder Janine Fatal, all-star defender Erin Leary, forward Hannah Zaninni and goalkeeper Sarah Abraham will also not be on the pitch this season.
“Last year, those eight girls played most of the minutes,” said Berry. “I probably have three bench players who saw some decent minutes last year. So basically, I have six players who saw decent minutes last year.”
Berry’s only three returning starters include one returning senior Kelly DiFazio, while juniors Madison MacLean and Amada Martin round out the trio, less than half the core Berry had to build around last year.
“The girls that I have this year that were on our team last year, they played with those girls,” Berry said of the players she lost. “They were a part of the season with them so I know that the desire to win has rubbed off on them. Once you get past that and you have a winning team, you get a taste for that and you want it back. So I’m trying to push that.”
At the moment and given what she has, Berry said she is looking to build from the defense, up.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Berry. “We’re going to make mistakes. We have a solid defense, and we’re going to talk about that and work our way forward. We’re not going to look the same as we did last year, offensively and defensively. We’re changing it up a little bit this year, to meet the strengths of the girls that I have.”
One of the bright spots for the Indians has been the program that has been built up around them ever since Berry took the head coaching position five years ago.
“We’re continuing to see some good groups of girls come up through the program,” said Berry. “We saw 12 freshmen come out this year. They are coming in with great skills. The girls that were on the team last year, came in ready to start. They were well prepared. They have some pride in what they were involved with last year.”
With the season set to begin in Ipswich on Tuesday, Berry said the mood on her team is good to go.
“I think they’re looking forward to the season,” Berry said of her players. “They are feeling a bit of the pressure being CAL Champs. Teams are going to be gunning for them and they have some pretty high standards to live up to. But I also think that they are excited to go out and make their own history.”