NHIAA Girls' Soccer Preview
Only Exeter, in Division I, is a clear-cut favorite
Exeter remains the team to beat in Division I, but could the other three girls' NHIAA soccer divisions be up for grabs?
Exeter went undefeated (20-0) last season and has won four consecutive Division I state championships and seven out of the last eight.
In Division II, Milford edged Souhegan of Amherst for its first state title. The Division III championship went to Hopkinton and Littleton claimed its first plaque in D IV.
The girls' soccer schedule opens on Friday with 24 games.
So can Exeter really maintain this pace?
"With Exeter, they just keep coming and coming. It's like a machine that manufactures a ton of parts and they all look the same," said Central head coach Peter Lally. "If you're going to win a state championship, someone is going to have to beat them in order to do it."
Teams expected to press Exeter include last year's runner-up Bedford, Londonderry (a 2012 seminfinalist) and Pinkerton Academy of Derry.
As for Lally's Central team, the Little Green made the semifinals last year and lost to Exeter. Central lost 10 players to graduation but is not a team you should count out.
"We made it to the semifinals last year and we hadn't been past the quarterfinals for the two years prior to that. We don't want to be any worse than we were last year," Lally said. "Our program is a solid one."
Defending champion Milford is counted among the top contenders heading into the season, but the big question for the Spartans will be how they deal with the loss of the state's best player.
Morgan Andrews was Gatorade National Girls' Soccer Player of the year and New Hampshire Union Leader 2012 Red Rolfe Female Athlete of the Year.
Andrews is headed to Notre Dame and leaves a void for Milford. But the Spartans were more than a one-player team and return much of the championship team.
Runner-up Souhegan will be poised to make another run as well.
In Manchester, a team to keep an eye on is Trinity. While fielding a young team, coach Miranda Comiskey is excited about the future.
"We're looking pretty good. I'm excited by the young talent we have," Comiskey said. "We have some four-year varsity starters so we're not hurting too badly."
It's fitting that the biggest division (along with DII at 21 teams) is perhaps the most wide open.
While defending champion Hopkinton is a projected favorite, the field behind the Hawks is closing fast.
Raymond, Campbell of Litchfield and last year's runner-up Bow are all expected to stake a claim for the title. Belmont and Bishop Brady of Concord are also considered teams to keep an eye on.
Bow lost eight players, including the four defensive starters, but coach Jay Vogt is still optimistic.
"We've got a little ways to go to get organized, but that's what the preseason is for," Vogt said. "Our strength is that we've got a lot of players that can play a lot of positions."
After coming up just short in the title game in 2011 and 2009, Littleton finally broke through in 2012.
Sophomore Allison Horne will look to build on a sensational freshman season that saw her score the only goal of the state championship win over Newmarket.
Horne's development willbear watching since she may be needed to carry the load.
"Littleton graduated some seniors so I think they may be in a growing season after the wonderful year they had last year," said Derryfield coach Jack Sanford.
Newmarket should be back at the top of the heap and Sunapee will make some noise as well.
But noise-makers may not come bigger than Derryfield's own incoming freshman phenom, Gabi Brummett. She joins transfer Emma Garfield (previously with Bow) as two players expected to push Derryfield into the upper echelon.
"We have two new players that will help us a lot. Emma Garfield, she's a junior. She's powerful, fast, great ball control, a wonderful player," Sanford said. "Gabi Brummett, she's a striker who plays at the the highest level you can for her age."