Aubrey Gibbs kicks the ball towards the goal during practice as Allison Ritting, playing defense, chases after her. Gibbs is considered one of the top weapons in the Lady Indians' arsenal.
In an effort to remain competitive, Upper Perkiomen's girls soccer team will utilize a realigned offensive formation. Aubrey Gibbs and Morgan Rynn, two of the team's top defenders, will push up the field when the Indians are on the attack, according to head coach Mike Freed. He called the change an attempt to benefit from their athleticism.
"From what I've seen in a few scrimmages, we've got some things right," Freed said. "I think the changes will lead to some success."
Despite losing seven starters from a team that reached the Pioneer Athletic Conference's Final Four in 2013, Freed expressed confidence that Upper Perkiomen will remain in the hunt for the league and District One playoffs this fall.
According to the coach, the offensive score sheet will need to be more balanced than last season, when league MVP Kayla Smith registered 28 goals and 11 assists. Jess Spano, a senior forward, contributed nine goals and four assists last season.
"I don't know if will score as many goals as last year," senior midfielders Shea Duka said. "But we'll be able to hold our ground there. We've got so sound players up top who can shoot from distance and are aggressive down low."
A talented freshman class will play a significant role for the Indians, according to Freed. He said he anticipates that five of the 15 ninth-graders will get significant varsity playing time.
"This is one of best freshman classes I've seen in my 24 years of coaching high school soccer," Freed said. According to Duka, the freshmen includes a couple of talented defenders, aggressive forwards and a lot of speed. "They should really help to fill out spots on the field," she said.
The midfield, led by Duka, one of three captains, and sophomore Mackenzie Gebhardt will be the team's strength, according to the coach. Gibbs, Rynn, a junior and three-year varsity player, and senior captain Olivia Vogel will anchor the defense in front of sophomore goalkeeper Rachel Morelli.
How quickly the new players settle into unfamiliar roles and positions will go a long way toward determining how well the team does this season, especially during the early part of the schedule, according to Freed. "If we can get off to a decent start, I expect this team to be very competitive," he said.
Early on, teams might take the Indians lightly, according to Duka.
"As long as the new formation works out, and we can work out any minor complications, I think we'll be pretty good," she said.