Lady Chiefs juggle two teams, loss of seven seniors

By Greg Hart

Coach Julie Walton has some voids to fill on her Lady Chieftains varsity squad, having graduated seven seniors from last year’s team and returning this year with only two seniors in Jessica Ralston and Emily Guerra.

In addition, Walton is implementing a new formation employing three defenders, two defensive midfielders, four attacking midfielders and one striker. Good participation in the preseason program has the team prepared physically. But only time will tell how they adapt to the new formation and new leaders on the field.

With a young team and limited experience, midfielder Jessica Ralston will be counted on to be one of the team’s leaders. Walton believes that Ralston, a strong player with experience all over the field, is best utilized in midfield, controlling and distributing the ball, and attacking when the opportunity arises. Ralston will be supported in her midfield role by junior Leah Bodin, playing side by side in the center midfield area.

These positions are key on every team: Players have to be tough, possess great ball skills and cover a large area since they are responsible for both offense and defense. Coach Walton must have confidence in all her midfielders — in particular Bodin and Ralston – to have the skill and savvy to know when to attack and when to defend.

The offense will be led by junior striker Madi Huntley. With a fine scoring touch, Huntley is equally adept with the ball at her feet or as a target player. But as the lone striker in a 3-2-4-1 formation, Huntley will need to create separation and space, allowing the ball to be served in by her teammates. Says Walton, “With four attacking midfielders, we need Madi to stay up front and be a target for her teammates, instead of trying to carry the ball herself.”

The defense is led by junior Cheyenne Prescott in the center. A solid defender, Prescott enjoys the occasional foray into the offensive zone, breaking off the back line with aggressive runs. That’s fine with coach Walton “as long as she picks her spots well!”

Of course, in soccer, the defense is truly anchored by the goalie and there is a healthy competition going on between junior Taylor Wilson and freshman Emily Castillo, each bringing different skills to the table. Both will be given an opportunity to maximize playing time, either earning the job outright, or possibly sharing the duties.

On the eve of the Lady Chief’s season opener, their coach has some tough decisions to make. Selecting the varsity players happened late last week after preseason workouts ended and classes began, but with the first contest looming, Walton has yet to settle on all her starters.

Who will be the attacking wing midfielders supporting Ralston and Bodin in the middle and serving balls in to Huntley up front? We’ll find out Tuesday, Sept. 4, but junior Muriel Chase and sophomores Emily McNamara and Casie Walton will all vie for playing time as starters or prime backups. Juniors Catie Tyrrell and Mel Drumond could challenge here as well.

The defensive lineup may also take some time to coalesce around Prescott in the middle. Juniors Morgan Little, Stephanie Knockenhauer and Rachel Martel along with Emily Guerra figure prominently but could be challenged by a deep pool of fullbacks and defensive midfielders including Margie DesLauriers, Desiree Nestor and Sarah Martel. Many options and lots of tough choices lie ahead in sorting out this deep roster.

With a relatively young and aggressive squad, Walton is looking for consistency to reach the team’s goal of hosting a home playoff game. In 2010, the GM girls made it to the state finals, where they took a scoreless tie to penalty kicks, ultimately losing to Stowe. And last year they suffered a tough first round loss to Bellows Free Academy-Fairfax after finishing the regular season 5-7-1.

This year, the Lady Chiefs open the schedule with a stiff test against Mill River, a perennial Division II contender. Other big games on tap include rivals Arlington, Black River, Leland & Gray and Twin Valley, all part of a challenging schedule that will make reaching their goal of hosting that home playoff game even more rewarding.

2012 Lady Chieftains Varsity schedule

(away games indicated by @)

 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, 9/4 vs. Mill River

8 p.m. Friday, 9/7 @ Black River Tournament vs. Black River

6 p.m. or 8 p.m. Saturday, 9/8 @ Black River Tournament vs. To be Determined

4:30 p.m. Thursday, 9/20 @ Proctor

4 p.m., Saturday, 9/22 vs. Chelsea

7 p.m., Tuesday, 9/25 @ Twin Valley

4 p.m., Thursday, 9/27 vs. Proctor

4 p.m., Tuesday,10/2 vs. Arlington

4 p.m., Friday, 10/5 vs. Black River

4 p.m., Monday, 10/8 vs. Leland & Gray

4 p.m., Thursday, 10/11 @ Arlington

4 p.m., Saturday, 10/13 vs. Mount St. Joseph

4 p.m., Monday, 10/15 vs. Twin Valley

2012 Lady Chieftains JV schedule

(away games indicated by @)

4:30 p.m., Wednesday, 9/5 @ Twin Valley

4:30 p.m., Monday, 9/10 vs. Leland & Gray

4:30 p.m., Thursday, 9/13 vs. Windsor

4:30 p.m., Monday, 9/17 vs. Twin Valley

4 p.m., Thursday, 10/4 @ Windsor

4 p.m., Friday, 10/5 vs. Leland & Gray

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Filed Under: SoccerSports News

About the Author: Chester native Greg Hart is a 1985 graduate of Green Mountain Union High School. He earned his bachelor of Science at the University of Vermont and returned to the Chester area in 1994 to start a business and a family. He lives in Chester, owns Blue Sky Trading Co. in Ludlow and is the proud father of three. He can be reached at

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