Arlington aims to three-peat in 2019
ARLINGTON — That goal for the Arlington girls soccer team is the same every year - win a Division IV state title.
Coming off two straight state championships, the target on the Eagles' back is as large as ever and they are ready for the challenge.
"It should the goal every year at Arlington to win a state championship, no matter what the team is," said third-year Arlington coach Aaron Wood. "We want to raise the bar. We want people to be asking what's going on down there in Arlington."
The Eagles are out to prove that they can still be at that level, even after the graduation of leading scorer Tess Belnap, who was Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year last year and moved onto Division III Williams College this fall.
"Right now, I understand people thinking that it was just Tess Belnap because she was a great talent, but we want people to see that we are a really strong soccer program and we'll be there to contend year in and year out," Wood said.
With Belnap's graduation goes 37 of Arlington's 68 goals last year.
The Eagles know it's not just going to be one girl taking on that load for 2019 and will look for a more balanced attack to lead the way.
"We're not as strong at the top, but we're deeper," Wood said. "We've got 15 or 16 girls that can easily start, so it's going to be a different year from that standpoint."
The top returning goal scorer is senior Haley Mattison, who had 17 tallies last year.
Wood expects her to have a great year leading the Arlington attack.
"We just want her to play her game. She's not Tess Belnap, but she's Haley Mattison and is a darn good soccer player," Wood said. "I don't think it's necessary for Haley to do anything different than she's done her whole career. She's more of a set-up player, anyways. She's going to score some goals because she has great skill, but ideally, Haley is going to set up more big goals for us than she actually finishes."
All-state defender Lilah Ward is back for her senior campaign and she'll lead an Arlington defense that is filled with young talent.
"I think Lilah the best player in the state for our division," Wood said. "She's fast and she tackles hard. As a defender, you never get the glory that the offensive players do, so that's a huge advantage for us going into the season."
Maria O'Dea, Emma Hoover and Amiah Olson are key pieces of the defense as well.
Schuylar Nolan played defense last year, but could move to a midfield role for Arlington in 2019.
"It's almost the same defense that didn't give up a goal in the playoffs," Wood said.
Morgan Jennings will start in goal in the Eagles' first game, following the graduation of net stalwart Shaana Staab, but Megan McGann could also see time in goal for Arlington.
"It should be good to have some competition throughout the season and see who really wants to be the goalie," Wood said.
Arlington begins its championship defense on Friday with a tough test at home against West Rutland. The Eagles will host the annual John Werner Tournament starting on September 24, where they'll kick off play against Northshire rival Long Trail. Division IV championship game rematches loom on September 17 and October 15 against Proctor.
Roster: Lilah Ward, Haley Mattison, Morgan Jennings, Kayleigh Millette, Amiah Olson, Kaylee Bushee, Audrianna Ennis, Emma Hoover, Maria O'Dea, Megan McGann, Cassidy Pickering, Alorah Hoyt, Addie Lentzner, Lilith Fuchs, Schuylar Nolan, Sarah Tilley, Natalia Hoyt, Sidney Herrington, Audrey Robinson.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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