GROTON — As Groton-Dunstable girls soccer coach Sue Hilbrunner enters her third season, one word is on the lips of everyone concerning the Lady Crusaders — speed. After losing Heather Moody, Jess O’Brien, Kristen Mann and Meredith Sharpe to graduation, the team’s ability to get up and down the field in a hurry will key its attempt to qualify for post-season play again.
“We have speed all over the field,” said Hilbrunner. “But there are other things to like about this team. I like the cohesiveness and how well the girls play together. The girls have great attitudes and work hard. Plus, there is a great chemistry surrounding this team.
“My concerns heading into the season are the tough league we are in and the strength of our overall schedule, and we need to stay healthy,” said Hilbrunner.
The Lady Crusaders appear to be strong in the vital midfield area. Starting on the inside will be sophomore Meg Freiter and junior Meredith Shea.
“Meg is very quick and she is an offensive presence from midfield,” said Hilbrunner. “She is working hard on distributing the ball. Meredith provides a lot of experience as a third-year starter. She is a strong defensive player and is vocal and communicates well.”
Starting at midfield on the outside will be senior captain Corinne Kraemer and sophomore Dani Kenney.
“Corinne has a lot of speed and she has worked hard on understanding both the offensive and defensive ends of her position,” said Hilbrunner. “She has a great work ethic and is a leader for us. Dani is very fast and has quick feet. She is an offensive threat with a strong shot.”
Providing depth at midfield will be sophomore Jen Johnson, senior Cassandra Dinkel, sophomore Caroline Stark, senior Anna Yanchenko, and sophomore Katie Lienhard.
“Jen is an outside midfielder with good speed and she is making a strong push for time after putting in hard work in the off-season,” said Hilbrunner. “Cassandra can also play forward. She came off the bench last season and has a hard shot. Caroline is another player with good speed and she is working on her vision and foot skills. Anna got significant minutes last season and is coming off an injury. Katie has good size and strength, a hard shot and has been a pleasant surprise.”
Senior captain Sarah Hilton will start at one forward slot while senior Krysta Rekos and junior Kiley Hardy are competing for the other starting berth.
“Sarah has great speed and the ability to make strong runs and crosses,” said Hilbrunner. “She is experienced, provides a lot of leadership and distributes the ball well. Krysta came off the bench last year and has good size and strength and a hard shot. Kiley is up from the junior varsity team and is our best finisher and has a nose for the net. She is a dual offensive threat as she can also distribute the ball.”
At the defensive end, sophomore Kailyn Rekos will start in goal, with junior Olivia Briggs backing up.
“Kailyn had a number of starts last season and put in a lot of hard work in the off-season,” said Hilbrunner. “She has good size, athleticism and she communicates very well. Olivia has varsity experience and is a hard working player who trains year round.”
Other starters in the defensive end will be junior Rachel Silveria at sweeper, seniors Abbie Stark and Leah Markham at the fullbacks, and junior Kayla Meijer at stopper.
“Rachel provides experience, speed and intensity,” said Hilbrunner. “She is versatile and is very competitive. Abbie is another intense player with good speed and athleticism who gives us a lot of experience as a third-year starter. Leah has a great left foot and is a key to our transition game. She sees the field well and is an outstanding passer. Kayla combines size, quickness, athleticism and physicality. She is our best player in the air and she is often a barometer of how the team plays.”
Adding depth in the defensive end are sophomore sweeper/fullback Cate Cullen, junior stopper Maggie Prescott, and senior Jen Georges.
“Cate is fast and competitive and is pushing for playing time,” said Hilbrunner. “Maggie is a hard-working player with size and athleticism. Jen is very team-oriented and is a great teammate and has a great attitude.
“Our goal this season is to make the Division 2 playoffs and to continue to grow as a team,” said Hilbrunner. “The key to the season is to get off to a good start. That would be important for building confidence. I am very excited to work with this group of girls. They are a quality group of girls who come to practice every day and work at it.”