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AYER — The Ayer girls soccer team is hoping to build off a strong 2009 season that saw it finish with a 9-6-2 record. The Lady Panthers then gave a tough Bromfield team all it could handle in the Central Mass. Tournament before dropping a 2-0 decision.

Ayer must overcome graduation losses that cost the services of Cathy Comerford, Leah Smith and Julie McGuane, but fifth-year coach Justin Carlson is optimistic.

“This team is playing with a chip on its shoulders,” said Carlson. “The girls feel they haven’t gained respect and they are out to get it. This is a great group to coach and they are very determined entering the season.”

The starting forwards will be very experienced as senior captain Katie Poitras is a four-year starter and Junior Jordan Sedor starts for a third season.

“Katie and Jordan play very well together,” said Carlson. “Katie is a playmaker, but she can also score. She is vocal and she can be trusted to make the right decision. Jordan led MidWach D in scoring last year and she is a great finisher. She has good speed, she distributes the ball well and seems to always be in the right place at the right time.”

The starters at midfield will be senior captain Michelle Gardner and sophomore Ginger Gamelin on the inside, and junior Jenna Carrillo and senior Ashley Farrar on the outside.

“Michelle is a great leader and is very versatile,” said Carlson. “She can play in goal or on the field. She is a clutch player with the ability to score from long range. Ginger is also versatile and could also play forward. She is probably the most improved player on the team since last year. She is a tough and athletic player and has been a pleasant surprise. Jenna was a part-time starter last year and she crosses the ball well. She has a strong foot and plays her position well. She will take many of our corner kicks and is a threat. Ashley can score from outside the 18 and is experienced as a third year starter. She is solid defensively and makes good decisions with the ball.”

A pair of juniors add depth at midfield — Hayley Wilcox and Mary Coke.

“Hayley can play either inside or outside,” said Carlson. “She is tough, aggressive and fearless and has a strong foot. Mary can play either inside or outside and distributes the ball well. She has been a pleasant surprise.”

Three of the defensive positions are set as junior Ninah Paillard will start at sweeper, senior Sarah Megan will start at one fullback, and senior captain Andrea Zhou will start at stopper.

“Ninan is a third-year starter and she moves from fullback to sweeper,” said Carlson. “She has great instincts, is strong and makes quality decisions. She has good speed and knows when to challenge. Sarah is athletic and has really picked up the game quickly. She is very fast and is coachable. Andrea is intense and fast and is the leader of the defense. She is versatile and could play any of the four defensive positions.”

Contesting for the other starting fullback slot are sophomores Julie Henderson and Alejandra Santos.

“Julie was injured last season, but she has good instincts and a strong leg,” said Carlson. “Alejandra came off the bench last year and has good speed, is coachable and works hard.”

Junior Charlene Garrett is working hard to secure the goaltending position.

“Charlene has good size and good hands and is athletic,” said Carlson.

Providing further depth will be senior midfielder Sabrina Schwartz, junior midfielder Nicole Morrell, sophomore midfielder/fullback Emily Megan, freshman midfielder Emily Goodman, and freshman forward Holly Caires.

“Those girls are working hard to gain playing time,” said Carlson. “Each will have a specific role.”

What does Carlson like about this year’s team?

“We have a lot of experience, and our seniors have seen it all,” he said. “The girls have an excellent work ethic and come to practice every day and work on improving.

“My concerns are inexperience in goal and defensive depth,” said Carlson. “Our goal is to try to host a District game, and the key to the season is getting off to a fast start. We have to maintain our focus and we need to win the games we are supposed to win.”