Fresh off her 30-goal campaign last year, Red Springs girls soccer forward Viridiana Tapia returns and looks to follow up her impressive junior year with a bigger year to close out her career.
“This year I think the supporting cast around her is ready to step up,” Red Springs coach Travis Wilson said. “She should see her assist numbers go up this year.”
Red Springs return’s four of its top five goal-scorers’ including Noelia Tapia, Virdiana’s sister, from last year’s 8-9-1 season. Both of the Tapia sisters combined for 40 of the team’s 60 total goals. Also returning is juniors Wendy Molina and Raynas Zangana.
“I think we are all around a better team offensively this year. We are more well-rounded,” Wilson said.
Gabrielle Pecina returns to goal for the Lady Red Devils after splitting time in goal last year with Summer Locklear, who has since graduated. The defense is also anchored down with three returning starters in Dafne Meneses, Yanet Cruz and Tanya Flores and newcomer Francisca Meneses.
“There is no glaring weakness with this team,” Wilson said.
Lumberton brings a wealth of experience back this year with seven seniors. Defender Taylor Raines, forwards Brooke Taylor and Madison Sirmans and midfielder Brittany Terranova return from last year’s 14-7 season and a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference. Alexis Ard, a defender that suffer an ACL injury in January is still weighing the possibility of playing this year with a brace will most likely see time solely at forward.
Sirmans led the league with 14 assists and second on the team with 17 goals and will be a major cog in the Lady Pirates’ offense.
“Goal scoring is always a concern in soccer and Madison is one of our best players and we are going to depend heavily on her scoring goals,” Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons said. “We have a good core returning and it will depend on our younger players stepping up, and in due time I think we will be fine.”
Sirmans and the rest of the team will look to pick up the slack lost from the departure of Kendall Blaine, who was named co-Player of the Year in the conference, and was an all-state performer. Blaine led the conference with 29 goals and finished 11 goals ahead of Pinecrest’s McKenzie Wagler, who she shared Player of the Year with.
One of three captains for Lumberton, Sirmans will lead the team along with midfielder Harley Wilkerson and goalkeeper Hannah Monteiro. Monteiro recorded 91 saves in 1520 minutes in goal as a junior.
“The goalkeeper is a difficult position, Hannah has experience and is a smart keeper,” Simmons said.
Purnell Swett is going through a youth movement with three of its 16-person roster a junior or a senior. Despite the lack of experience, the newcomers have started off the 2017 season strong with big offensive numbers and its defense pitching a shutout.
“We are looking goof for being as young as we are,” said Purnell Swett coach Alaric Strickland. “The nucleus of them has been playing together for two or three years now on travel team and they have really benefited from that so far.”
Purnell Swett’s Paige Sweeney and Leanna Bird were named all-conference last year, as Sweeney tallied 12 goals, but both have graduated leaving new faces to take the reigns. Sophomores Tala Lowry and Maddison Oxendine, along with freshman Abigail Lowry have made an early impact with their offense by leading the team in goals. Sophomore Jada Jacobs, defender, joins Tala Lowry as team captain.
“Jada is a good strong anchor defender and she reads the game real well for her age,” Strickland said.
Purnell Swett is coming off 7-10-2 season.
After going 3-9-1 last year, St. Pauls has five of its six all-conference picks from last year back.
“My goal is to take those five and making us more competitive,” said St. Pauls coach Brent Martin. “This is a very resilient team. We are trying to work hard and get numbers out there and get them on the board.”
Returning for the Lady Bulldogs is Nathalie Vargas, Madison Miller and Daisy Zamora who were tabbed the first team, with Jackeline Aguilar and KyLeigh Yow earning honorable mentions. Leading that group is Yow.
“I really would like to see KyLeigh do well because she has worked heavily, and there’s been a lot of improvements from the returners,” Martin said.
Dioni Clark and Lilliana Segura are a few new faces that Martin sees leaving an impact back on the roster this year.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.