Featuring Key Veterans, Promising Newcomers, Hun Girls’ Soccer Focused on Getting in Sync
ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ soccer goalie Leah Sutphen gathers in a ball in 2017 action. Senior star and co-captain Sutphen will be counted on to keep Hun in games this fall with her propensity for making clutch saves. The Raiders kick off their 2018 campaign when they play at Ewing on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
While Joanna Hallac is excited to add a big freshman group to the Hun School girls’ soccer program this fall, she knows it is going to take time for the squad to mesh.
“We have about 13 freshmen, it is giving us numbers that we haven’t had in a while,” said Hallac, who guided the Raiders to a 10-7 record last fall as the win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title and made it to the state Prep A final.
“There is excitement and energy with the team. The young players are still trying to figure some things out and get used to the speed of play and the physicality of this level. It is figuring out what combination is going to be best on the field; we are still tinkering with that a little bit.”
Hun boasts a good combination at forward in senior Bryonna “Breezy” Worthy, senior Kobi Iheoma, and freshman Olivia D’Aulerio.
“Breezy is back and she has been looking really good in the preseason, she has improved a lot,” said Hallac.
“I am excited about the way she is playing. Kobi has been our manager the last couple of years but she is a decent forward. She has good size and can offer Breezy a little reprieve here and there. Her size is really going to be an advantage for us. Olivia D’Aulerio is solid player; her speed is her biggest threat so having her either on the flank or up top can be a nice option.”
Junior standout Nicole Angelini figures to be a scoring threat from the top of the midfield.
“Nicole looks amazing; she has always been an important piece for us,” said Hallac, noting that Angelini helped her Player Development Academy (PDA) South ’02 NPL 16-U girls’ club squad win its age group at the US Club Soccer NPL National Championship this summer.
“She is looking incredibly improved, even more than she was last year. The thing I have been most impressed with is her leadership. In terms of our field players, she has definitely taken the bull by the horns and has really been a leader out there for us.”
Joining Angelini in the midfield are two promising newcomers in junior transfer Ally Cowan and freshman Kiki Mauer.
“I feel like we really lucked out getting Ally. She has really good athleticism, speed, and sees the field well,” said Hallac, noting that Cowan’s brother, Devon, is a star for the Hun boys’ lacrosse team.
“She is really a nice addition. She seems comfortable in a lot of places, which is great. Kiki Mauer has been great. She is a really good technical player and seems to understand the game well. She is learning the system and adapting to the speed of play, but I think she is definitely going to be an important piece for us as well.”
On the back line, seniors Brenna Wehner and Olivia McNulty will be two important players for the Raiders.
“Brenna was a difference maker for us last year, she is really tough and works her tail off back there,” said Hallac.
“She is a vocal leader on the field; she gets the game and gets the position and helps the other younger players back there. She is real solid, real dependable. Liv McNulty is one of our cocaptains and she has been looking good. She has been playing outside back and she has been stepping up. She is a natural leader. The kids really respect her and she has a great work rate.”
Battle-tested senior goalie Leah Sutphen is a formidable last line of defense for the Raiders. “Leah could be the most important part of the team; it is a team, everyone plays their role and everyone is important,” said Hallac.
“Her ability to keep us in a game, to come up with an extraordinary save and to be that dependable rock back there gives the rest of the girls the confidence to keep playing, keep improving, and not get down on themselves if things aren’t exactly going our way. She is a game changer.”
As Hallac works the young players into the mix, she is confident that team will get in synch as the fall unfolds.
“Everyone is a good individual soccer player, but we still have to find that rhythm,” said Hallac, whose team kicks off its 2018 campaign by playing at Ewing on September 8.
“We are getting there. The younger players are starting to get things more; they are starting to understand the system a little more and the older players are getting used to playing them. It is all about peaking at the right time; I think we are poised to do that.”
Acknowledging that there could be bumps in the road early on, Hallac is looking for her players to keep their heads up and stay in the moment.
“One of the keys is keeping a positive attitude. If we don’t find the early success that we had last year, we have got to find a way to stay positive,” said Hallac.
“As long as we are improving, as long as we are getting better every time we step in the field, that is success to me. If we are doing all of the little things right, if we are focused on them and disciplined about them, the big things like wins and goals will come.”