BEACON FALLS — Having four potential go-to scorers points to plenty of success this season for the Woodland girls’ soccer team. That is, unless jealousy and personal competition get in the way.
“I scored the other day and [Keri] cut my lip open,” senior co-captain Raven Palmerie said. “That might be the start of something. She literally made me bleed.”
“That was an accident!” sophomore Keri DeBiase retorted. “I was like, ‘Good job!’ and I got her in the face. It was an accident!”
The pair laughed it off, but trying to stop the Hawks’ offensive attack this season will be no laughing matter for Naugatuck Valley League defenses. In addition to the all-NVL duo of Palmerie and DeBiase at center-midfield, Woodland also returns high-powered forwards in senior Marissa Mills and sophomore Stephanie Dumond, possibly creating one of the most potent scoring offenses in the league.
“Having the core nucleus of the team coming back is great,” head coach Joe Fortier said of the squad that lost just three starters to graduation in June. “Our offense is much-improved. It’s been the best it’s been in my four years. We will score more goals than in the past.”
Palmerie draws a parallel between this year’s offense and the 2007 attack featuring all-NVL strikers Steph Negaro and Liz Galla, who combined to score over 30 goals for the Hawks.
“We can’t quite compare to the Steph and Galla duo, but we’re working with what we have,” Palmerie said. “Me and Keri at center gives us a strong center-mid, and we have two forwards that have previously worked together so they know how each other react. I think we can be like Steph and Galla, but probably not too close.”
That might be a good thing, because the 2007 squad fell short of an NVL title in the league tournament. Still, this year’s team features similar leaders in Palmerie and DeBiase.
“They’ve been around,” Fortier said. “Working them together is a little new to them. When they first started off together in a scrimmage against Pomperaug, it was an adjustment period. We talked and they adjusted and in the second half they controlled the game. I would like more touches out of them, though. At times last year they disappeared a little.”
Having plenty of help on offense should take some pressure off the two center-midfielders.
“It makes it easier because in past years, when we would get the ball on offense we would just lose it,” Palmerie said. “This year we can actually play around with the opponent’s defense. It helps our defense, too, because it doesn’t just come back on defense.”
The defense was the only area to take a real hit from graduation, leaving younger players to step up and fill in, including juniors Kelly Boucher, Kelly Sherman, Alaina Neddermann, and Jamie Minoski. But all of those players saw substantial time last season.
“Since [Loren] Luddy and I have been here, it’s always been defense first,” Fortier said. “We’ll still do that, the only thing is with Alaina and Jamie sliding in, they’re a little bit new to it so there are a few communication problems. I’m still going to believe in the defense. That’s our philosophy first.”
If the defense holds opponents, the Hawks expect the offense to take care of the rest. Between Palmerie, DeBiase, Mills, and Dumond, Woodland’s attack has the potential to set the net on fire and put the team in position for its first NVL championship since 2004.
“We all just want to win,” the foursome said together. “We’re all happy when each other score. We want to help each other score. I think collectively this year we want to win as a team. We’re tired of losing. We don’t care who scores. We’re going to show up in big games this year. We’re going for the win this year.”