There’s a wealth of soccer talent in Section 1. Below we pick the 11 players we think will likely be the best in the Westchester/Putnam/Rockland area this season.
Also included are the top teams — or those we guess will be the top teams. The emphasis is on guess because, as all sports fans know, no matter the research, pre-season predictions often prove to be well off the mark.
The Elite 11
Amber Alfonzo, Jr., North Rockland: Playing defense, then forward as just a sophomore on one of the state’s best teams, Alfonzo gave the section and state a look at what could well be to come, scoring nine goals in just eight playoff games. This season she’s expected to play multiple positions.
Taylor Aylmer, Jr., North Rockland: Like her just-graduated, all-state sister, Nicole, Aylmer (pictured above, left, with teammates Julianna Cabrera and Amber Alfonzo) should be a major Red Raider contributor. The midfielder has huge play-making skills.
Carly Barnett, Jr., Byram Hills: The forward, who was The Journal News 2013 girls Westchester/Putnam player of the year and second-team all-state, registered 26 goals and 14 assists to help the Bobcats to a 20-2 record. A year older and more seasoned, expect more from both Barnett and her team.
Julianna Cabrera, Sr., North Rockland: Part of a dynamic one-two punch at middie for the Red Raiders with Aylmer, the Loyola-bound Cabrera is in her fifth year on varsity.
Caitlin Fryer, Sr., Bronxville: The Miami-bound forward was hurt for half of last season but still scored 15 goals. A calculator may be needed to figure what’s in store for a healthy Fryer.
Lucy Kolhloff, Sr., Bronxville: Kolhloff flew somewhat under the radar last season but the forward should go out with a flourish in 2014. Among other attributes, she’s one of the fastest kids in Section 1 soccer.
JoJo Miller, Sr., Hackley: The middie led Hackley in scoring with 13 goals and six assists and was a big reason why the Hornets claimed their first Ivy League title since 2008. This season she’s wearing a C and should play an even larger role.
Shayna Levy, Sr., North Salem: Fourth-team all-state last year, Levy is a huge defensive presence and is a big reason why, after so many narrow, heartbreaking losses, North Salem could finally win the section championship.
Remi Manna, Jr., Pleasantville: The attacker carried Pleasantville last year and was named fifth-team all-state, rare air for a player so young. Manna should do even more this season and will be a team captain.
Charley Warble, Sr., Bronxville: The goalie has gained all-state honors for two straight years. She was third-team last year and it won’t be a surprise if she builds on that.
Michelle Wienecke, Sr., Somers: Wienecke (below with ball), who played holding mid, marking back and stopper, wasn’t on any top-scoring lists last year. Instead, her job was shutting down opposition scorers, which she did so well she was named League 1-A player of the year. This season she may be called on to add some offense from center mid.
1. Byram Hills: A team has to be excellent to be selected over North Rockland. This one is. Despite losing first-team all-state player Nicole Hoffman for at least part of the season due to injury, the Bobcats have Journal News Westchester/Putnam player of the year Carly Barnett back and solid players at every spot. Some consider this the top team in New York.
2. North Rockland: The Red Raiders went 21-1-1 last year, with their loss coming in the state AA final. They return multiple all-stars and all-stars in the making. North Rockland is a powerhouse. Period. Coach Vinnie Apicella will certainly have his group playing late into the season, and a trip back to the final wouldn’t be a surprise.
3. Bronxville: You don’t have to be a large school to be a top soccer school. Bronxville’s one example of that. Consistently one of the area’s top programs, the Broncos have captured four straight Section 1 Class B titles and appear to have the horses for a fifth.
4. Briarcliff: The Bears had a tremendous, 15-0-1 regular season last year, then fell short in sectionals, losing in double overtime to Albertus Magnus. This year, they appear to be a top-five team that’s intent on not seeing that happen again.
5. Somers: The Tuskers recorded 14 wins last year but had a disappointing sectional quarterfinal exit. With 11 seniors, Somers, which will be coached by former assistant coach Paul Saia, has the experience for a longer run.
6. North Salem: The Tigers barely qualify as a B school in terms of enrollment, but on the soccer field they certainly play like a much larger school. If they can get past Bronxville, which always seems to just edge them out in sectionals, they might win the section title. The team’s 10 seniors appear to be on a mission.
7. Rye: The Garnets, who won three sectional games en route to a 12-4-3 record, return eight starters, including all-section player Hannah Krapes. This may not be a top-five team but it should be solid.
8. Horace Greeley: Ask coaches about teams that should do well this season and Greeley’s name always seems to pop up. The Quakers, who have 10 players back, including seven starters, could improve on last season’s 13-5-1 mark.
9. Eastchester: The Eagles, who were blanked in the section A final by Byram Hills, took a couple of huge hits with Monica DiDonato and Dava Fortunato graduating. But they should have the depth to do well in sectionals again.
10. Suffern: The Mounties, who were led last year by then-eighth-grader Tatiana Cruz, finished only one game above .500 during the regular season. But some of those losses, including to vaunted North Rockland, were nail-biters and Suffern is expected to be vastly improved this season.
Teams to consider
Haldane: Haldane is very good in multiple girls sports and soccer is no exception. It is the class of Class C, both locally and in the state, where its 16-3-2 mark earned it a second-place ranking last season. Big things should be expected from Missy Lisikatos, its fleet-footed sophomore.
Scarsdale: Figure on Scarsdale at least equaling its 11-win regular season and probably avoiding another first-round sectional exit. Scarsdale returns 14 players, including eight starters.
Clarkstown South: Based on last year, the Vikings would be mid-pack in the top 10. They fell 1-0 in the Section 1 AA final to North Rockland. But Clarkstown South’s roster has taken a big hit with graduations and it remains to be seen how it will rebound.