Trevor Junquera/Recorder staff ÊGalway's Emily Zawisa prepares to spike the ballÊduring a match Saturday in Broadalbin.
By MICHAEL KELLY
Coming off an undefeated regular season and a trip to the 2013 Section II Class C semifinals, the Galway Lady Eagles boast a roster including eight seniors and only need to replace one starter lost to graduation.
That adds up to make head coach Jennifer Flinton's team the clear favorite in the Western Athletic Conference North Division, though the Mayfield Lady Panthers should provide a challenge for the Lady Eagles.
Galway's first match comes today against Saratoga Central Catholic, and Flinton -- sitting on 98 career wins coming into this season -- said Saturday that she has confidence in her team after a preseason capped with an appearance in Saturday's Broadalbin-Perth Tip-Off Tournament.
"Overall, we're staying a lot more positive about things," she said. "We've been pretty solid."
"We're working so well together this year compared to other years," Galway senior Rachel Jones said.
Jones is one of four Lady Eagles that have played together all around the calendar. That work with fellow seniors Brittany Orminski, Emily Orminski and Emily Zawisa has Galway ready to defend its league title.
"We've bonded more," said Brittany Orminski. "This is our last year all together, and we're really taking that seriously."
Meanwhile, the squad that battled the Lady Eagles last season in the WAC is reloading for 2014. Mayfield head coach Eileen Rovito's club, which went 15-4 and made it to the Section II Class D finals last season, lost a selection of key players and only has two seniors on its roster.
"We have some young kids coming up from the JV to fill the spots," she said. "We're rebuilding early in the season, but I'm expecting us to get to where we need to be."
Mayfield was also at Saturday's tournament, and was a whisper away from making it into the knockout round with its new-look lineup.
"We did a lot better than I thought we'd do," said Mayfield senior Maryssa Dufel. "I was pretty proud of us."
The Lady Panthers went 3-3 in the tournament's pool play before losing to Fonda-Fultonville in a tiebreaker match. Junior Kaylee Bumpus, Mayfield's top returning player, said the squad saw significant improvements throughout Saturday's action.
"Our quickness is improving a lot and I'm really excited about our energy level," she said. "But we have a new team, so it's going to take some time."
"We have a good team dynamic," added Rovito. "We definitely have to work on getting our less experienced players into the lineup, but they've been working really hard, so I'm optimistic they'll make it happen."
While Mayfield made it to the Class D sectional final in 2013, Galway also will be eligible for this year's Class D tournament. Players from both teams listed the other squad as their main competition in the WAC for this season, and the clubs could see each other again in the postseason in 2014.
After experiencing disappointment in 2013 with their first loss coming in the sectional semifinals, Emily Orminski said the Lady Eagles are looking for a different type of finish for this season.
"We're trying to play to the highest level we can and go as far as we can," she said.
Contact MICHAEL KELLY at firstname.lastname@example.org