Deliana Figueroa chases down a loose ball during Amsterdam High School girls soccer practice Wednesday at Lynch Literacy Academy. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
The 2016 season was one filled with injuries and inconsistencies for the Amsterdam High School girls soccer team, both of which derailed the Lady Rams’ hopes for success.
Second-year head coach Jessica Byerwalters is hopeful her team will be able to iron out both of those problems this season, which should give the Lady Rams a solid shot at improving on last year’s 2-13-1 record while ascending back up toward the top of the Foothills Council standings.
“I lost nine (to graduation) last year, but getting the new girls and people improving in the offseason has set us up for a better beginning than we had last year,” Byerwalters said as the Lady Rams wrapped up practice Wednesday on the Lynch Literacy Academy turf.
Injuries certainly befell the Lady Rams at inopportune moments in 2016, including extended absences to the team’s two best offensive players — Lucia Liverio and Emma Patrei — due to concussions along with injury woes for forward Haley Madej.
Put that together with mistakes at key times that cost the Lady Rams in a number of close matches, and things never quite clicked in 2016 — summed up in the team’s season-ending loss to a Glens Falls team the Lady Rams had beaten 8-0 earlier in the season.
“We just had a lot of issues. Scoring on ourselves, falling apart at the last second, losing Lucia and Emma to concussions, losing Haley to injuries, only having one goalie,” Byerwalters said. “It definitely was a stressful year with injuries. I’m hoping that we can stay healthy. We’re taking the actions we need to with the girls who have had issues with concussions.”
Through the early days of this year’s preseason, Byerwalters is feeling optimistic. It took a couple days for the team chemistry to form, but by the time of Wednesday’s workout, when the Lady Rams ran an extended intrasquad scrimmage between players from the varsity and JV teams, the second-year coach was feeling much better.
“I was a little nervous the first couple days, but as we’ve done some new drills, new thoughts, new concepts, the girls have really started to take to play with who is on their team,” she said. “I’ve tried to set up the scrimmages based on who I thought would be on what team, and then shuffle it as needed.”
Liverio was the team’s leading scorer in 2016 and returns to lead the line again this year, with Patrei and Madej also stepping in as key pieces of the attack. The defense will be led by returning starters Gabby Stanavich, Deliana Figueroa and Kelsey Bogdan, with Jackie Stanavich also likely to play a vital role.
In goal, Byerwalters singled out the hard work being put in so far by Jarey Aponte to take the reins vacated by the graduation of Victoria Barone-Lopez.
“She’s stepped up to work really hard, and she’s definitely improving,” Byerwalters said.
There’s also been an influx of newcomers that have bolstered the ranks heading into the Lady Rams’ Aug. 28 season opener at Fonda-Fultonville.
“We have a couple new girls who decided to play, but they’ve been working hard, they went to camps, they’ve been doing offseason stuff,” Byerwalters said. “Their effort has shown.”
After the mix-and-match approach Byerwalters was forced to take with her lineup more often than not in 2016, she’s hoping for a little more continuity in her second season as varsity coach. So far, things are looking bright.
“We’re definitely trying to figure out where people fit in right now,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to look down my bench right now and feel pretty confident in my whole team.”