Girls soccer preview: Wilton poised for big season

When head coach Megan Rodriguez says the Wilton High girls soccer team has a “great, great returning group,” no one can accuse of her drifting into hyperbole.

She is simply telling the truth.

With nearly all of its key players back this fall, the Warriors will be looking to make deep post-season runs after going 10-5-5 in 2011, reaching the FCIAC semifinals, and losing on penalty kicks to Berlin in the Class L state tournament second round.

“We’re hoping for a strong season,” said Rodriguez, who took over for Scott Neumann early last year. “There is a lot of talent on this team.”

Much of it can be found at midfield, where the Warriors return senior central midfielder Casey Pearsall and senior outside right midfielder Tegan Helms. Pearsall excels at spot kicks and controlling tempo, while Helms uses her speed to put defenses under pressure.

Junior Lindsay Knutson, a skilled, two-year returning starter, will play alongside Pearsall in center midfield, with either junior Ali Furlo, sophomore Kayla O’Brien or sophomore Haley English on the left side.

Senior Lauren Kozakiewicz and sophomore Jayne Maccio are expected to start as strikers in Wilton’s 4-4-2 formation. Kozakiewicz brings a physical, goal-poaching element and is good in the air, and Maccio is a deft passer and dribbler with a powerful shot.

The backline features senior central defenders Mackenzie Dean and Megan Boepple, along with senior right back Nicki Rutishauser and sophomore left back McKenna Pearsall.

Wilton’s only question mark might be in goal, as senior Liz Forster takes over for the exceptional tandem of Liz Reda and Kasey O’Brien. But Rodriguez isn’t worried.

“Liz has really improved,” she said. “She has gained a lot of confidence and looks ready for a good year.”

The Warriors will also benefit from a deep bench that includes forwards Annika Sheehan and Katherine Vincent; midfielders Alyssa Malvarossa and Cecily Freilich; and defenders Hannah Maatallah, Lydia Freilich, Maddie Kirchoff, Melissa Luse and freshman Jillian Lauricella.

“We have players who can come off the bench and contribute,” said Rodriguez, whose team opens the season today at home against Darien. “Our depth should be a big plus for us.”