Girls soccer preview: Wilton looks to recover from graduation, injury

Entering his first season as head coach of the Wilton High girls soccer team, John Salvatore finds himself in a tricky position, caught between graduation and injury.

The Warriors lost several stalwarts from last year’s 11-5-4 team to the former, as midfielders Casey Pearsall and Tegan Helms, striker Lauren Kozakiewicz and defender Nicki Rutishauser received their diplomas last spring. A more unexpected departure, though, is junior midfielder Jayne Maccio, who recently suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season.

“She is a top player in the state,” said Salvatore about Maccio, an All-FCIAC honorable mention choice in 2012. “It’s a big loss.”

Nevertheless, Salvatore believes his team can hold its own in the rugged FCIAC this fall.

“I am encouraged by what I see across the field. There is a depth of quality,” said Salvatore, whose team opens the season today at Bridgeport Central. “Even though we are young, we should be able to compete.”

Wilton’s key component could be senior midfielder Lindsay Knutson, a three-year starter who received All-FCIAC honorable mention last fall.

“Lindsay is able to break down teams,” said Salvatore. “She sees the field well and can spray balls all over. Much of what we do will go through her.”

Some of Knutson’s passes will be targeted toward senior Ali Furlo and junior Annika Sheehan, who will likely play as strikers. Both were regulars a year ago.

Sophomores Zoe Lamason and Rebecca Hersch may also be factors on the front line.

Senior Haley English flanks Knutson in midfield, where senior Brooke Connolly and several younger players — sophomores Julie Kobyra and Claire Graham and freshman Ashley Vittarelli — are vying for playing time. Juniors Casey Tucker and Melissa Luse might also contribute in midfield, but both have been slowed by injuries during the pre-season.

The backline includes junior fullback Mckenna Pearsall, a shutdown-type player full of determination.

“She is relentless,” said Salvatore about Pearsall. “She plays with intensity and skill.”

Junior Hannah Maatallah is the other fullback, and sophomores Bridgette Dwyer and Jillian Lauricella could start as central defenders. Senior Lindsay Sheehan is also an option on defense.

In goal, junior Cecily Freliech, a field player last season, takes over for the graduated Liz Forster.

“Cecily has been working hard to improve,” said Salvatore. “She is untested, but I think she will do well. She has already made a lot of progress during the preseason.”

Salvatore says one potential drawback for his team is a lack of game-changers.

“We are missing some of those pieces that can break a game open,” he said. “The type of players who can turn a game quickly.”

But Salvatore is hopeful of one thing: That his team is aesthetically pleasing.

“I’m encouraging the girls to play a good, intelligent form of soccer,” he said. “So far, they seem to be doing that in practice.”