NEW YORK CITY — The road to a girls soccer city title was far from perfectly paved for Bronx High School of Science last fall.
The Wolverines endured a rocky regular season with surprising losses and injuries, but rallied to capture the PSAL Class A title last November.
Now, there’s a core of players back from that team as Bronx Science attempts to win a second consecutive championship this season, which kicked off two weeks ago.
“It wasn’t just winning the championship last year,” coach Annie Eckstein said. “It’s that it came after losing some games during the season and realizing we could come back from that. It was such an important turnaround for us.”
The victory also helped raise the profile of the girls soccer team in the school. Eckstein said a large group of players with experience tried out for the team last month.
Among them is freshman Jenna Kolodny, who Eckstein had projected to be the starting goalkeeper before she was sidelined by a small break in her finger.
Five seniors who have started for two years — versatile Alex Scheman, who scored the winning goal in last year’s final, midfielder Isabella Pecorari and defensive standouts Sofia Vainesman, Clara Duttonkneaves and Catherine Foy lead the Wolverines.
They will be joined by junior Gianna Finz, who was out last season with an ACL injury, and junior Sydney Shulman.
“We have a lot of strong players and I think we’re a lot deeper than we were last year,” Eckstein said.
Bronx Science’s stiffest competition in its division of the Public Schools Athletic League comes from perennial powerhouse The Beacon School. The two teams met in the last two city finals and last year Bronx Science snapped Beacon’s streak of back-to-back championships. It was the Blue Demons' lone PSAL loss of the season.
Beacon's team includes junior midfielder Emily Mendes, who had 10 goals and nine assists last year, and junior forward Jane Huber, who had 12 goals and two assists, while senior Hannah Embry returns in the goal.
In the Catholic High School Athletic Association, Christ the King High School's lone loss came in overtime of the state semifinal to Notre Dame Academy.
There are some personnel changes for the Christ the King Royals, but expectations remain high.
“We are not as potent as we were last year, but we will be a force,” Christ the King coach John Fayad said. “I think I plugged the holes and the team is going to be up to par.”
What the Royals do have is arguably the city’s most dangerous attacking tandem, in sophomores Medina Mulic and Sarah Nolan. The two combined for 40 goals as freshmen and, according to Fayad, are even better this fall.
“Their chemistry this year is going to be off the charts,” he said.
Senior Francesca Giglio anchors the Royals' midfield along with Andrea Cardozo, while Diana Paravatos moves from the midfield to sweeper and highlights a defense that features senior fullback Destiny Marino and Stephanie Dzazenski as stopper. They will play in front of freshman goalkeeper Kimberly Moreira.
“For a kid that young she’s off the charts,” Fayad said. “We’ll go through some growing pains with her, but she’s intense and fearless.”
Last year, Christ the King defeated The Mary Louis Academy to win a second straight CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens crown and the Hilltoppers will again be in the mix with a deep, and talented squad.
“I think we’re talented, more talented than last year’s group,” Mary Louis coach Tom Bruen said. “We have a lot more girls, which is always a plus. I think we should be a more offensive team.”
For the first time in a long time, Bruen said he’s got numerous options in the attacking third, led by returning forwards Colette Craig and Erica Ritter, who are joined by Nalae Crosland, the leading scorer on the JV a year ago, and Karla Santos, who moves up front after competing in the midfield a year ago.
The midfield is solid with the tandem of Therese Boyle and Rachel Spampinato, and Clare Loredan returns as one of the city’s top goalkeepers.
“She’s a phenomenal goalie,” Bruen said. “She’s got to be involved. When she’s engaged in the game, she’s scary good.”
The Gators are especially strong defensively with seniors Dani Weisman and Ashley Villamar back, while senior midfielder Taylor Bonnano, who was instrumental in Notre Dame’s playoff run last year, should spark the offense.
The Gators will be challenged for the CHSAA Archdiocesan title by St. Joseph Hill Academy.
Last fall, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School’s season ended in heartbreak with a loss to Horace Mann in the NYSAIS final.
The senior returning core want nothing more than to finish what they started when they put Columbia Prep on the map.
Among the key returnees are goalkeeper Lucy Rubin, who has 31 shutouts in three years, Ella Rubin and Madison Rosegarten, who have combined for 93 goals in three years, sophomore playmaker Victoria Eavis and senior defenders Carly Doyle and Lauren Laufer.
“Defense was the key to our run in the state tournament last year. We did a really good job of containing other teams, bending without breaking and Lucy cleaning things up and making a few big saves in key moments as well,” Columbia Prep coach Andy Chappell said. “We move the ball well, keep it on the floor, and are trying to be more creative in our runs this year.