NORTHVILLE - After scoring the golden goal that propelled the Northville Lady Falcons into their first New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship match Veronica Arceri said, "We are like a family like sisters. We are not like a team; we are a family that enjoys being together. We want to win the championship."
After the Lady Falcons' practice Tuesday, the sophomore's thoughts about her team are the same.
"All of my goals [last year] were because of a whole team effort," Arceri said. "This year, we are really focusing on working as a team again. We are going to be a family again."
Northville girls soccer coach Chris Edwards, left, watches as the team works through a drill at practice Tuesday at Northville High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Lady Falcons' family will have a different look this season as it drives toward a shot at a fifth straight Section II Class D championship as 10 members graduated from the squad that posted a 16-5-1 record en route to a runner-up finish in the NYSPHSAA Class D tournament.
"You can't replace those girls but we have girls on this team that have talent who did not see the field as much because of those girls last year," Chris Edwards, who was named 2011 co-Coach of the Year by the New York State Sportswriters and Coaches Organization for Girls Sports, said. "But they are ready to step up and are ready to play. It is obvious that they want to play because they have a different attitude because last year they did rely on the players who were seniors and starters. Now it is their turn to step up and if they want it for themselves this year, they know they have got to work for it."
Edwards said that on the first day of practice last Thursday, there was a different attitude than on the opening day in 2011.
"They were a little bit scared and a little bit nervous knowing that the season before was such a great run and a first for our school," he said. "But they weren't scared to put their effort out. They came out in the first practice and everything was there as they were ready to push. I worked them hard, for sure, and they asked for more, which is great. They want to be ready and in the shape, they were midseason last year for their first game this year. That is a positive start."
Edwards said a core of returning players, including NYSPHSAA Outstanding Defensive Player of the tournament Mary Ryan, Abby Moore, Kelly VanNostrand, Tessa Hedlund and Arceri, are among the players who have stepped forward as the leaders on the team.
"We are looking good and are really working well together," Ryan said. "We play a possession game and last year it took us a while to get it but we have got it down. We are also in pretty good shape actually."
Northville will begin its drive toward a fifth straight sectional championship on Sept. 5 when they host Mekeel Christian Academy in a Western Athletic Conference match. After hosting rival Mayfield on Sept. 7, the Lady Falcons will travel to play Bolton on the turf under the lights at Skidmore College on Sept. 8.
Edwards said he and the team realize they will be the ones everyone is gunning for this season because of their success last year.
"Absolutely," he said. "It is a big role to follow and I am sure everybody is gunning for us. I am pushing for us to get our endurance up right from the start. If that is something we can do we will be in better shape. We have had a great program here for years. It will be nice to do it again [win a sectional title] and make school history."
Though the Lady Falcons have their sights set high, Edwards said that any accomplishments or losses by this team would be shared.
"That was something right from the beginning," he said. "The returners from last year's team said the key to our success was being a family and that is immediately what they said we needed to be again this year, a family."