Coming off this weekend’s annual Battle at the Beach Girls Soccer Tournament in Onslow County, the four Wilmington high schools are ready for a competitive spring season with Laney and Hoggard leading the list as early favorites.
The Bucs return a ton of experience from a team that finished in second last year, one game behind Hoggard. Laney closed its 2015 campaign with a 10-1-1 conference mark and 17-2-1 overall record.
With 13 letter winners back for fifth-year Head Coach Dustin Bienas, the Bucs have a good mix of youth and experience. College commits Baley Edwards (UNCW), Anna Rae Porcelli (Greensboro College), Sydney Young (University of Montevallo) and Alex Butorovich (Belmont Abbey) give Bienas plenty of top-level experience.
Laney notched 75 goals last season, while Young has developed into a premiere goalkeeper after transitioning into the position early in her high school career. Sophomore Haley Shand was also an All-Region performer as a sophomore and gives Laney plenty of options in the attack.
Hoggard Coach Justin Schatz is also looking for a big year as the defending conference champions. The Vikings were 11-0-1 in the division and 21-3-2 following a trip to the 4A East Regional.
Like Laney, Hoggard brings several college-level players to the pitch. Hannah Wagner (Salem College) is healthy and ready to anchor the team in goal. Aimee Darrow (Mount Olive College) is a strong returning defender, with Caroline Lemley and Tara Poteat helping anchor the back line.
Senior Emma Haywood navigates the midfield as one of the best at her position across the area, while Jess Bennion and Siara Southlerand should play a big role in the attacking third. Mary Ormsby (Salem College) is an all-around contributor and difference maker for Schatz.
New Hanover and Ashley are not too far behind the perennial favorites in the division. New Hanover’s T.J. Rennie is back for his fourth season and always has his group playing their best soccer late in the season.
Abbey Campbell, Sally Sloan and Lela King are a trio to keep an eye on for the Wildcats. Campbell was an All-Region competitor last season in the central defense. Sloan will lead the attack, while King returns as team captain.
After guiding the Ashley boys to a memorable run in his first season as head coach, Greg Marinich took over the girls’ program this season. Lindsey Williams, Tess Cairney and Taylor Butts look to give the Screaming Eagles increased energy on the field.
Williams is a team captain and last year was a First-Team All-Conference selection. Cairney is the daughter of UNCW Women’s Soccer Coach Paul Cairney and a team leader, while Butts is expected to play a key role in the defense.