LYNN — There were plenty of hurdles to climb last fall for the Classical girls soccer team. Under first-year coach Mark Ierardi, the Rams had to adjust to a new coaching staff and a new system.
And with no seniors on the 2017 roster, a handful of inexperienced underclassmen stepped into key roles and played extensively.
Despite those challenges the Rams finished the 2017 campaign at 7-9-2, one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament. This year’s team, Ierardi said, has no excuses.
“When I first got hired, I said we had to do two things: we had to play to our potential and we had to stay healthy,” Ierardi, entering his second season as Classical’s coach, said. “I thought for the most part we played to our potential. I made it clear this year that if we don’t make the playoffs this season, we’d have to consider that a disappointment. The experience that our players got last year should really help them this year.
“We’re certainly not going to use anything as an excuse,” Ierardi said. “I feel like we have enough talent. I think we just have to put it all together and play consistent.”
Classical has 11 seniors on this year’s roster. Three of them will serve as co-captains: striker Abby Ierardi, midfielder/sweeper Julia Jordan and midfielder Ciara Collins. The trio helped Classical get a jump start on the fall season by gathering the team for camps and captains’ practices during the summer.
“I think they’re all doing a great job,” Ierardi said. “I really like all three of them. They keep the girls organized, they’re very involved with things in the summer. We had 27 girls go to a Salem State camp. Two of my captains were instrumental in making sure the girls went to that. They did a number of captain’s practices and they played in a summer league in Saugus. The captains kept everybody together and kept them informed.”
Also returning to the team are senior defender Olivia Pedro, senior midfielder/striker Fatima Girdia, junior midfielder/striker Izzy McGaughey, junior sweeper/stopper Chloe Kebreau and sophomore midfielders Mary Collins and Hannah Guthrie (both starters last season as freshmen).
Also expected to play key roles in 2018 are sophomore defender/stopper Kathleen Mannion, freshman midfielder Molly Mannion and freshman goalie Anna Flaherty.
“Anna will most likely be our starting goalie,” Ierardi said. “She has looked very, very solid in net so far.”
While the Rams lacked seasoned veterans and experience last fall, Ierardi feels that won’t be an issue this season. In fact, he pointed to experience as an area he projects to be a strength this fall.
“After a year’s experience with the number of seniors we have, I’d say the strength of this team is the senior core,” Ierardi said. “We have 11 seniors this year, we had none last year. The leadership of the seniors and captains will be our strength and I think we’re pretty strong in the midfield as well.”
The Rams are only a few days into the preseason but Ierardi likes what he has seen thus far. Ierardi has tested Classical with a few 3-hour training sessions and the team has responded well.
“I think we’re looking very well. We had a couple of very intense 3-hour workouts (last) Thursday and Friday. We have a couple of scrimmages ready for this week. So far, I like what I see.
“We’re just looking to pick up where we left off from last year and incorporate the new players, gelling earlier than we did last year,” Ierardi said. “We’re trying to get off to a good start and then maintain it throughout the year.”
Joining Ierardi on his coaching staff are his brother, Greg Ierardi, and Kelleigh Lombard. Classical opens the 2018 season Sept. 4 against crosstown rival English in the Lynn City Soccer Tournament at Manning Field.