LYNN — Ed McNeil and the Lynn English girls soccer team are rebuilding almost from scratch this season. After losing 10 seniors to graduation, eight starters, there will be plenty of fresh faces on the field for the Bulldogs in 2018.
“It’s going to be tough replacing some of the girls that we lost from last year,” said McNeil, now entering his 14th season coaching the Bulldogs. “Obviously our No. 1 goalie and our top goal scorer are gone, so that puts us a little behind right off the bat. Then when you consider the amount of experience all of our other seniors had, that’s a lot that we need to replace.”
The two most glaring losses from last year’s squad, as McNeil pointed out, are leading goal scorer Alexa Zayas and goalkeeper Tommi Hill. Zayas scored 11 goals last season, while Hill played every minute of game action and averaged 2.2 goals against. Both Zayas and Hill played in the Agganis All-Star Girls Soccer Game this summer.
“Those were certainly our top two players, and they’ll be missed,” McNeil said.
While the losses are tough, it’s not like the cupboard is completely bare at English. A strong trio of defenders in senior Milena Biondi and juniors Julianna Perry and Brooke Zahine are projected to be the strength of this year’s English squad.
“I think defense is going to be our strong suit this year,” McNeil said. “We have a great group of experienced players on the back end who will help keep the other team off the scoreboard for the most part, which is key for us because we may still have problems scoring goals.”
It was goal scoring that was English’s biggest problem last season, as the Bulldogs only mustered 22 goals for the entire season and they struggled to a 4-12-4 record. But this year, a group of talented upperclassmen along with some talented young players are hoping to change that. Junior Catelyn Bowden and freshman Melissa Zayas (Alexa’s younger sister) will be key players at striker this year, while seniors Brenda Perez and Abdely Merida and junior Ravyn Rapley will play important roles at midfield.
“We have a group of talented players at most positions but our key obstacle to overcome will be a lack of experience,” McNeil said. “Not many of these girls have played an extended amount of time at the varsity level, so it may take a little time for them to get acclimated.”
McNeil also has reason to be excited for the future of the program, as the Bulldogs will field a full junior varsity team and play a full junior varsity schedule for the first time in a number of years after more than 35 girls tried out last week. English has also taken part in a few scrimmages against teams like St. Mary’s, Reading and Saugus to try and get the younger players game experience.
“The scrimmages were very good for us, even if the scoreboard said we may not have played our best,” said McNeil. “It was great to get the younger, more inexperienced players some time against quality programs who will likely all be in the state tournament this year. Our players need to see what the competition is like at this level.”
All of the work the Bulldogs have put in over the past couple weeks will be put to the test next Tuesday when English opens the season against crosstown rival Classical in the Lynn Invitational Soccer Tournament.