Milford girls’ soccer set to open season Saturday morning

MILFORD – While the wintery weather has put a brief hold on Milford High’s girls’ soccer season, it hasn’t put a damper on the excitement the team has to return to the field.

On the morning of Saturday, March 24, Milford will open its 2018 regular season schedule with a home showdown against Henlopen South rival Lake Forest at 11 a.m.

After losing 10 seniors from a year ago – including the team’s leading scorer Daphne Leighty and starting goalkeeper Amanda Sauer – the Milford girls’ soccer program will field a young squad for the 2018 season.

Senior captain Melina Hudson in action during a home game last season (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

“We lost 10 seniors with lots of experience and lots of know-how, but we’re ready to evolve,” head coach Donovan Howard said. “We’re not going to make any excuses, we’re going to go out there and compete and just be Buccaneers.”

Leighty’s 13 goals will be difficult to replace, but coach Howard has a plan in place to make up for her offensive production.

“We’re missing 13 goals from last year’s roster, but we’re hoping between Anna, Pharah, Jessie, Silvara and Mel, we can make that up as a goals-by-committee type of situation.”

The team’s group of four seniors – Melina Hudson, Anna Sollie, Victoria Clough and Rosie Olivas – will be able to provide veteran leadership for the younger girls on the team.

“We seniors would like to focus on leaving the underclassmen with the skills they need to carry on, so of course we’re going to focus on being leaders on the field but also training the underclassmen girls to be able to take over our positions next year,” said Hudson, one of the team’s two captains.

Coach Howard expects to see plenty of offensive production from both Hudson and Sollie.

“I think Mel is really going to step up for us, she’s going to give us that offensive creativity that we need as well as chip in with some goals with Anna,” said coach Howard.

“Early on I see a lot of excitement and passion from these young girls,” Hudson said during a pre-season practice. “It’s hard because we lost a lot of seniors last year, but I see a lot of love for soccer in these girls.”

Junior midfielder Silvara Santiago has been named co-captain alongside Melina.

“It means a lot to me [to be named captain]. Mel, she’s a great captain, and I hope to offer leadership to the other girls,” Silvara said of being named captain as a junior.

“Silvara is the holding midfielder but she’s got a lot of endurance to get in and out of offense and get back into the holding midfielder role,” coach Howard said of Silvara’s ability on the field.

In goal, Alicia Strack will be taking over as the full-time starting goalkeeper as a sophomore.

“The girl is fearless,” coach Howard said of his keeper. “She puts her body on the line for her teammates. Even at the play day, she was out at the feet and every day she just works incredibly hard.”

Coach Howard credited his assistant coach Ed Evans for the hard work he has put in with the goalkeepers.

“Coach Evans is a great goalkeeper coach,” he said. “He works with our goalkeepers and strikers and he’s just an amazing coach to have. You can see it in the quality of our goalkeeping over the at least three years since I’ve been here.”

The back line in front of Strack will be young but will receive valuable leadership from Olivas.

“The defense is going to look young. Rosie is our veteran, so she’s the one who’s talking and pushing up and dropping back,” coach Howard said.

Freshmen such as Abbegail Allen and Rebecca Wisniewski will likely step in right away and see playing time on defense for Milford.

After a 7-8 record a year ago, a two-win improvement from the season before, the Lady Bucs are looking to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2013.

With Thursday’s season-opener against Polytech postponed due to weather, Saturday morning’s match-up with Lake will mark Milford’s first game of the season.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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