Experience will factor into Bethel Park’s success in girls soccer this fall.
The Black Hawks return eight starters from last year’s 6-5-2 playoff team.
Marena Chernicky and Julie Heh return to anchor the defense. Chernicky started last year at center back. Heh started at outside back.
“Both should be leaders in the back for us,” First-year head coach Rob Heuler said, “but we are still looking for who else will be a good fit.”
The Hawks need to fill the gap caused by the graduation of Rachel Toth.
Heuler anticipates Kristen Horgan and Lauren Heh, who started last year as an outside midfielder, will flourish alongside Chernicky and Heh on defense.
“We look for speed and physicality in the back and we have people who can follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before them. We have been blessed with talent at the position in the past and these girls will help us fill out our defense,” Heuler said.
The midfield, however, appears to be the team’s strongest asset.
A Johns Hopkins commit, Lily Gaston leads the group that also includes returning starters Eva Blatz, Olivia Dawson and Macy Mathias. Gaston and Blatz ranked among the team’s leading scorers and garnered several postseason accolades in 2020.
“Midfield is our team strength,” Heuler said. “We have girls who have been playing there for three years. The team chemistry is good and we are confident that our midfielders will run the game and pace our style of play.”
Artemis Conaboy is the team’s top returning forward.
“She’s fast and can run balls down,” Heuler said. “We definitely look for her to score but it’s a tough call and too early to tell who else will stack up.”
Because BP boasts plenty of depth, there are many solutions.
Among players upon which Heuler will also rely are Emma Bucheli, Logan Burke, Alexandra Burt, Sophia Coda, Katie Erfort, Meghan Erfort, Sydney Felicetti, Grace Ferency, River Hendrych-Bondra, Addison Hill, Olivia Kitchen, Ava Knight, Katherine Krol-Schaus, April Lucidore, Keira Mehalko, Anna Minick, Kate Reichard, Cassidy Schwartz, Samantha Shields, Alexandra Tekulve, Meghan Tischler, Olivia Toomey and Molly Welch.
Bethel Park must still contend, however, with the graduation of goalkeeper Abby Karstensen.
“(Goalkeeping) is a key position,” Heuler said. “If you have a good one, then you have a solid team.”
Freshman Freya Blatz and sophomore Alex Francus are in contention for the starting spot in goal.
“Right now they both will see their share of time,” Heuler said. “Until one of them proves themselves and steps up, we’ll go with who’s hot.”
BP opens Section 2 action at Moon Sept. 8 and will square off against Peters Township Sept. 15.
While the Black Hawks have beaten many of their section rivals, including Mt. Lebanon, Canon-McMillan, Baldwin and Upper St. Clair, they have yet to beat the Indians in league play during Heuler’s tenure.
“They are talented, athletic girls,” he said of the Indians. “They are a good match up for us.”
Nevertheless, the Black Hawks have set their sights on making a run for the section title.
“That’s a big goal for us in such a competitive league,” Heuler said. “The main goals are to make the playoffs and get a higher seed and make a deeper run in the playoffs.