S.J. girls' soccer conference previews

The Olympic Conference American Division in girls' soccer appears to be a battle between The Inquirer's Nos. 1 and 2 preseason teams, Lenape and Eastern.

No. 4 Shawnee and No. 7 Washington Township also should be in the hunt. Unranked Cherokee, which lost eight starters, should field a competitive team.

Three Olympic National Division teams are in the Top 10: No. 3 Paul VI, No. 5 Bishop Eustace, and No. 9 Seneca. In addition to these three, Timber Creek is another team to watch.

West Deptford finished second to Haddonfield in the Colonial Liberty, but now the Eagles are the favorite, led by junior goalie Alicia Barger (12 shutouts).

Haddonfield is young, but still capable of contending. The Bulldogs' strength is in the midfield with juniors Katie Johnston and Madie Kiep.

Haddon Township is the defending Colonial Patriot Division champion and the favorite again. Junior Patrice Maro (14 goals, six assists) leads what should be a potent offense for the Hawks. Gateway and Audubon, with senior forward Alex Gravinese (14 goals), are expected contenders.

Moorestown has won 12 consecutive division titles, and the Quakers again should be among the main contenders in what looks like a tight Burlington County Liberty Division race. Holy Cross, which moves up after winning the Burlco Patriot; Rancocas Valley; and Cinnaminson should also contend seriously.

Bordentown is among the teams to beat in the Burlco Patriot, while Delran, led by fourth-year starting defender Taryn Hatcher, is a serious contender. Willingboro moves up after winning the Freedom Division and, led by high-scoring junior Taylor Lewis, could contend. Riverside, with new coach Greg Ogden, also could be a factor.

The Freedom is up for grabs. Florence, with just one senior, midfielder Jean Oros, is among the Freedom contenders. Palmyra and New Egypt also are expected to challenge, and Pemberton, led by junior forward Megan Hadfield (seven goals), could be a darkhorse.

Defending Tri-County Royal Division champion Williamstown is again the team to beat. Clearview should contend. Cumberland, with 10 returning letter winners, is a Royal Division team on the rise. Also watch out for Highland, which returns nine starters, led by all-conference sweeper Kelly Barbone and her twin Michelle, a senior midfielder.

Gloucester Catholic is favored to defend its Tri-County Diamond Division title.

Woodstown likely will be competitive, led by junior midfielder/forward Marlyn Malpezzi, a first-team all-conference selection.

Clayton won both the Tri-County Classic and South Jersey Group 1 titles in a breakthrough season, and the Clippers again should contend for both. Led by senior defender Stacey New and senior forward Kelsey Green, the Clippers should benefit from last year's playoff run. Pennsville, which moves down from the Diamond, also should contend, along with Schalick and Pitman.

Second last season to Gloucester Catholic, Pennsville has eight returning starters, led by senior center midfielder Alex Smith.

Absegami is the defending Cape American Division I champ, and the Bears should seriously contend, as should Egg Harbor Township, which welcomes back 11 letter winners, led by sophomore midfielder-forward Laina Matus.

Ocean City, Mainland, and Hammonton seem capable of winning Division II.

Defending champion Holy Spirit, Middle Township, and Buena are considered the contenders in the Cape National Division I.

In Division II, defending champ Sacred Heart is expected to be challenged by Our Lady of Mercy Academy and St. Joseph, which has six returning starters, led by senior defenders Jenna Calascione and Brianna Kragh.


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.