5-minute guide to high school girls soccer season

11 players to watch

Alyssa Christo, St. Joseph -- After two years in a supporting role as a forward, the junior moves into the midfield to assume more duties after the graduation of some of the Cadets' key cogs. She scored nine goals as a sophomore despite missing the start of the season with an injury.

Madeline Keene, Newtown -- At 5-foot-10 the junior defender is a solid, steady presence in the back line for the Nighthawks.

Alex Farley, Shelton -- Leader of a stout Gaels defense, which only allowed 13 goals last season. She's been slowed by a knee injury in the preseason, but is drawing Division I interest.

Callie Bowie, Weston -- Senior has piled up 29 goals and 21 assists over the last three years. An ankle injury may sideline her until the end of the month. Schools like Bucknell and Clemson have shown interest in her.

Blakeley Zecher, Fairfield Ludlowe -- Senior goalkeeper doesn't play travel soccer in the offseason but could be among the best at her position in the FCIAC.

Jaclyn Katz, Staples -- Senior forward has been a steady, consistent player for the Wreckers throughout her career.

Lilly Creighton, Barlow -- With 10 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore, the attacking midfielder could help Barlow win a trophy.

Marissa Pearson, Trumbull -- Senior midfielder is one of the few remaining players who played during the Eagles' run of three straight state titles from 2006-2008.

Alyssa Fratarcangeli, Lauralton Hall -- Was an instant success as a freshman, but now will be counted on even more as the Crusaders transition to a new coach and the loss of some key performers.

Marissa Maiolo, Masuk -- Made solid contributions as a junior but could be poised for a breakout senior year along with Kathleen Snajder for the defending SWC champ.

Bridgette Dolio, Bunnell -- Senior midfielder was an All-SWC selection and led the Bulldogs with nine goals last season.

Teams to watch

Barlow -- After falling short the last two seasons, the Falcons are being tipped to walk away with a trophy of some kind this season. Barlow has quality across the field, which makes this more than just a pipe dream.

Shelton -- The Gaels have been knocking on a breakthrough in the SCC for the past few seasons. Even with leading scorer Jen Spicer gone, hopes are high in Shelton.

Story lines

New faces at Lauralton -- The Crusaders went undefeated in the regular season last year, and with a young roster look poised to contend in the SWC and Class M for the next few years. However, coach Rick Koczak left to coach at Choate and brought Lauralton's best player -- Shelby Halasz -- along with him. Former West Haven boys coach Peter Trenchard takes over the reins of a team that still has talent, but might take some time to find its identity.

Parity in FCIAC? -- The FCIAC will always be considered one of the top leagues in the state. It boasts both the defending Class LL champ (Westhill) and Class L winner (New Canaan), yet there's a sense it's anyone's league this year. Last year's league co-champ, Ridgefield, waits on the health of Jaclyn Giordano, who tore her ACL late in the 2009 season. New Canaan, the other co-champ, still has Ohio State-bound Caroline Murray. Westhill, Greenwich, St. Joseph, Trumbull, Staples and Fairfield Warde all might push for the league when it's all said and done.

Can anyone beat Masuk in the SWC? -- The Panthers have held the league crown for the last four seasons. Whether by total domination or by penalty kicks, one way or another, coach Eleanor Brainard's team seems to walk away with the SWC spoils come November.

Will St. Joseph's freshmen lead the way? -- The Cadets have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of All-American Jess Schloth and All-New England player Sarah Frassetto. Coach Jack Noguiera is optimistic a very talented freshman class, led by Samantha Grasso, can keep St. Joseph up to its high standard of play. "If my freshmen are as good as I think, we'll be very good," he said. "I think this group is very talented."

Games to watch

Lauralton Hall at Bunnell, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. -- A chance for either team to make an early statement.

Newtown at Masuk, Oct. 5, 7 -- Longstanding rivals always seem to bring out the best in each other.

Cheshire at Shelton, Oct. 6, 7:30 -- The teams split last year, but Cheshire edged out Shelton for the SCC Housatonic Division title and its league playoff spot. "They know they have to play their `A' game against us, and we have to bring our `A' game to play them," Shelton coach Marvin Miller said.

Fairfield Ludlowe at Fairfield Warde, Oct. 26, 7 -- A place in the FCIAC playoffs could be on the line.

Trumbull at St. Joseph, Oct. 28, 3:30 -- Cross-town rivalry is a fine way to cap the regular season.

Around the region

FCIAC

Central (0-14-1) is trying to find break through in the difficult FCIAC. Three-year starter, junior Monique Jorge is the team's most important player in the central midfield. ... Fairfield Ludlowe (13-7-2) needs to replace the big shoes of the school's all-time leading scorer, Chrissy Lozier, who scored 18 goals with seven assists last season. Players like Mary Kamovitch, Lucia Harold and Brooke Mackno will try to fill that void, as all three had at least four goals last year. The Falcons did beat eventual Class LL champion Westhill in the FCIAC playoffs in their first trip to the league playoffs in school history. "The kids are certainly developing a winning attitude and building tradition with our relatively young program," coach Tony Samuelian said. ... Fairfield Warde (7-4-5) should build off a strong senior core of Kathryn Young, Alex Kelly and Taylor Bargmann. Junior Keegan Thimons, an all-FCIAC second teamer in 2009, should be a big contributor, too. ... Staples (9-7-1) has a new coach, Nicole Ross, who inherits a veteran-based team with nine seniors. This group is led by forward Jaclyn Katz, defender Kelly Bohling and midfielders Shannon Moss and Nikki Brill. ... St. Joseph (14-4-2) should lean on three-year starter in the defense Shannon Duffy as it searches for a No. 1 goalie. Junior Alyssa Cristo shifts from forward to midfield, while sophomore Sylvia Yanez will be counted on to score goals up top. The Cadets could get a boost at midseason from Newtown transfer Arianna Papaj, too. ... Trumbull (5-7-3) is trying to bounce back after a rare down season, where it was knocked out in the first round of the Class LL tournament and failed to reach the FCIAC postseason tournament. Seniors Marissa Pearson, Rebecca Smith and Michelle Reggiano will be looked on for steady performances as coach Daniel Uhrlass integrates two sophomores and two freshmen into the starting lineup.

SWC

Barlow (12-5-1) has plenty of attacking talent with midfielders Lilly Crieghton, Delaney Bracken and Fiorella Johnson. Senior Kelly Haines anchors the Falcons defense. ... Bunnell (7-8-2) graduated only three seniors and should be improved. Bridgette Dolio should lead the attack from the midfield, while Michela Greco anchors the defense. ... Lauralton Hall (16-2-3) will be a team in transition with new coach Pete Trenchard taking over. Seniors Stephanie D'Andrea and Danielle Sekerak will be important to maintain stability for a team that went undefeated during the 2009 regular season. Junior Nicole Peterson will also be counted on. ... Masuk (15-3-4) returns a solid core, eying its fifth consecutive SWC title led by senior keeper Emily Antenucci, who posted 11 shutouts as a junior. ... Newtown (9-5-4) is banking on the continued improvement of sophomore forwards Brittany Tolla and Amy Martin to push the team back to the top of the SWC. ... Notre Dame-Fairfield (0-15-0) has a new coach, Eric McGrath, who is trying to build confidence and self-belief within the program, as well as respect from opponents. Holdovers include seniors Jaclyn Bria, Allison Cryan and Lauren Crispino. ... Oxford (2-12-2) will try to build off a strong finish, where it won two of its final three games in 2009. ... Stratford (3-11-2) is slowly trying to build the program. Coach Erin Mucha says the goal is, "to win more games than the last year and compete more in the league." Seniors include Megan Simon, Kaitlyn Stevens and Sarah Stevens. ... Weston (9-7-3) graduated 10 seniors, but does have some quality players returning like Callie Bowie, keeper Hannah Hutchins and sophomore forward Grace Mattison, who'll be counted on to score goals. The passing of junior Rachel Lugossy will also be important.

OTHERS

Amity (7-8-1) started, at times, up to eight freshmen last year. Coach Owen Quigley thinks the team should be much improved, so long as it stays healthy. Captains Tabathia Brown, Amy McNeal, Kristin Shanley and Taylor Flanagan will be counted on to provide some stability as the Spartans grow up. ... The NVL pair of Ansonia (6-9-2) and Derby (2-13-1) will try to remain competitive in the league and try to grab a state playoff spot. ... Christian Heritage is coming off a year when it won the Valley Division of the HVAL. Top players are senior keeper Abby Campbell and junior forward Sara Davis. ... Foran (2-13-1) graduated four defensive starters, but could be a better attacking team this year. Captains Taylor Jagoe and Kieryn Deyoe will be important leading the offense. ... Law (4-11-1) graduated eight seniors but is trying to keep the program pointed in the right direction with an eye on the state tournament. Senior All-Hammonasset Division selection Taylor Rotella will play an important role, along with classmates Emily Bak and Nicole Rivera. ... Seymour (7-9-1) figures to be in the middle of the pack in the NVL. Seniors Katie Mirabella and Emily Coyne are important contributors. ... Shelton (14-4) lost in the Class LL quarterfinals to eventual champion Westhill. The Gaels need to replace high-scoring forward Jen Spicer, but still have a strong cast, including senior defenders Alex Farley and Sonali Rodrigues, senior keeper Melissa Brouillette and senior midfielder Danica Foglio. Shelton only allowed 13 goals last season and coach Marvin Miller is holding out high hopes for sophomore forward Megan Burke. ... West Haven (8-8-1) lost nine starters and is rebuilding with a new defense and new goalie. Junior forward Gabrielle Reis will be counted on to score goals, while seniors Brian Yanez and Jessica Simoes anchor the midfield.

Compiled by staff writer Mike Cardillo