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Young Redbirds working to develop chemistry on soccer field

By Wayne Witkowski

Some familiar players over the past three or four seasons who played major roles in last fall’s school-record 16-5 season for Allentown High School’s girls soccer team are graduated, but there is a nucleus of promising young talent who saw spot action on the varsity team or played on a solid junior varsity team that could ease a rebuilding season.

Eleven players graduated, eight of whom were starters from last year’s team that finished second in the Colonial Valley Conference Patriot Division and reached the Mercer County Tournament finals, where the Redbirds lost to Notre Dame High School, 3-0. The Redbirds lost to Wall High School, 3-1, in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III tournament quarterfinals.

Kali Hartshorn, who coach Kim Maurer called a physical presence for the way she controlled the tempo of the game last fall, is off to a college career in lacrosse at the University of Maryland. Defenders Hannah Robertson and Sarah Settlecowski shared the team’s Most Valuable Player award for their senior seasons.

Goalkeeper Ali DeSalvatore also graduated, as Abby Howell, entering her sophomore year this fall, and rising senior Molly Robinson are competing for the starting job.

The season opens Sept. 8 at home against Trenton Central High School. The Redbirds, who started off last season with seven victories, will be tested early this season as they travel to Notre Dame High School Sept. 13 and to division rival Hopewell Valley Central High School Sept. 15.

The starting goalkeeper will have a whole new defense in front of her. Along with the departures of Robertson and Settlecowski, junior Kassidy Mulryne and sophomore Alex Searing were moved from defense, where they played only for last season, back to their familiar forward positions, where they are very fast. Mulryne is athletic, having reached the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in the high jump during the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.

Defense was the strength of last year’s team, which allowed 22 goals. But the moves of Mulryne and Searing to join senior Sid Regina at forward and having Emma Pascarella, who is back as an attacking midfielder after she started as a freshman last fall and scored eight goals, will help address the inconsistent offense that scored only 63 goals. Allentown scored only four goals in its five losses.

“Last year, we had strong defense and were not strong at forward, and now it’s the opposite. We’ll be scoring more goals this year, but we’ll be giving up more,” Maurer said.

Maurer will again be assisted by junior varsity coach Chris Bratty. Maurer’s dad, Bob Maurer, will coach the freshman team this year and brings 40 years of coaching experience to the Redbirds.

Marin Hartshorn, a junior who is Kali’s younger sister, will play on defense as a returning starter. Alyssa Sloane, a senior this fall, and Carly Roche, who will be a junior, are leading the way at midfield after the first full week of practice. Sloane was a leading goal scorer last season with seven behind Kali Hartshorn’s team-high 14 goals.

“It will be a test for the brand new defense to play well and to play together. It’s all brand new. There’s no chemistry yet,” Maurer said.

She hopes that chemistry begins to take hold in the scrimmages that begin Aug. 29 at home against Moorestown High School and continues against West Deptford High School the following day.

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