Monroe Township High School finished below .500 in the 2018 girls’ soccer regular season.
But then the Falcons made a stunning run to the semifinals in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament, upsetting two higher seeds, Sayreville War Memorial High School and East Brunswick High School, along the way.
Monroe’s coach, Peter Ruckdeschel, thinks Monroe’s 2019 campaign will be more like its state sectional tournament run. All 11 starters are back from the ’18 Falcons, and they are a talented group.
Ruckdeschel even thinks the Falcons could become one of the best teams in New Jersey.
Monroe will begin its 2019 season on Sept. 3 at Marlboro High School. Opening tap is scheduled for 4 p.m.
“We have very high expectations,” Ruckdeschel said.
The fourth year high school coach has been training goalkeepers and coaching soccer for years in Monroe Township, and he called his current keeper, Emma Bodmer, and his current center midfielder, Brigitte Bussiere, the best keeper and player, respectively, that he has ever coached.
As a junior last fall, Bodmer made 169 saves, an average of more than seven per game. As a sophomore last fall, Bussiere recorded seven goals and five assists, and played great defense.
“Emma communicates efficiently and takes command of the box,” Ruckdeschel said. “Brigitte’s first touch is amazing and her field awareness is brilliant.”
Those two could keep Monroe in contention on their own, but there are a lot of talented players around them, too.
Defenders Sam Rodrick, Audrey Lynch, Paige Magee and Kamryn Pickard have all been playing together for years now, including in the offseason when they participate in seven-on-seven leagues with the other Falcons. Ruckdeschel is even confident that his bench defenders can play significant minutes and help keep the starters fresh.
The midfield unit has similar balance and depth. Center midfielder Isabela Soares is “technically perfect,” Ruckdeschel said. Midfielder Kylie Fernandes registered four goals and three assists a year ago. Midfielder Bella Gartner brings speed to the outside.
“Last year was their first time playing together, and they worked off each other, one two passing, opening the field to the outside with the wings,” Ruckdeschel said.
“It was beautiful soccer,” he added.
Despite this talent, Monroe didn’t score a ton in 2018. It finished with 33 goals, an average of less than two per game.
So for everything to come together this fall, the Falcons will need their forwards to go up a level. They all bring different talents to the table.
Ruckdeschel will be the first to tell you that.
Alexa Fedak is “lightning fast,” the coach said. Joanna Giustino has “great touch and can power the ball into the back of the net,” he added. Leilah Mohamed “can get between defenders and use her height to do damage,” he continued. And Madeline Evans “grew a lot in the offseason and is playing with more tenacity,” he concluded.
That’s probably all true, but it didn’t all come together on the field last fall. It will have to for the Falcons to reach their potential in 2019.
Like any team, the Falcons won’t be able to depend on talent alone. They will have to embrace the daily growth process.
“I am stressing going day to day,” Ruckdeschel said. “But if we come together, the sky is the limit.”