Following three wins to start the season, the Lee High Lancers girls’ soccer team lost a pair of 2-1 games — at home against Langley on March 24, and at Annandale High earlier this week on Monday, March 28 — to see its record slip to 3-2.
Still, the Lancers, under new head coach Nicole Giunta, have played solid soccer throughout the first several weeks of the spring campaign.
"In terms of how my girls are playing early on this season, I think that they are playing with a lot of heart," said Giunta. "I have a great group of girls who are ready to work hard and who do the best they can."
The coach said the Lancers have shown good improvement since the team’s first pre-season scrimmage against Oakton. But, for any team, there are always areas on the field to improve on.
"I think we still need to iron out a few wrinkles such as playing the ball to feet, more movement off the ball, and just calming down," said Giunta. "Our girls get so excited for the game that they sometimes panic when the ball gets to them so we are working on having them come in calm and confident. [But] I have already seen such a great improvement in my girls since our first scrimmage so I'm confident that with their continued work ethic, that they will continue to grow together as a team."
A year ago, under former coach Kevin Quaglia, Lee went 11-7-2. The Lancers experienced a strong postseason in 2010, getting to the Patriot District Tournament finals before losing in the championship game to South County, 3-0. Then, at the Northern Region playoffs, Lee, in a road game, upset defending state AAA champion Chantilly, 1-0. The Lancers’ season then ended with a setback to Stone Bridge, 3-0.
"The team did very well last year," said Giunta.
<b>THIS YEAR’S LEE</b> squad opened the season with the three wins, victories over host Hayfield, 2-1, on March 14; visiting Mount Vernon, 3-0, on March 16; and home team Edison, 3-0, on March 22. That was followed by the one-goal losses to the Saxons and Atoms.
Giunta said her team has played together and that everyone has made contributions to the team’s three wins thus far.
"I truly believe all my girls are the keys to success," said Giunta. "When any of them are missing, it takes many different considerations to fill their gap. We have defensive players who lead the back line, midfielders who have a great vision and develop the play for us, and we have some extremely fast forwards who help finish off the plays."
Four of the Lancers’ top players this year have been defender Nicole Puddy, defender/midfielder Meghan Cox, outside midfielder Emily Blake and forward/midfielder Dani Neves.
"Nicole Puddy is the heart of our defense," said Giunta. "I can always count on her to clear the ball out and win the one-on-one battle."
Cox, a defender/midfielder, has also been an invaluable member of the Lancers’ defense.
"She is an important member of our defense who will push up into the midfield," said Giunta. "She wins almost all 50-50 balls, holds great possession and gets her head up to be a real nice play maker."
Blake, meanwhile, has been a playmaker all over the field for her team.
"Emily hustles up and down the line to help with both defense and offense effectively and never stops working the entire game," said Giunta.
And Neves also displays great versatility.
"She gives us speed up top and constantly pressures," said Giunta. "She even drops back to help the midfield. She is a constant hustler."
The coach loves her team’s desire to play hard and to play as a unit.
"I think the strengths of this year’s squad are their work ethic, their individual skill, their cohesiveness and their tight team bond," said Giunta.
Lee was scheduled to play a non-district game at Centreville High on Wednesday, March 30 and will be at home Friday, April 1, at 7 p.m., to take on the Titans of T.C. Williams in a Patriot District matchup.
Next Tuesday, April 5, the Lancers will play at district rival West Potomac before coming home on Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m., to play district opponent West Springfield.