BBA keeps expectations high for 2019 season

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MANCHESTER — When a player steps onto the field for the Burr and Burton girls soccer team, the expectation is clear.

For a program so deeply rooted in success over the past handful of years, the Bulldogs are routinely expected to be among the state's best.

With the 2019 season quickly approaching, BBA figures to be right in the mix as one of the better teams in the state once again this fall.

Before the Bulldogs can even think that far down the line, they have to live in the here and now.

The now is all about developing their chemistry before next Friday's opening game against Saint Johnsbury.

"It feels great to be back out here and it's always such an anticipation for everybody," said BBA coach Suzanne Mears, who is 72-12-1 in her Bulldogs coaching career. "Once we get past those first couple days, we can just calm our nerves and just play and that's exactly what we're doing now. We're working on communication and team collaboration throughout."

Grace Pinkus, a UMass Amherst commit, returns for her senior season, following a year where she scored 13 goals to once again lead the Bulldogs.

Having someone like her who is so creative with the ball on her foot, while serving as a leader off the field is something BBA doesn't take for granted.

"Grace is a powerhouse and a great leader. She's a go-to for many reasons on and off the field," Mears said. "I'm really proud of the person she is and the player she is. To have her back leading this team, she's worked so hard for that. I don't anticipate anything but success for her."

BBA has plenty of strong complements to Pinkus' game as well. Despite losing a few scoring options, girls like Rebecca Montaufray, Rowan Russell and Piper Russell, among others, can produce offensively.

Having that depth around a scorer like Pinkus will prove to be beneficial for the Bulldogs.

"We have to come together as a team and it doesn't just take one individual," Mears said. "It takes all of us working together to a common goal and I think that's what we do."

Junior goalkeeper Carol Herbert has been on varsity since her freshman year, but stepped into the starting role last year with great success, having multiple clean sheets.

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Now, as one the team's captains, Mears expects her to be even better this fall, especially with having the whole year of starting experience under her belt.

"She had a phenomenal year last year and she's our only goalie right now," Mears said. "I expect a huge leadership role out of her. She's grown so much and I can only imagine she's going to be one of the best out there."

Sky Woodard was a stalwart in the midfield for BBA last fall, controlling the game from her post. With Woodard's graduation, the Bulldogs are trying to find a person to fit that role.

Nothing has been set in stone, but girls like Alair Powers, Ada Perry and Daisy O'Keefe have been competing in that role in early practices.

"We're trying to see who plays well together in what position and they know that could change on any given day," Mears said.

Annette Zilkha and Madelyn Goebel will play in the midfield as well.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have plenty of experience coming back, even after losing a few starters from the 2018 team.

Seniors Hannah Dworkin and Aryn Iannuzzi lead the way, along with sophomore Stella Turner, another critical piece of the back line.

2019 marks the first season since 2015 that the Bulldogs aren't coming off a trip to the Division I state championship game the year before. BBA's 2018 season ended in the state quarterfinals in a 3-1 loss to South Burlington.

The Bulldogs haven't talked about last year's loss and are instead on focused on what this year's team can offer.

"I keep the bar high in the expectations I set from Day 1," Mears said. "We are a successful program and we want to fill the shoes of the people that were here before us. We want to wear the numbers with pride and wear the Burr and Burton Academy jersey with pride because of the effort that's gone in to build our program. We have had a lot of conversations around who we are, who we want to be and how are we going to continue to rise each day."

Roster: Grace Pinkus, Julia Barclay, Julia Brand, Willa Bryant, Hannah Dworkin, Miranda Eisenman, Kilo Francomb, Madelyn Goebel, Carol Herbert, Aryn Iannuzzi, Jillian Ihasz, Rebecca Montaufray, Daisy O'Keefe, Ada Perry, Alair Powers, Piper Russell, Rowan Russell, Emma Thomas, Stella Turner, Morgan Weber, Annette Zilkha.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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