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Junior Kerry McGuire and senior Maddie Sirois (right) are the co-captains for the 2016 MKA girls soccer team which looks to repeat success of last year's 18-2-1 campaign under first-year coach Christie Welsh, who is a former Herman Award winner at Penn State. (Sideline Chatter photos)

MKA first-year coach Christie Welsh instructs her team during practice

MKA first-year coach Christie Welsh (left) is joined by four of her seniors, from left, Rebecca Connelly, Reilly Cirenza, Melissa Goekbora and Maddie Sirois as the Cougars continue to prepare for the 2016 girls soccer season.

MKA Girls Begin A New Era
With Ex-College Star At Helm
By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

MONTCLAIR- You may ask how does a former Herman Award winner as the top women’s collegiate soccer player in the country and – most recently- an assistant coach from a major PAC-12 Conference school wind up heading the girls soccer program at Montclair Kimberley Academy?

“I was excited for a different challenge, and I always loved high school soccer dating back to my own playing days at Massapequa (N.Y.),” said Christie Welsh, who won the Herman Award at Penn State in 2001 and for the past three years had worked as an assistant at the University of Oregon. “The MKA kids are smart and driven, they go to a very good school, and are fun to coach.

“This is a different experience than club soccer where I coach for Match Fit. I’ve enjoyed working the past few weeks with this great group of girls and it continues to be a lot of fun as we all look forward to the new season ahead!”

MKA finished an impressive 18-2-1 last fall led by one of the state’s top forwards in Olivia Vaughn, who is now playing at Boston College. The Cougars have moved up to the top division (American) in the Super Essex Conference with strong programs such as neighboring Montclair High, Glen Ridge and Livingston always at or near the top of the division and in the Essex County Tournament Final Four picture, and Welsh welcomes the challenge of playing such top-tier competition.

“My philosophy has always been that to be the best you have to play the best, and although it may be an eye-opening experience for some of our girls, hopefully we can continue to build upon whatever our results are and both continue to learn more about soccer while becoming a better team at the same time.”

Welsh takes over for Kieran Patrick who left for other challenges in the game of soccer, and Patrick’s assistant coach, Jordan Raper, who Welsh knows well from Match Fit Academy, has moved over to the MKA boys program he used to head to now be an assistant for second-year head man Rob Leather.

Now a brand new coach with a stellar background and enough veterans plus very promising youngsters helps to all add up to a potential winning formula once again for the Cougar girl booters, who will certainly miss the services of the school’s all-time leading scorer in Vaughn, but will now take on a somewhat different look offensively and look to take a more balanced approach to scoring in 2016.

“Losing a player like Olivia is a big deal and these players know that as well as anyone, but it’s also now time for the players that are still here to step in and continue to get the job done, which I’m confident that they will do,” continued Welsh. “We have good senior leadership, very good juniors and sophomores, and exciting young freshmen coming up who I see contributing a lot of minutes.

“I think our midfield is especially strong with (juniors) Jess Schildkraut, (co-captain) Kerry McGuire and Jackie Kemly, and I am confident with our goal tending as freshman Arianna Jobst has done well back there in the pre-season.

“I see another freshman, Alexis Riley, helping us in the back, along with (sophomore outside back) Dani Golden, who is someone I can also push up.

“I need to have some creativity on my end with the way I both align and tinker with the lineup where needed.”

Up top, Welsh will turn to sophomore Ally Raff and freshman Jaimie Fuchs.

“Ally has a presence on attack and is a target-type player who could be powerful for us, and Jaime has a fabulous touch on the ball.”

Senior co-captain Maddie Sirois is a steady performer at center back, while sophomore outside back Lily Pryor lends an athletic presence as well while junior center back Hailey Gardner is a smart player who will also contribute in a number of ways.

“We’re looking to make this season both a great learning experience when it comes to very specific position and tactical instruction, but - at the same time - we want to have a lot of fun playing this great game while everyone has a chance to enjoy the high school soccer experience,” said the first-year MKA head mentor. “This is another environment, which is different in many ways than elite club travel ball, but it’s still soccer and we want to be the best we can possibly be.”

MKA opens the 2016 season on Friday, Sept. 9, hosting Millburn at 4 p.m. in its first SEC-American Division match. Then, the team turns right around to travel out to Blair Academy on Saturday, Sept. 10, for a 3:15 p.m. match.

Looking ahead, the Cougars will take on Montclair High, 4 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 4, at Fortunato Field.

COUGAR CLIPPINGS- Welsh, who was a 4-time All-American at Penn State and a 1998 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year at Massapequa, led the Long Island high school to the New York state championship in 1997….She coached for three seasons under Kat Mertz at Oregon after spending one year at St. Joseph University in Philadadelphia…Welsh also played and coached with DC United of the W-League (Women’s Professional Soccer), and also with the New York Power of the Women’s United Soccer League. She was also a U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team member…McGuire is a 3-sport standout at MKA also excelling in basketball and softball for the Cougars…Schildkraut, a 3-year starter, has committed to play her college women’s soccer at Columbia University in 2018….Welsh, who will work this year in the MKA alumni relations office, will have three assistants with the Cougar girls socder team in returnees Allison Shearin and Allison Currie in addition to newcomer Chris Hysnod…Olivia Vaughn is a Boston College teammate of former Montclair High standout Kayla Jennings, who is a red-shirt freshman for the Eagles.

MKA 2016 Girls Soccer Regular Season Schedule:

Sept. 9 vs. Millburn

Sept. 10 at Blair 3:15

Sept. 12 vs. Nutley

Sept. 14: vs. Bloomfield

Sept. 19: vs. Livingston

Sept. 21: vs. Newark Academy

Sept. 23: at Caldwell

Sept. 28: at West Essex

Sept. 30: at Verona

Oct. 4: at Montclair

Oct. 6: vs. Glen Ridge

Oct. 8: at Kearny, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 10: vs. Mount St. Dominic

Oct. 13: vs. Wardlaw-Hartridge 4:15

*Unless otherwise noted, games start at 4 p.m.

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

MKA first-year head coach Christie Welsh confers with her varsity assistant Allison Shearin during recent practice at Muenster Field.

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