Girls soccer: Shelton ready to defend SCC title

Shelton's Kaleigh Panek challenges Cromwell goalkeeper Seraphina Mckiernan.  — Andy Hutchison photo

Shelton’s Kaleigh Panek challenges Cromwell goalkeeper Seraphina Mckiernan in a game last season. — Andy Hutchison photo

The Shelton High girls soccer team is coming off of a banner 2015 campaign, which saw the Gaelettes win their second Southern Connecticut Conference championship.

Their stay in the Class LL state playoffs were a bit shorter though, as Shelton, seeded No. 4 overall, was upset by No. 20 seed Simsbury High, 3-1, in the second round of states.

Gone from that squad are midfielder Juliane Niedzwiecki and defender Jillian Engeldrum, but the enviable depth that returns should make head coach Marvin Miller’s Gaelettes one of the top sides at both the league and state level.

“I certainly think that we will be in the hunt again for the conference championship, but we will be strongly challenged by other teams,” Miller said. “We’ve also set some strong goals for the Class LL tournament. The players did a great job preparing for this season and have shown confidence and a winning outlook from the beginning.”

Leading the line for Shelton will be senior captains Kathryn Arena, Kaleigh Panek and Alyson Yakowicz.

Panek, a midfielder, hammered home 23 goals as a junior, while dishing out eight assists. That earned her All-State and All-Housatonic Division accolades.

Joining her in the middle of the park are Arena (eight goals, seven assists), who was also All-Housy last year, and classmates Kristen Shuster and Sarah Skoronski (10 goals, four assists). Esabel Rosa, a sophomore, will also provide midfield support.

Up front, senior forward Kylee Opper (10 goals, three assists) gives Shelton yet another experienced goalscorer, along with senior Daisy Dufour.

Yakowicz (three assists) will marshal the defense in front of reigning SCC tournament MVP Shelby Offord.

Offord, a senior, notched 45 saves, a 1.5 goals against average and three clean sheets last year.

Senior Kristen Willey and sophomore Erin Keary will combine with Yakowicz to anchor Shelton’s back line.

“The captains and other seniors have shown outstanding leadership,” Miller said. “We have an excellent group of returning juniors and sophomores.

“And we’ve got a great batch of new freshman. We are deep and hungry this year. If we can realize our potential this could be a tremendous season.”

The schedule for Shelton will look a bit different this year, as the SCC realigned its four divisions. The Gaelettes now make their home in the Oronoque Division, alongside Sheehan High of Wallingford, Sacred Heart Academy of Hamden and Wilbur Cross of New Haven.

“I think we should do well in the new Oronoque Division in the SCC,” Miller said. “We will have some tough competition there and bring over our traditional rival Sheehan, but we believe we will be a difficult opponent for the other schools in our division. We have a legitimate chance to win that division this year, if we stay focused and healthy.

“I expect Guilford to be strong in their division, Lauralton Hall to be tough in their division and Amity and Cheshire to battle it out in the remaining division.”

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