Commentary

2012 Girls' Pennsylvania Preview

Updated: March 1, 2012, 9:02 AM ET
By Brett Manney

Ally Heavens, Garnet ValleyRon Silvieri/ESPNHSAlly Heavens and Garnet Valley (Glen Mills, Pa.) will be the favorite to repeat as PIAA champions.
The Pennsylvania girls might not compete on quite the same level as their male counterparts, but 2012 could see more teams from the Keystone State reach the POWERADE FAB 50 rankings.

Garnet Valley looks to be the favorite again in 2012 and its schedule is deserving of a high national ranking to begin the season.

The Starting Lineup

(Position: athlete, year, high school (city, state), college commitment)

A: Mackenzie Rafferty Sr., Downingtown East (Exton, Pa.), Delaware
A: Maddie Ward Sr., Spring Ford (Royersford, Pa.), UMass
A: Hally Barnes Sr., Garnet Valley (Glen Mills, Pa.), Rutgers
A: Maddy Lynch Sr., Springfield-Delco (Springfield, Pa.), Princeton
M: Katrina Geiger Sr., Haverford (Pa.), Loyola
M: Kelly Cross Sr., Upper Dublin (Fort Washington, Pa.), Syracuse
M: Kristen Bandos Sr., Academy of Notre Dame (Villanova, Pa.), Georgetown
D/M: Ally Heavens, Sr., Garnet Valley (Glen Mills, Pa.), Penn State
D-M: Brooke Kiley Sr., Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.), Pennsylvania
D: Emily Pillion Sr., Conestoga (Berwyn, Pa.), James Madison
D: Ally McLaughlin Sr., Harriton (Lower Merion Township, Pa.)
G: Shannon Nee Sr., Manheim Township (Lancaster, Pa.)

Sizing Up The State

The honor of clutching the Catholic League plaque could once again be the joy of Archbishop Carroll (Wayne, Pa.). In 2011, the Patriots dominated the Catholic league finishing with an undefeated record in the league. This year should be the same story as the Patriots look to capture their 12 straight league title with six Division I recruits on the roster.

There was one point in time last season when Downingtown East (Exton, Pa.) looked dominating, winning more than 20 games in a row and capturing the Ches-Mont League along the way. The Cougars should once again compete for a title despite losing a talented senior class with the return of attacker MacKenzie Rafferty (Delaware). They will have a bull's-eye on their back after last season's success and some underclassmen will have to shine for the Cougars to claw their way back to a state title.

Episcopal Academy (Newtown Square, Pa.), last year's Inter-Ac champions, graduated a deep senior class that was loaded with talent. This season on the Main Line it will be a tougher task to finish undefeated in league play, but with a stud group of juniors leading the way, Episcopal could once again march their way to an Inter-Ac title.

Once again Garnet Valley (Glen Mills, Pa.) will be a top team in the Philadelphia area based on their success and talented roster. On attack, the Jaguars return a senior laden unit in which six girls had over 40 plus points. The defense will be tough to crack and is athletic enough to push the ball in transition once they make stops. With all but one starter returning and some of Philadelphia's best players, the Jaguars should once again find themselves on the prowl for another state championship.

If there is one team with high expectations this year it will be Great Valley (Malvern, Pa.). Even though Downingtown East had great success last year Great Valley will be the favorite to win the league title and make a deep run in the state tournament. Led by a talented group of Division I recruits and a tough defense the Patriots will vie for a state title. Scoring should not be a problem as Ali Karwoski (Delaware) returns after scoring 132 goals last year.

Close but no cigar could have been the slogan for last year's Notre Dame Academy (Villanova, Pa.) squad, which lost three of four games by one goal. Expect the squad to come back rejuvenated this season led by four-year starter and soccer standout Kristen Bandos (Georgetown) to propel the Irish to win those close games this year.

Radnor (Radnor, Pa.) is one of the area's best programs and should once again compete for a Central League title and a state championship. An opening tilt against Downingtown East (Exton, Pa.) on March 23 will be an early indicator of how good the Red Raiders will be in 2012. Junior Taryn Deck will have more responsibilities as she teams up with Natalie Miller (Georgetown) to form a formidable scoring punch. After winning their first six games last year in the Central league the Red Raiders need to avoid a late season struggle like last year.

After a heartbreaking loss to end the season last year, the Springfield Delco (Springfield, Pa.) looks for redemption in 2012 and to help the team returns two of the area's best players. Senior attack/midfield Maddy Lynch (Princeton) is dangerous all over the field while junior Alex Poplowski (Stanford) is extremely talented playing offense and defense. The Cougars are an early season favorite to make a run at the state title.

After notching 12 wins a season ago Strath Haven (Wallingford, Pa.) should be able to meet that feat again with seven returning starters. With speed at the midfield and a strong attack unit, Strath Haven has some athletes to play with the best. Led by strong leadership from Laura Rowan (Lafayette) and some talented underclassman the Panthers should contend for a Central league title.

There was a lot to be happy with the success within the Suburban league conference last season for Upper Dublin (Fort Washington, Pa.). Yet their brewing rivalry with Wissahickon will make for two of the best games this season as the Cardinals try to remain the best team in the conference. Senior midfielder Kelly Cross (Syracuse) can only be contained, not stopped and leads a senior class that aims to remain undefeated in the league for their entire high school careers.

Last season was a roller-coaster ride for Wissahickon (Ambler, Pa.), picking up 12 wins but suffering some tough losses along the way. This year should be very different with some of the young talent on Jamie Donahue's squad. The strength of the Trojans will be their potent midfield which should give opposing teams trouble all year.

Underclassemen To Watch

(Position: athlete, year, high school (State), college commitment)

Attack: Taryn Deck Jr., Radnor (Radnor, Pa.); Lauren Frankenfield Jr., Wissahickon, Boston College; Olivia Gannon, Jr., Mount Saint Joseph's (Flourtown, Pa.); Zoe Gomez, Soph., Wissahickon; Nora McCallion, Jr., Academy of Notre Dame.

Midfield: Bridget Chakey, Soph., Agnes Irwin (Bryn Mawr, Pa.); Megan McGillis, Jr., Conestoga (Berwyn, Pa.); Kitty Morrissey, Jr., Springside School (Philadelphia,Pa.), Duke; Alex Poplowski, Jr., Springfield; Natalie Schmitt, Jr., Archbishop Carroll; Arden Simone, Jr., Baldwin (Bryn Mawr, Pa.)

Defense: Meredith Cox, Jr., Abington (Pa.); Annabeth Donovan, Jr., Unionville (Kennett Square, Pa.); Mackenzie Orr, Jr., Conestoga, Navy; Colby Ricci, Jr., Garnet Valley, Delaware; Steph Speese, Jr., Upper Dublin.

Goalie: Mckenna Coyla, Soph., Kennett (Kennett Square, Pa.); Lindsey Reder, Jr., Episcopal Academy; Jenna Stover, Jr., North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.).

Games to watch

March 29: Springfield Delco (Springfield, Pa.) vs. Harriton (Lower Merion Township, Pa.)
March 31: Archbishop Carroll at Vero Beach (Fla.)
April 2: Garnet Valley at Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
April 10: Downingtown East (Exton, Pa.) vs. Great Valley (Malvern, Pa.)
April 16: Wissahickon (Ambler, Pa.) vs. Upper Dublin (Fort Washington, Pa.)
April 28: Garnet Valley (Glen Mills, Pa.) vs. St. Stephen's & Agnes (Alexandria, Va.)
April 28: Archbishop Carroll (Wayne, Pa.) vs. Radnor (Radnor, Pa.)

How This Region Affects The FAB 50

For the most part, Pennsylvania teams keep to themselves with fewer games against out-of-state opponents, but in 2012 the best teams will test their mettle against some nationally ranked opponents.

The April 2 game when Garnet Valley travels to play Good Counsel (Md.) will have a great effect on the rankings.

Archbishop Carroll's yearly trek to Florida will be another early game to watch. Carroll lost to Vero Beach by one goal last year and with Vero beefing up its schedule this season a win over the Indians would be a feather in the cap of Archbishop Carroll.