Author: Dan O'Meara / John Stormzand
If everything falls into place as coach Butch Babler hopes it will, Farmington Hills Mercy could have an outstanding 2015 season in girls soccer.
The pieces to that puzzle are just about in place, and there isn’t a lot of tweaking that needs to be done.
One thing is certain. The Marlins, who have a veteran team and talent across the field, will be competitive and have a chance to win every game they play.
“In all honesty, this is probably the best senior class we’ve had in a long time,” Babler said. “With all due respect to other teams (Mercy has had), if this isn’t the most talented team, this is one of the most.”
The key factor in determining the team’s level of success will be how well the Marlins come together and jell as a team, he added.
Two of Mercy’s leading players are senior forward Alex Griffin and senior midfielder Taylor Babcock. Both were all-area, first-team players last year and helped the Marlins post an 11-6-1 record.
Griffin, who will play college ball at Western Illinois University, led Mercy in scoring with 14 goals and five assists.
She and senior Marge Terhune, another four-year varsity starter like Griffin and Babcock, will provide a good one-two punch at the forward positions.
“We have some natural scorers,” Babcock said. “Alex really seems to be goal-conscious this year. She wants to score. Obviously, that’s a good quality to have in a forward.
“Both have a lot of speed. Marge is kind of a converted midfielder. She plays more of a midfield role for her club team and Alex does, too. But they’re forwards for us, and they work together pretty well.”
Babcock, who has a scholarship to the University of Portland in Oregon, scored four goals and assisted on six others. She’ll be the center midfielder and primary offensive mid.
Senior Analise Salla and juniors Allia McDowell, Zoe Menard, Kacey Cerretani and Maddie Erdman are returning players who will have roles to play in the midfield.
Griffin, Babcock and Erdman scored goals Friday in Mercy’s only game thus far – a 3-2 win over host Farmington. A Monday game with West Bloomfield wasn’t played due to a scheduling mix-up.
Salla and Cerretani will play in the middle and will have dual defensive-offensive duties. McDowell and Erdmann are outside mids.
Salla made a lot of improvement between seasons and will have a bigger role this year. She did a good job in a scrimmage tournament Saturday, according to Babler.
He added Erdmann appears to have regained the scoring touch she had as a freshman. Including three scrimmage games, she already has three goals and will give Mercy an offensive presence from the outside.
Cerretani was hurt most of last season, but she played the last game and really helped the Marlins in a 2-0 loss to Northville, the eventual Division 1 state champion, in the district tournament.
“The junior class with Kacey, Zoe, Allia and Maddie has really improved over last year,” Babler said. “You can go right down the line. It’s a pretty good team. It’s just a matter of getting them to jell together.”
Strong defense, too
Mercy will be led defensively by Maria Pulice, another four-year varsity player who passed on the opportunity to play college soccer to enter the pre-med program at Michigan.
“She’s just a smart athlete,” Babler said. “Like Taylor, she’s like a coach on the field who can make adjustments for you and help you see things you don’t see from the sideline.”
Pulice and freshman Emily Engler will play in the middle of the defense, juniors Lindsay Crawley and Missy Hunt on the outside at the fullback positions.
The primary goalkeeper is veteran senior Maria Lulgjuraj. She and Pulice will provide key leadership in the back, according to Babler.
“Having another set of eyes back there will help Emily and the other young defenders with what we’re looking for on defense,” he said.
Mercy also has freshman Chloe Russo and junior Jillian Adolf in reserve as backup goalies.
“It’s one of the more talented groups we’ve had,” Babler said of the defense. “It’ll be a question of ‘Do they play well together? Do they move the ball well? Do the lines stay connected?’ If they do that, we’ll be fine.”
The complete team
Lulgjuraj is one of three other players who plan to play in college. She’s going to Concordia, Terhune to St. Lawrence and Salla to Hope. Cerretani recently made a recruiting visit to Vanderbilt.
The other members of Mercy’s 21-player roster are senior Halle Mohr, juniors Miranda Konja, Brianna Woodbeck and Angela Lindow, sophomore Maggie Shrader and freshman Rebecca Heaman.
Lindow did a good job of marking Notre Dame Prep’s best forward last year and will have a lot of playing time on defense, too. Mohr can provide instant offense.
“When we start getting into a bit of a rut, she’s a great one to throw in there to remind everybody we want the ball going forward and someone going to the net every once in a while,” Babler said.
Outlook for Marlins
Mercy, which beat Churchill, Canton and Walled Lake Northern in the scrimmage games, plays at Harrison tonight and will play at Warren Regina on Tuesday before going on break.
“We have a ton of talent this year,” Babler said. “These girls have the right mentality. A lot of times you get seniors who part way through the year start checking out. I don’t see that with this group.
“(Assistant coach) Gene (Pulice) and I will put them in the best position to win. It’s going to be up to them to decide how bad they want to win. Are they willing to put in the extra time and do the extra stuff it takes to win? I think they will.”