Bulldogs ready to defend championship

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MANCHESTER — If the Burr and Burton girls soccer team is going to repeat as Division I champions, they are going to have to do it after some pretty big changes in the offseason.

Brooke Woodard, who led the team in scoring in her single season in Manchester, has gone south, starting her collegiate career at the University of South Carolina with former Mount Anthony star Shelley Smith (Addison) as her coach.

Brooke's sister, Sky, is no longer with the Bulldogs, choosing to play an AAU-level schedule as a junior. And Georgia Lord, the Gatorade player of the year for Vermont, would have been a senior for BBA but is playing soccer at Williams as an early admit to the school this fall.

"There's a lot of changes but we have a good core coming back with some strong veteran players who have been with me for three years," said fourth-year coach Suzanne Mears.

On the flip side, the Bulldogs have a returner in Hannah Pinkus, someone who missed most of last season with a leg injury suffered against Mount Anthony. Also back is her sister, sophomore Grace Pinkus, who just happens to be the player who scored the state championship-winning goal with two minutes left in overtime back in November.

"We have 11 returning, including Sam Citron in goal, she's stepped it up big time and she'll be a captain for us," Mears said. "Emily Bleakie is back, Hannah too, and Shayla [Heekin], who came out strong last year as a defender, she'll headed back there this year."

Others returning include Lily Audy, who expects to be in the midfield and Maggie Sullivan, someone who Mears said has high expectations for a big season this year.

"It's a good [core] to build off of but also to feel really good about," Mears said. "We want to pick up somewhere where we left off [after last year's championship run] and fill in those big shoes that we lost. It's hard to do, but I've been asking evveryone to step it up and take leadership roles. I think today's [scrimmage] puts into perspective what we lost and how we're going to adjust."

Some of the new faces include junior Aisha Navarette, who comes to BBA after playing at Long Trail School.

"I see her getting a lot of minutes and being a valuable player for us," Mears said.

Other new players coming up include Fiona McMahon, Aryn Iannuzzi and Rebecca Montaufray, who all came up for the postseason run in 2016.

"I'm expecting them to all have an impact," Mears said.

The beginning of the season is a tough one, with the opener at St. Johnsbury on Friday and then games against CVU, Essex and South Burlington with the Lady Patriot Classic at MAU in between.

"Those are our tests, can we compete with the northern teams," Mears said. "I have a wonderful group of girls and every bit of confidence we'll get there. We're working hard towards that, but there's a lot more work to be done."


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