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Andover Central soccer keeps moving on

Published March 26 at 2:20 a.m. | Last updated March 26 at 2:36 a.m.

The sign of a successful athletic program is continued progress even after the roster has been hit by significant losses.

Andover Central's girls soccer team goes into the 2011 season having experienced such departures. Key members of Central's defense, including Maddie Chapin and Brooke Hansen, were lost to graduation, but the Jaguars' strength may still be on that side of the ball.

Shelby Sementelli, Megan Hansen, Emma Mallets and part-time goalkeeper Evan Stamp anchor a defense that helped Central to a 16-3 record last season and a Jaguars team with eyes toward a similar finish this spring.

"Maddie is incredibly hard to replace, that's why we're trying to see how it works," Central coach Stephanie Garcia said of her 2010 All-Metro selection. "Our defense looked really good (in last week's win over) McPherson. The girls that are back there now have played together, too, so it makes a big difference."

Central's season ended a game short of the Class 5-1A semifinals, but with the bulk of that team returning, the Jaguars expect to go just as far, if not further.

Sementelli, a midfielder who also spends time on defense, is the player most likely to account for the assets Chapin provided. She has playmaking ability and can help make the opposition's best scorer uncomfortable.

Another player asked to do more in light of the changes on defense is Stamp. A standout goalkeeper last season, Stamp will likely see significant time in the field because of her versatility and athleticism and because the Jaguars have other good options in goal.

"I think that she is pretty mature as a goalie," Garcia said. "She's not afraid to do anything. She's a basketball player, too, and she's got a lot of intensity in her play. It's nice to see."

Their adeptness on defense is how Central could win many games, but the Jaguars also have scoring ability. Sementelli and Matacchiara play midfield and provide efficient passes, and Sarah Potter is the biggest scoring threat. Her most noticeable strength is her ability to jump for balls in the air and score on headers.

"It's pretty amazing," Garcia said. "She's definitely not afraid to do it."

Central was a senior-led team last year, which helped take pressure off young players and gave this year's seniors — Sementelli, Hansen and Potter — a picture of the leadership skills they hope to provide. If the Jaguars win big this season, the stability will help the program enjoy success even after more standout excellent seniors graduate.

"It was a good experience for them to see some of those seniors and how far hard work really takes you," Garcia said. "I think that they set a good example for our freshmen and sophomores, and our freshmen and sophomores from last year are ready to go."