BROCKWAY — To say the Brockway girls soccer program has a new look this year would be a drastic understatement.
Gone is a large 8-girl senior class that powered the Lady Rovers to three District 9 Class 2A titles in four years, including each of the past two seasons, and four straight PIAA playoff appearances.
That group, all of whom were starters at some point in their careers, was headlined by the likes of Chanell Britten, Mackenzie Overbeck and Morrigan Decker.
Britten finished her standout career as the all-time leading scorer (boy or girl) in Tri-County Area history with 164 goals. Overbeck was a stalwart in net throughout her career for the Lady Rovers, while Decker helped create a lot of the goals Britten scored while finding the back of the net herself at times.
The departures didn’t end there though, as Jessica Leadbetter decided to step away as head coach following last season. She was at the helm for all three D-9 titles captured in program history.
Needing a new coach, the school turned to a familiar face — former Lady Rover standout Juli Esposito — to guide the program into a new era. Esposito held the Lady Rovers’ all-time scoring record when she graduated (2015) with 135 goals — a number eclipsed by Britten last season.
Esposito, who played collegiately at Division II Slippery Rock University, becomes the latest member of the Esposito family to grace the coaching box at Brockway.
She played in high school for her mother Dana, while her father Rich coached for three decades for the boys’ program — the final 10 as head coach. Her older brother Phil (2012 grad), who is the Rovers’ all-time leading scorer (149 goals), also is currently a head coach at DuBois Central Catholic.
Juli Esposito served as an assistant for her brother last year with DCC sponsoring a co-ed varsity squad. Their father Rich also coached alongside them as an assistant for DCC as well.
With the job opening at Brockway, Juli decided to throw her name in for the position and ultimately was hired. She said the timing to help her brother last year and now have her first head coaching position couldn’t have been more perfect.
“After playing the game for so long, and then all of a sudden being done, it just felt like something was missing,” she said. “When coaching positions became available in the area, I thought ‘why not?’. It’s nice because it gives me the opportunity to give back to the game that taught me so much.
“Being an assistant coach last year for my brother helped a lot because he had been doing some coaching the past couple of years, and my dad has been coaching forever.
“I learned a lot from them about the high school level and the best way to coach the kids. Last year, with them, it was my first time being an actual coach, so it helped me understand more of the game from that perspective.”
Esposito inherits a Lady Rovers program that may have lost that large group of successful seniors but isn’t completely devoid of talent and experience.
She welcomes back 10 players from last year’s D-9 title squad — a group led by seniors Morgan Lindemuth, Lily Sysko, Delaney Wineberg, Rylee Welsh and junior Danielle Wood.
Esposito also has a couple faces on the team she worked with last year, as Brockway and DCC have formed a new co-op for the sport. Senior Chelsea Busatto and junior Megan Ochs will play for the Lady Rovers through the co-op, as will freshmen Eva Bisbey and Addison Yanek.
The two schools use to have a co-op for girls soccer that was hosted by DCC before Brockway created its own program and coached initially by Dana Esposito.
“I am excited about the co-op,” said Esposito. “I coached a couple of the girls from last year, so they kind of already understand my coaching style, which is nice and will help. Sometimes, I forget that we have two separate schools on the team, because they just mesh well together.”
Despite losing most of the starting lineup, Esposito is excited about what her first Lady Rovers’ squad can accomplish.
“This group of girls has a lot of talent and works really hard, and there has already been a lot of improvement,” she said. “These girls are adjusting to a new and different type of season, with new teammates, and new coaches.
“They have a lot that they want to prove, and they are more than capable of doing so. I expect them to seize this opportunity as individuals, and as a team, to help each other do better. I expect the senior and returning girls to step up and be leaders on the team to instill some team values and expectations that we went over.
“I’m excited to have this chance to coach the girls and teach them about this beautiful game with my assistance coaches. And, I hope they are excited as well.”
Esposito will be assisted by Dick Barraclough and Delaney McMeekin, who was a high school teammate of Juli Esposito.
The Lady Rovers open their season this evening at home against Punxsutawney.
Seniors: Chelsea Busatto, Morgan Lindemuth, Lily Sysko, Delaney Wineberg, Rylee Welsh. Juniors: Morgan Carnahan, Madalynne Heckman, Nichole Jamison, Megan Ochs, Daniellle Wood. Sophomores: Amanda Decker, Emily Michalski, Paris Stern. Freshmen: Eva Bisbey, Raegan Gelnette, illian Heilbrun, Eliza Powell, Aaliyah Witherite, Addison Yankek.