The first edition of the Port Allegany-Smethport co-op was a measured success for the “Port United” girls soccer team.

The Gators finished 8-10 in 2018, winning a penalty-kick shootout at Redbank Valley in their District 9 postseason opener to advance to the Class A semifinals, with four of those losses against Class 2A/3A schools Bradford, St. Marys (twice) and Wellsboro.

Three of Port’s top four scorers and 10 total letterwinners are back from that playoff squad, including the potent pairing of senior strikers Emma Fox and Cailey Barnett up front. Fox’s team-best 12 goals last season gave her 23 for her career, just ahead of Barnett’s 22 (with eight of those coming last year, when she split time between forward and goalkeeper).

Junior offensive midfielder Bree Garzel, with 11 career markers of her own, returns to her point-guard role in the Gator offense, with the speed of junior Gracie Archer and freshman Evin Stauffer on the wings.

Seniors Kayla Copp and Angela Smith return in the midfield, with freshmen Thea Petruzzi and Maya Kephart joining juniors Emma Brammer and Kristen Dunn and sophomores Sabrina Tanner and Jessica Borowsky on the back line.

Brielle Budd, a freshman, will start at goalkeeper, with sophomore Trinity Lannager also seeing some time in net.

“We are rebuilding our defense, but our offense should be very good this year,” said third-year head coach Tony Edgell, assisted again this year by Justin Osani. “We’re looking at being more aggressive on the offensive end, keeping the ball in our offensive third instead of letting it come down to our defense. We have a brand-new keeper, and basically a brand-new back three as well, so I’m not sure how our defense is going to hold. But if our offense does what it needs to do, we won’t worry about it.”

The front end of the schedule is a grueling road swing through Olean, St. Marys, Bradford, Keystone, Elk County Catholic and Kane, with the Gators slated to travel some 550 total miles before their Sept. 18 home opener against the Flying Dutch.

“The first six games are all away, and the first three are going to be brutal. After that, the schedule settles down and we should do well,” Edgell said. “If we can come out with one or two wins in the first three or four games, I’ll be happy.”

With reigning UAVSL North Division champion St. Marys returning most of its roster, including NY/PA Soccer Showcase MVP Lauren Eckert. Edgell sees the Dutch as the odds-on favorites to defend their crown.

“For the district, you’ve still got to take your hat off to Brockway until someone proves different,” he said. “Ridgway is always tough, but they lost a really good keeper (UAVSL North MVP Lindsay Kocjancic), and I don’t know if they’re going to be able to replace her quickly enough to help.”

As for the Gators, last year’s North runner-up?

“I’m ready for the season to start, I really am,” Edgell said, “and I think most of the girls are, too. We have 17 games, and each one is going to be important. I’m looking at making a deep playoff run again this year.”

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31: @ Olean, 11 a.m.

Sept. 3: @ St. Marys, 4 p.m.

Sept. 5: @ Bradford, 5 p.m.

Sept. 7: @Keystone, 1 p.m.

Sept. 10: @ ECC, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 12: @ Kane, 4 p.m.

Sept. 18: St. Marys, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 19: Ridgway, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 30: Kane (@ Smethport), 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 2: @ Ridgway, 4 p.m.

Oct. 3: @ Eisenhower, 4:15 p.m.

Oct. 5: Eisenhower, 11 a.m.

Oct. 7: Wellsboro, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 8: ECC, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 9: Bolivar-Richburg Tourney, 5 p.m.

Oct. 12: B-R Tourney, TBA

Oct. 14: Brockway, 4:30 p.m.