TOWNSEND -- With a group of talented returning players and some exciting newcomers, things are looking up for the North Middlesex girls' soccer team. Longtime coach Charlie Valacer will look to put the pieces together and get the Lady Patriots into the District Tournament in 2012.

"I am very optimistic about our outlook coming into this season," said Valacer. "We are much improved from last season, and the kids have put a lot of effort in the pre-season. I really believe we have a shot to break into the post-season if we can keep working hard and getting better."

Senior captains Katherine Hall, Alyssa Robinson and Kim Morgan will be leading the way for the North Middlesex this year. "Katherine is a four-year starter for us and is making the move from defense to forward this year," said Valacer. "She is very fast and has a good skill set. Katherine has a good shot, is extremely versatile and could see time at different spots and is team player.

"Alyssa is another four-year starter for us and is the backbone of our defense. She has a great all-around game and has the type of skill set to succeed at any position we put her at. Kim has started all four years of her career and is moving from forward to center midfield this year. She is very athletic and has a great mix of speed and quickness. Kim is a solid all-around player who has a team-first attitude and will do whatever it takes to win."

Joining Hall at the forward position will be sophomore Gabie Trust. "Gabie picked up some valuable experience last year and is a goal scorer," said Valacer. "She has a solid shot with either foot and I am really expecting her to have a big year for us."

In the midfield, seniors Emily Herrick and Charlotte Spiegel have spots locked down while sophomore Sydney Morgan and junior Molly TenBroeck are battling for the fourth spot. "Emily is in her third year on the varsity and is a real steady player," said Valacer. "She has good speed and has become a scoring threat for us.

"Charlotte will play midfield and some stopper for us this year as she has great skills and a solid all-around game. She really does a little bit of everything for us and really works well off Kim in the middle. Sydney will see some time on defense as well and is really progressing as a player. Molly is an aggressive player who is always hustling and making things happen."

Defensively, in addition to Robinson, junior stopper Lauren Sheehan, senior fullback Elizabeth David and freshman sweeper Samantha Donohoe will line up in front of junior goalkeeper Julia Murray. "Lauren is in her third year on varsity and has played a little bit of everything for us and will do so again this season," said Valacer. "She has a good mix of skills and smarts and will be a key contributor.

"Elizabeth has been a pleasant surprise so far and has shown a great knowledge of the game and is always in good position. Samantha has good size and skills and has displayed a nose for the ball in the early going. Julia has started for us since she was a freshman and had a very nice season last year. She is still improving every day and is one of the most valuable players on the squad."

Providing depth in the front and at midfield will be senior Carmel James, junior Marissa LaFosse, sophomore Emily Valacer and freshman Julia Sheehan. "Carmel provides a spark up front with her hustle and is also our back-up goalkeeper," said Valacer. "Marissa is a very aggressive player who is always hustling and has a knack for winning a lot of 50/50 balls. Emily is an excellent passer who has great field vision. Julia has a nice set of skills and will improve as she gains experience."

On the backline fighting for time are senior Elena Beauregard and sophomores Marissa Drahusz and Alannah Daly. "Elena could see some time in the midfield as well and is working hard on her game after missing most of last year with an injury," said Valacer. "Marissa has a great work ethic which is complemented by a solid skill set. Alannah Daly will most likely be the first defender off the bench for us and she is a solid defender who provides a nice spark for us."

With a deep group of skilled players, Valacer likes what he has seen so far and believes his team is ready to make a run. "We have set our goals and the first one is to play in the playoffs," said Valacer. "I believe we have great depth and a versatile group of players. If we can put in the work, I think the rewards will come."