When the Class of 2018 graduated from Cumberland Valley in June, the roster for the girls soccer team took a big hit.
Head coach George Gemberling lost nearly the entire starting lineup along with crucial bench players as 12 seniors had their high school careers officially come to an end.
The list of accomplishments and accolades that team achieved are long and numerous. They were undefeated at home, registered 13 shutouts, were nationally ranked, claimed the District 3 championship for the 15th time in school history and were PIAA Class 4A quarterfinalists.
Replacing the quality and breadth of those players was not going to be easy. But Gemberling has been through this before, and he’s using that experience to help this transition.
“In the last five years, we’ve been on this pendulum swing where I started with only a handful of seniors and a lot of juniors in a huge class,” Gemberling said. “Then the following year we had a bit of a dip, and then we came back. So this year is the swing back to a smaller senior class with a big junior class. That seems to be the wave of how it works.”
Gone are talented goalkeeper Hayley McGee along with skilled defensemen Cassie Everly, Beth Pasewark and Gabby Selkirk. Kyra Place and Taylor Jede also left gaping holes in the midfield to fill.
However, the cupboard at Cumberland Valley is far from bare.
Gemberling still has six seniors he can rely on, including midfielder Caroline Schulz, winger Gina Lukoskie, and defenders Rachel McKenrick and Katie Brown.
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“We had 11 returning players, one with an injury that didn’t get to participate this year,” Gemberling said. “So we had players with experience, just not as many minutes, but that means most of them trained at the level we were playing last year.”
The Eagles also return their top scorer and All-Sentinel First Team selection, Emily Mashinski, who led Cumberland Valley with 13 goals and nine assists from the forward position. The High Point University commit has picked right up where she left off last season — she tallied four goals in the Eagles’ matchup with State College on Sept. 5.
Entering the week, CV (3-0-1, 2-0-1 Commonwealth) was undefeated along with Carlisle (3-0, 2-0) and Central Dauphin (3-0-2, 2-0-1), already looking like a favorite in the division once again.
“There was so much talent last year,” Mashinski said. “Now having other girls here, it’s nice to see them filling their shoes. Our seniors have been great. They know how to make everyone feel so welcome. We have really good team chemistry. We love each other so much.”
Mashinski is joined by her good friend Jaxton Gerhart, who registered five goals last year including the game-winner against Central Dauphin in the District 3 championship game. Fellow junior Abbie Miller has allowed just one goal against 25 saves in 2019 as she takes over between the pipes.
Early on, though, it’s been a feeling-out period for this team as the coaching staff shuffles players around to see who can play with who and what combinations seem to be clicking. The leadership roles aren’t resting on one player either, as the team has been a cohesive group from the beginning of the preseason.
“My first season we had a center back, Emily Keitel, who’s now playing at Temple,” Gemberling said. “She was the captain, and everybody knew who was in charge. When Em K. spoke, everybody listened.
“But this group leads in a lot of different ways. I think these girls are more of a collective group, and there are moments of leadership through a bunch of them which seems to be working right now.”