Keri Capstack, Jamie Ervin and Mary Bystrycki practice at Ewing High School on Aug. 17, 2017. (Photo by Martin Griff.)

More goals, more stops, more wins. The Ewing High School girls’ soccer team wants a little more of everything this year.

“I have a good feeling about this season,” says Mary Bystrycki. “If each person puts in as much effort as possible, we can win a good amount of games.”

Bystrycki is back for her third year on varsity at goalie. She is part of a senior class that leads a Blue Devils team that graduated 10 players from last year’s squad that went 5-11 with four of those losses by a 1-0 score and another loss coming by a goal.

“The people that are returning can keep the feeling and use it for motivation,” Bystrycki says.

Ellen Murphy returns for her second year as head coach. She’s been focused through the preseason on where to play a good crop of players that came out this year for the Blue Devils.

“We do have quite a few returners and some new people that are either back at Ewing as well as some incoming freshman as well as some new people that didn’t play in the past,” Murphy says.

“We have some really solid senior leadership,” she adds. We also have some sophomores and juniors in the mix that could see significant playing time.”

The team will be youngest in the back field and are working to develop a solid core. While that happens, it will lean on the midfield and offense.

“I feel like if we work on our counterattack more and coming out of the back really quick, it would help us score more,” says Jules Murrill, a senior slated to play midfield. “And playing around the defenders really quick would help.”

Varsity returners that Ewing is counting on to make an impact are Bystrycki, Keri Capsack, Bobie Custis, Jamie Ervin, Cassidy Fejko, Ally McConnell, Julianna Murrill, Kyla Pischel and Jessica Shaler.

Olivia Ruch works on her ball handling skills during a Ewing girls’ soccer practice on Aug. 17, 2017. (Photos by Martin Griff.)

The rest of the contributors will come from newcomers and players who are coming up from last year’s JV. They have been competing in the preseason for roster spots.

“There are a lot of players coming in and they’re not that bad,” Murrill says. “I feel like the preseason is going really good and I think it’ll affect us in the real season. We’re going to be really strong.”

Both Bystrycki and Murrill are part of a senior class that hopes to make the most of its final season on the pitch together. The Blue Devils began the preseason trying to find replacements starting with the defensive end.

“We are not set yet on the formation that we want to use,” Murphy said after only one week of practices. “We are open to working with a couple different systems depending on where our strengths are. We are excited to potentially revamp our whole defense. That’s going to be one of our focal points this year.”

It takes a special sort of player to take on a defensive role. Defenders don’t often score, and they can be overlooked cogs in good teams.

“The greatest types of defenders are ones that can create offensive surges and runs and create things from the back,” Murphy says. “It’s important to me that we have soccer players that understand the significance of that.

Bystrycki says she will take all the help she can get at the defensive end before she continues her soccer career at Kean University next year. She is confident that the defensive unit will come together.

“We have a solid sophomore from last year,” Bystrycki says. “She played as a freshman. We have a few seniors as defenders. I think we can hold our own in the back line.

“Me and a few of the girls returning know how to work with each other. We know how to keep everything organized.”

Bystrycki says she is ready to do her part in the back, which includes being vocal and authoritative.

“It does feel different being a senior,” she says. “You feel like you need to be leader instead of maybe choosing to be a leader. You have to lead by example and motivate the underclassmen.”

Julianna Murrill works on her ball handling skills during a Ewing girls’ soccer practice on Aug. 17, 2017. (Photos by Martin Griff.)

It will help if the offense can score more than a year ago. Ewing was shut out 10 times last year, including in their season-ending 1-0 loss to Allentown in the first round of the Central Jersey Group III tournament.

“We need to score way more goals as a team than we did last year,” Murphy says. “I do think we have the ability to do so. We have some powerful people that have some really great shots and good vision of the field, good ability to create space and work together to create shots.”

Murrill was looking for early signs of progress at the offensive end. She can help as a playmaker and scorer for the Blue Devils. She had seven goals last season, and was hoping to Ewing’s scrimmages would show development up front.

“I want to see a lot of sharp passes, sharp movements, especially around the defenders,” she says, explaining further, “Quick movements, and also really good defensive tackles. And, of course, lots of goals.”

Murrill says she is doing her best to drive the team. She knows it won’t just be their play on the field that’s important.

“We just have to be really strong and go into the games mentally and physically strong,” Murrill says.

Ewing will open the season Thursday, Sept. 7 when it hosts West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. They follow that with games against Steinert and at Nottingham.

“You can’t go out there worried about what happened last year with a certain team or who they have on a team,” Murphy says. “You just have to have that confidence. We’re trying to establish that in the work we’re doing in the preseason and the hard work that needs to be put into our scrimmages and a lot of faith and trust in each other to create the program we’d like to continue to work on creating.”

If the players’ early attitudes are any indication, the Ewing girls soccer team is on the right path to improvement.

“It seems like a new fresh start,” Bystrycki says. “And I’m optimistic.”