Red Storm in rebuilding mode

The Saranac Lake girls soccer team poses for a photo Wednesday prior to a scrimmage game against Lake Placid at Schroeter’s Field in Saranac Lake. The Red Storm open the season Tuesday on the road against Saranac Central. Look for full previews of other Tri-Lakes fall sports teams in next Friday’s Enterprise. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — A rebuiding year might sound cliche when it comes to sports teams, but in the case of the Saranac Lake girls soccer squad, that seems to be the case.

Head coach Bill Wilson lost 12 seniors from last year’s team, and this fall, juniors who were competing at the junior varsity level comprise the majority of the Red Storm roster. Saranac Lake heads into Section VII, Division I regular-season action with five seniors and 15 juniors.

“It is a rebuilding year for us,” Wilson said. “The good thing is that we have a lot of juniors stepping up ready to play.”

Wilson said a focus in the early going is to shore up the Red Storm defense as the team looks to replace its entire back line along with the goalkeeper.

Junior Anna Ellithorpe steps into nets after starting at the position a year ago on junior varsity, and she brings size and aggressiveness, which are perfect qualities for a keeper.

“I call her the voice of the team,” Wilson said. “She’s really confident, she’s got a good kick and a good punt, and she’s fearless. She’s not afraid to get dirty.”

Senior Roslyn McClatchie and junior Leah Hill have emerged in the early season as top defenders for the Red Storm, and will be joined on the back line by Shania Lincoln, Maggie Carpenter, Mistrie Newton and Madison Reardon.

Key midfielders for Saranac Lake include Jayda Buckley and Julia Chapin.

One player who Saranac Lake will rely on is perhaps its fastest and most talented athlete — junior Grace Clark, who will be a third-year starter. As a sophomore, Clark was named the Red Storm’s most valuable player and led the team in scoring with seven goals and seven assists.

“Grace is our go-to player for sure,” Wilson said. “She has a really strong leg and she’s fast.”

Kayleigh Merrill, a senior captain, will also be relied upon for some offense.

For the first time, Saranac Lake will compete as a Class C team in the postseason along with AuSable Valley, Northern Adirondack, Seton Catholic and Ticonderoga. However, the Red Storm will battle it out with the bigger Class B schools during the regular season.

“I’m happy this year we’re playing in Class C for the playoffs,” Wilson said. “We’re playing the bigger schools early, and the postseason provides us a little light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s all about repetition. The girls just need to keep repeating our systems and buy into it. The girls are working hard, we’re making the best of it, and we have a good attitude. “