In its first season in the classification, the Moon girls soccer team climbed to the top of Class AA soccer in Pennsylvania, winning the PIAA championship.
Staying at the top will be a challenge for the Tigers.
Only four starters remain from the 2012 team that went 24-2, earning WPIAL silver and PIAA gold.
"We are young, we have a lot of skill but they are untested," coach Bill Pfeifer said. "A lot of the kids haven't been asked to do a lot over the past couple years. I get to coach again, do a lot more teaching this year."
Moon must replace four starters who were named to the West Xtra all-area team including West Xtra player of the year Antonia Grese. Last season Grese scored 29 goals and added 37 assists. Moon also loses three midfielders, Chelsea Leipold, Taylor Dornin and Marissa Clough.
Moon's top returning starters are junior forward Kallie Conte, senior defender Sydney Schipani, a University of Akron recruit, and senior outside back Amanda Kachaylo.
Conte was second on the team last season with 20 goals while Schipani had 12.
Junior defender Emily Rode is another returning starter back on the roster but she is dealing with an anterior crucial ligament injury and currently rehabbing.
"Emily will be hit or miss," Pfeifer said. "She may not even play this season."
Another player dealing with an ACL injury is senior goalie Macey Thomas, a West Virginia Wesleyan recruit. If Thomas cannot go this year Pfeifer has perhaps the deepest talent pool at the goalie position with a total of four keepers on the roster, all of whom play travel ball. Junior Kylie Downs will likely get the call in net if Thomas cannot play.
While the starting experience on the Moon roster is limited, the Tigers do have 17 returning letter-winners. With the team able to dominate most of the competition fairly quickly last season, Pfeifer was able to turn to his bench early in games.
"The kids were going in 15 minutes into the game and it was already 3-0 or 4-0," Pfeifer said. "The kids had a lot of playing time, but not a lot of meaningful playing time."
Throughout preseason, Pfeifer has seen a mixed bag from his team. In a scrimmage against Class AA contender Central Valley, his group looked like a cohesive unit. The next night at practice, it was a different story.
"One time the kids look great, and the next time we're wondering who is going to fill that slot. We are inconsistent at times," Pfeifer said. "They're still finding their way. Some of the kids are a little tentative still and afraid they are not going to get on the field. Overall it has been a good preseason, we had a good camp and the kids are upbeat."
Pfeifer anticipates going 17 or 18 players deep with some of the starting positions to be filled on a committee basis.
"The kids are hungry this year, they know there is playing time," Pfeifer said. "They are pushing each other. We will play the same we always have, we are not going to change anything up. The skill level is pretty high and we just need somebody who is going to lead the group."
With graduation and injuries mounting around the WPIAL, the Class AA field seems to be more wide open than it has been in recent memory.
"I think a lot of teams can make a run," Pfeifer said. "Quaker Valley, Hopewell, Central Valley, Mars and South Park and you might have a couple sleepers with Montour and South Fayette. There are seven or eight teams out there, anything can happen."
Moon opens its regular season at 1 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Seneca Valley.hssoccer