The Saranac Lake girls varsity soccer team had one of its best seasons in recent years. The Red Storm finished the season with a 4-8-3 record, and the team found themselves in close contests in nearly every league matchup.
Although the Red Storm weren’t able to walk away with a sectional banner, four players were honored for their outstanding campaigns. The Lake Placid girls soccer team had one all-star.
Saranac Lake’s Tyler Burth led the way by being selected to the Northern Soccer League Division I first-team. Emma Akey, Samra Cirikovic and Ayla Small were selected to the second team. The Blue Bombers’ Anisa Cecunjanin was a first-team choice.
Burth, a sophomore, returned to the NSL DII first-team for the second straight year. This season, she scored three goals and had four assists as the team’s center midfielder.
Red Storm head coach Jason Wamsganz described Burth as an extremely smart, savvy and skilled player.
“She understands where to distribute the ball, where and how to position herself in trying to extend possessions and how to bait and defend an opponent,” he said. “She has a motor that just doesn’t stop and is relentless until she wins the ball. She has amazing in-season and out-of-season habits, which have been the reason she is as successful as she is.”
Cirikovic finished her final varsity season by leading the team in goals with nine while recording five assists. Cirikovic was one of the team’s top forwards this past year, and Wamsganz said she really came into her own.
“She worked extremely hard in the offseason and bought into her overall role,” he said. “Samra is very unselfish and often looks to pass first. Her physical strength helps her to create separation and gives her an ability to play with her back to the goal. She has a great touch on the ball and can also just blow the ball past someone with her sheer power. Her ability to turn on a defender with the ball and draw other defenders to her and then pass the ball off to a teammate or space really allowed her to be one of the more dangerous offensive players in the division.”
Wamsganz described Small as the team’s “workhorse,” who could do a little bit of everything for the team. She had four assists playing mostly outside back this past season.
“She could play forward or defense. It was for her defensive skills and play that she is being recognized,” he said. “She is a smart player with the ball and seems to almost always get into a defensive position to make a play. Ayla is smooth with the ball and moves it forward in an attacking style. She most always could find an open player and if not, she doesn’t panic, she just buys herself time possessing the ball until someone gets open. Ayla took 90% of our free kicks and corner kicks. She did a great job dropping the ball in where we needed her to.”
Akey, a sophomore goalie, proved to be a difference-maker in net for Saranac Lake. She recorded 164 saves while posting a 1.15 goals-against average in games against Division II opponents.
“Emma is extremely athletic, her instincts as a goalie are off the chart and she brings a competitiveness to the position,” Wamsganz said. “She made many great saves, helping to keep us in some games. She is very aggressive and totally commits herself when she decides to go get a ball. She is the kind of player who sacrifices her body and is fearless. She was consistent all season and really bought into the game of soccer, her team and the goalie position this season.”
While the Blue Bomber girls didn’t have the best season record-wise, Cecunjanin was a bright spot for her team. She returns to the league all-star team for the second season in a row. Lake Placid also won the Ray Holmes Sportsmanship Award.
Wamsganz was selected as co-coach of the year. Moriah’s Christina Slattery shared the honor with Wamsganz.
“An award like coach of the year is really an award that is a representation or extention of the team,” he said. “I am honored and humbled for receiving this, but it’s the girls who really deserve the recognition. I have been doing this long enough to understand that as coaches we fulfill our responsibilities but our players are the ones who are putting all of the practice pieces, team concepts, selflessness, in-game adjustments all together and all other internal and external matters aside for the betterment of the team.”