By Bob Narang

Communication and chemistry.

Plainfield East is hoping those two characteristics will help lead the program to another winning season coming off a 12-8-1 campaign in 2017.

But to improve on that winning mark, the Bengals will have to replace the high-scoring duo of Shannon Coughlin and Maddie Sidman, which won’t be an easy task.

Plainfield East coach Cosimo Patano said his seven seniors have to take the lead.

“We have to buy into the (right) mindset and stay healthy,” said Patano, whose team also has some promising underclassmen.

Coughlin scored a goal in 16 of the Bengals’ 21 games last season, finishing with a team-high 29 goals and eight assists. Sidman was nearly as dominant, recording 10 goals and 10 assists. The two of them are now finishing their freshman year of college.

“I’ve seen the program grow, on and off the field,” said Plainfield East’s Nina Leon, a four-year varsity player. “I’m super excited, because the seniors have a new perspective in leading our group this year.

“We’re all pretty confident in our leadership to make this program grow. Last year was a great year, but we can come out this year with a bang as well.”

Senior goalie Alison Cosola, a Saint Ambrose University recruit, believes this could be a special season for the Bengals.

“I feel like we’re going to be really good this year with a lot of seniors and new kids that are good coming in as freshmen,” Cosola said. “Teamwork, communication, staying focused and remaining positive are the keys.”

Senior defender Jade Becknell acknowledged that her squad will be a completely different team without Coughlin and Sidman. Coughlin, who is now at Marian University, scored six goals in a single game last spring.

“It will definitely be different,” Becknell said. “We lost a couple of big powerhouses, who went on to college. We still have to figure things out on how the dynamics are going to change this year with some players that came back and new players.”

Senior midfielder Angela Dagnino echoed the team’s need for commitment and to be focused. The Bengals return six of 11 starters from last season.

“I feel communication is the key since we lost a lot of players from last year,” Dagnino said. “We have to stay committed and focused and not let anything bad get in our heads.”

One role player to keep an eye on is senior Macy Birch, who is ready to take on a bigger role.

“I prepared a lot for this season, mainly trying to get in really good shape,” Birch said. “I just want to help us score some goals and assist the team.”

Senior Grace Gialo has seen many changes throughout her four years at Plainfield East. She said the team’s chemistry is already evident in the offseason.

“I’m pretty excited for this team and season, and although we lost a lot of players, we have some new incoming freshmen that are pretty good,” Gialo said. “We’re all pretty close, on and off the field.”

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