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Newcomers leads pack in new PSAL girls soccer ‘B’ leagues

There’s a new twist to PSAL girls’ soccer this year. For the first time in its 22-year history, there will be a citywide ‘B’ division.

And Newcomers coach Elizabeth Schuellein couldn’t be happier.

“The idea of a B league is fantastic,” said Schuellein, whose Lions were 4-10-1 in the A league last year. “It gives teams that generally would have difficulty against talented teams a chance to better themselves. The concept is great. I love it.”

For Schuellein, it’s year one of the PLB-era, or post-Laura Burlacu era. Last year’s TimesLedger Player of the Year is now at St. John’s and the fresh start gives the Newcomers returnees a chance to prove their skills.

“They miss Laura, but they’re excited to have the chance to show everyone what they can really do,” said Schuellein, who had 50 girls tryout for the team this year and had to make cuts for the first time.

Back for the Lions are juniors Valentina Duque, Nathalie Ferre, Armela Dosti and sophomores Vanessa Otero, Maria Rios and Thalita Correa, who will play goal this season.

New but talented players include sisters Beatriz and Lais Melo in the midfield, as well as freshman midfielder Jingshu Wang and sophomore forward/midfielder Hyun-hee Jeong.

Also making the move to the ‘B’ division this year is Forest Hills, which went 3-11-1 in the ‘A’ last year.

The bulk of the Rangers experience is in the midfield with seniors Kamila Barnes, Angela Arboleda and junior Olga Driker. Much of the remainder of the team is comprised of young and inexperienced players, some of whom — like junior forward Carolina Sierra and sophomore goalkeeper Larissa Costa — are promising.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Forest Hills coach Bob Sprance. “The goal is to obviously make the playoffs.”

Taking the reins at Van Buren, which went 2-12-2 last season, is Reinaldo Palencia, the builder of soccer programs.

The Colombian-born Palencia, who is also a collegiate official, coached the boys’ team at John Adams and then established the girls' program in 1999.

“I have to build them up, I love it,” Palencia said. “It’s a challenge I always take.”

Returning for the VeeBees are midfielders Raquel Toc, Vanessa Ortiz, as well as goalkeepers Shareen Hobbins and Janelle Foster.

Back for Jamaica, which went 0-15-1 in the ‘A’ division last year, are seniors Jennifer Hussain, Hsin-Yi Sung and Daniella Adams, as well as junior forward Kimone McLaughlin. Helping make up for the loss of midfielder Jesse Cerna should be sophomore Rocio Hernandez.

Thomas Edison is also making a move to the B division this year — a move up that is. After a respectable 3-10-2 record in its only year as a club team, the Inventors are looking forward to its first year of varsity competition.

“It was fun last year. We had a good time with i, but now they know its for real,” said Edison coach Frank DeNunzio.

Returning from last year are seniors Catia Santos (center forward) and center midfielder Zujenis Pico, as well as sophomore midfielder/forward Amanda McLean. After 40 girls turned out for tryouts, DeNunzio slashed the roster to 22, which includes 13 new underclassmen.

Also making their varsity debuts this year are Robert Wagner, Long Island City, which will also compete in Queens B-II as well as Springfield Gardens and John Bowne in Queens B-I.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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