One of the biggest problems the Fenwick girls soccer program has battled in recent seasons has been its lack of depth.

While the Friars have always been loaded with a number of individual stars over the years, they’ve struggled at times when turning to their bench.

But after the first two weeks of practice, Fenwick coach Chris Richter believes that won’t be a problem this spring.

“We’ve had a pretty solid first few weeks with healthy competition for starting roles,” Richter said. “That’s probably a good sign, since it usually means that you should have some depth going into the season.”

Forward Torie Frangella highlights the list of returnees. The senior, along with junior forward Rachel Canfora, scored five goals apiece a year ago. This duo will need to step it up at the start if the Friars expect to make some noise in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.

“Our conference opener is our second game of the season,” said Richter, whose 2007 squad posted a 10-4-6 overall record and a 4-3-2 fifth-place conference mark. “We need to make sure that we’re all stepping up and talking on the field.”

Many soccer experts believe games are won and lost in the midfield. That will be a strength for Fenwick this season, which is another reason for the Friars’ faithful to be hopeful for a possible sectional final berth come May.

Sophomore Molly Sutton and juniors Ellie Galvin, Serafina Nuzzo, Colleen Hussey and Margaret Stephany are five players competing for the important midfield positions. Also keep an eye on junior defender Sara Payne.

“One of the biggest keys for us is having a new set of leaders step up early in the season,” Richter said. “Roles can be replaced, but we lost a senior goalie and sweeper from last year. As a team, you’ll feel that in the level of communication early in the season, so we need others to step up and fill that important void.”

Fenwick opens the 2008 campaign on March 19 when it hosts Morton, before battling conference foe Marian Catholic on March 22.

The Friars are one of the 32 teams taking place in the inaugural Pepsi Showdown, which will be hosted by Oak Park. Fenwick earned the No. 16 seed in the largest high school girls soccer tournament in the country.

Richter’s squad will host Andrew in the tournament opener on April 1. The Friars also will take part in the Catholic Cup at the end of April.