RBHS junior Ivy Marcucci, left, battles Oak Park and River Forest's Grace Huettel for the ball during the Huskies' 2-1 win. (Photo by Vic Guarino)

Riverside-Brookfield High School girls soccer coach Danny Makaric is an optimistic guy by nature. He’s even a bit more pumped than usual though this spring considering the Bulldogs’ returning talent.

Fresh off a 13-7-1 campaign that produced the program’s first regional title since 2010, RBHS appears primed for another successful season with the bulk of its starting lineup intact. Although the Bulldogs lost four-year varsity player Ashley Ferguson and all-conference performer Meaghan Dorsey to graduation, sophomore Allie Kucera returns as the team’s top goal scorer (27 goals in 2015) and one of the better players in the state.

“Allie is an awesome player,” Makaric said. “If everything goes the right way, she can be a first division college player, no question about it.”

While Kucera is a prolific scorer, the Bulldogs’ talent is distributed well on the field. Junior standouts Esther Annoreno, Kathryn Sessler, Ivy Marcucci and Anika Marchan are three-year varsity players who contribute in multiple ways.

“Ivy, Kathryn, Anika and myself all came in together on the varsity,” Annoreno said. “We’re definitely taking some initiative to lead the team this season. We’re trying to help the underclassmen achieve their goals and learn our style of play. Even though we lost some key seniors, we’re still a very strong team.”

Annoreno, who had nine goals and a team-best 10 assists last season, has assumed Ferguson’s role as an attacking midfielder.

Marchan, Sessler, Mariah Dorsey and Gabby Tarrant are also solid midfielders while Marcucci anchors the defense. Seniors McKenna Powers, Claire Hansa and Sarah Sanchez complete the defensive backfield.

Senior goalkeeper Karli Rivera is another experienced starter. She’s backed up by promising sophomore Emily Graham, allowing RBHS the luxury of two capable goalkeepers.

The Bulldogs lost 2-1 to Oak Park and River Forest last week and earned a 1-1 tie with Lake Park in their season opener March 15. Mariah Dorsey scored the goal (assisted by Annoreno) against OPRF, while Kucera scored the goal against Lake Park.

Regardless of results, a tough nonconference schedule always prepares RBHS (0-1-1) well for Metro Suburban Conference competition.

 “It definitely helps us learn what we need to improve on as a team,” Annoreno said about the nonconference schedule. “Playing teams like OPRF is a good experience for us because we see what our strengths and weaknesses are as a team.

“We believe we can go as a far as we did last season, and maybe even further. I think we have a stronger team this year.”

Wheaton Academy, which beat RBHS during the regular season and 1-0 in a Class 2A sectional semifinal last season, is the Metro Suburban Conference Western Division favorite. Glenbard South and the Bulldogs are other top contenders.

RBHS will be on the road at Romeoville (April 5) and Fenton (April 7). Both matches start at 6:15 p.m.