Back Mountain squads bring strength to WVC girls soccer

By Jay Monahan - For Times Leader
Dallas’ Emma Sweitzer (left) is one of the talented returning standouts in the Wyoming Valley Conference this season. - Times Leader file photo

It should come as a surprise to no one that the Back Mountain has become a girls soccer hotbed in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Lake-Lehman and Dallas have won each of the past two Wyoming Valley Conference division titles. In fact, the Black Knights and Mountaineers are the only two programs to advance in the PIAA tournament.

But both defending District 2 champions have a similar hurdle in 2018: overcoming the graduation of a four-time all-star/two-time all-state superstar that spent their entire career frustrating the rest of the conference on the pitch.

Lake-Lehman will need to find someone to fill in the shoes of Mackenzie Love and Amanda Ayers. Combined, they scored 76 goals and 181 points in leading the Black Knights to their second-straight district championship with a penalty kick win over Montrose.

The Black Knights have plenty of experience returning to the lineup. Abby Paczewski has been a driving force in the midfield for the past two state runs and led the Black Knights in assists. Madison Brdaric was the team’s third-leading scorer with 13 regular season goals. Kitt Patla, Sarah Salus, Lauren Chapple, Emma Stroud, and Paige Motovidlak will lead the Black Knights defensively.

With 10 players lost to graduation, Dallas brings a starting XI ripe with a strong junior class to fill in for Samantha Mazula. The reigning Times Leader Player of the Year was seemingly everywhere – goal-scorer, assist-marker, defender, set-piece specialist – last season. Emma Sweitzer is sure to be a wrecking ball in the midfield, and Alison Francis has one of the finest touches for a forward in the conference.

The Back Mountain’s dynasty will surely have plenty of challengers.

Standing in the way for the Mountaineers will surely be Crestwood. Overtime thrillers have become a common occurrence between the two rivals. The Comets has some of its lineup intact from their 2016 district championship.

Last year’s season came to a close with a penalty kick loss in semifinals to Abington Heights that would have likely had a different ending if Melissa Herrera had not been out with an injury. Herrera has excellent field awareness and finishing skills, scoring 24 goals in her junior campaign.

Berwick caught on strong in the second half last season, and the Bulldogs knocked off Wyoming Area in the district playoffs. Coach Paul DiPippa’s squad is without their top two scorers from the past three seasons, but five returning sophomore starters will make the transition to Class 3A easier.

Sophomore Aby Davis will give Coughlin hope in having one last hurrah in the storied program’s final season. Wyoming Valley West’s Kennadi Josefowicz was the division’s top scorer in 2017 with 27 goals and 60 points. Pittston Area has a strong senior class with forward Grace Mimnaugh and defenders Nicole Mayer and Jenna Smith.

In Division 2, Holy Redeemer’s junior class eyes on bringing home a championship trophy to coach Bob Hughes in his final season. Annie Bagnall and Kasey Danko represent the conference’s most-feared one-two punch in the front. Carly Cavanaugh was the lone defender on the Times Leader All-Star Team with 15 assists to her credit.

There is no forgetting Wyoming Area. The Warriors have gone from cellar dweller to title contender in just a few seasons. Aleah Kranson was the WVC scoring leader with 43 goals, 24 assists and 110 points last season. Abby Yatsko was a second-team defender with a tenacity for key stops in big games.

Ed Lukowski and Nolan Robinson take over as new coaches at Nanticoke and Tunkhannock, respectively.

Only four Times Leader First Team all-stars – Cavanaugh, Josefowicz, Herrea, Kranson – return from last year.

Eleven Class of 2018 graduates are playing collegiately this season. Among them are Dallas’ Mazula (Youngstown State), Hollie Holthaus (Penn St. Harrisburg); Lake-Lehman’s Love (Misericordia), Ayers (Penn St. Altoona), Kyra Apaliski (Neumann), Lexi Concklin (Neumann); Coughlin’s Kendall Pearage (Misericordia), Casey Salinas (Penn College); Crestwood’s Vanessa Atie (DeSales); Wyoming Valley West’s Tiffany Michalek (Pitt-Greensburg); and Wyoming Area’s Erica Gallagher (Penn College).

DIVISION 1

Berwick

Coach: Paul DiPippa

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 13-3 (t-3rd, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Lake-Lehman 2-0 in semi. Beat Wyoming Area 3-1 in quarterfinal. Beat Hanover Area 10-0 in first round.

Key returners: Katy Starr, Renny Murphy, Emily Ouimet, Amber Kosinski

Outlook: “With our young team we are looking to compete for the conference title in the new division.”

Coughlin

Coach: Desiree Kreidler

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 7-5 (T-3rd, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Dallas 8-2 in quarterfinal. Beat Honesdale 5-0 in first round.

Key returners: Seniors – Le’June Berry, m/f; Morgan Bilski, gk/m; Litzy Flores, d/m; Rosie McGrane, d; Courtney Wartella, gk. Juniors – Aby Davis, m; Allyse Filipowich, m/f; Dani McGrane, m/f. Sophomore –Ryleigh Kopiak, d

Outlook: We are looking forward to a very competitive season. We have a great group of hardworking returning players and plenty of new players who have quickly become integral parts of the team.

Crestwood

Coach: Russ Kile

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 10-1-1 (2nd, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Abington Heights 1-1 (3-1 PKs) in semi. Beat Wallenpaupack 3-0 in quarterfinal.

Key returners: Seniors – Lauren Andrews, Nina Atie, Chyanne Cook, Melissa Herrera, Megan Sypniewski, Bella Termini, Kelly Velehoski, Katelyn Whetstone. Juniors – Cortney Dushanko, gk; Hannah Kresge, Allie Stover. Sophomores – Julia Johnson, Nicole Joseph, Julia Rose, Rachel Zingaretti

Outlook: “Our seniors took ownership of the team early and continue to work hard every day to earn an unparalleled 2018-2019 season. We expect the levels of experience on our roster to propel the team to successes never seen before at Crestwood.”

Dallas

Coach: Nikki Pekarski

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 11-0-1 (1st, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to East Pennsboro 1-0 in PIAA first round. Beat Abington Heights 3-0 in district final. Beat Wyoming Valley West 7-2 in semi. Beat Coughlin 8-2 in quarterfinal.

Key returners: Juniors – Kanisha Cheshire, def; Kristen O’Malley, def/mid; Sara Krokos, gk-def; Alison Francis, fwd; Emma Sweitzer, mid.

Outlook: “We lost a big group from graduation but the now juniors have stepped up and bring plenty of experience to the team. I expect the freshman to help fill the gaps due to graduation. Our team goal is to improve each game and put us in a position to compete for the district title.”

Hazleton Area

Coach: Jim Paisley

2018 Classification: 4A

2017 WVC record/finish: 1-10-1 (T-6th, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Williamsport 5-1 in regional semifinal.

Key returners: Kaitlyn Beiler, mid; Jasmine Beiler, def; Josie Middleton, mid; Jade Sency, mid; Kyra Antolick, fwd

Outlook: “I’m very optimistic about this season. We are returning a very senior heavy team with a great wealth of freshman players. We should be very competitive.”

Nanticoke

Coach: Ed Lukowski

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 7-9 (5th, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Meyers 4-0 in first round.

Key returners: Amiah Lukowski, Emily Hauer, Gabby Rakowski

Outlook: Ed Lukowski takes over a Trojans team that has been on the fringe of a break-out year. Nanticoke has been hampered by injuries each of the past few seasons, so attrition and depth will be key in the more competitive Division 1. Amiah Lukowski’s speed will be a factor on offense.

Pittston Area

Coach: Nicole Tieso

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 3-9 (5th, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Wyoming Valley West 2-0 in first round.

Key returners: Seniors – Nicole Mayer, def; Jenna Smith, def; Grace Mimnaugh, mid/fwd. Sophomore – Brynne McGoff

Outlook: “This season we look to be competitive in every game. Our connections on and off the field have developed very well. The girls have been working extremely hard to make this a great season. They work great together and have confidence in each other. We feel that our strong team cohesiveness is an asset that will help us all season. The girls support and push each other to be the best they can be. We have several returning players and younger players that can definitely have an impact of this team. The depth we have this year is something we are excited about. Our division will be a difficult one, but we believe that we will be competitive in every game.”

Tunkhannock

Coach: Nolan Robinson

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 1-10-1 (t-6th, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Wallenpaupack 4-1 in first round.

Key returners: Jazmine Appel, Faith Jones, Hope Jones, Abigail Ritz

Outlook: Nolan Robinson takes over as head coach for the Tigers. Tunkhannock had been stingy defensively, but last year saw more offensive muster than in the past. The Tigers have a wealth of experience in Appel, Ritz and the Jones sisters.

Wyoming Valley West

Coach: Deb Stevens

2018 Classification: 3A

2017 WVC record/finish: 7-5 (t-3rd, Div. 1)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Dallas 7-2 in semi. Beat North Pocono 8-0 in quarterfinal. Beat Pittston Area 2-0 in first round.

Key returners: Senior – Nicole Boutanos. Juniors – Kennadi Josefowicz, Morgan Bobkowski. Sophomore – Chloe Chipego.

Outlook: “We expect to be a strong and competitive team due to several returning starters, having a solid defense and also returning, last year’s league leading scorer, Kennadi Josefowicz. We will use each regular season game as preparation toward a run at the district title.”

DIVISION 2

GAR

Coach: Roberto Colin

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 1-15 (t-8th, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Wyoming Area 13-0 in first round.

Key returners: Selene Amigon, Hannah Cook, Skylar Elmy, Rosy Sosa

Outlook: As the GAR program comes to a close, the Grenadiers have their sights on improving upon last season in an easier Division 2. Last year’s season finale victory over Hanover Area (4-3) are a cause for optimism for Skylar Elmy and company.

Hanover Area

Coach: Aimee Bono

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 1-15 (t-8th, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Berwick 10-0 in first round.

Key returners: Seniors – Tanisha Atherton, Kyarra McMullen, Sam Nay

Outlook: The Hawkeyes showed glimpses of promise – a 2-0 shutout of GAR and a 3-2 nailbiter loss to Meyers – last year. Hanover Area hopes to receive more goal production this season after putting together just 11 goals in 2017.

Holy Redeemer

Coach: Robert Hughes

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 11-5 (4th, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Montrose 4-1 in quarterfinal. Beat Mid Valley 9-0 in first round.

Key returners: Juniors – Annie Bagnell, fwd; Kasey Danko, fwd; Carly Cavanaugh, def.

Outlook: “We have a good mix of experienced and new players who are starting to get to know each other and our system. We have put together a very strong non-conference schedule to get ready for another competitive season in the Wyoming Valley conference. Our goal is to again be competing for a division and district title.”

Lake-Lehman

Coach: Kelly Adamshick

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 15-1 (1st, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Midd-West 4-3 in PIAA first round. Beat Montrose 3-3 (4-2 PKs) in district final. Beat Berwick 2-0 in semi. Beat Meyers 1-0 in quarterfinal.

Key returners: Seniors – Aryan Blazick, mid; Kitt Patla, def. Juniors – Lauren Chapple, def; Paige Motovidlak, def; Abby Paczewski, mid; Sarah Salus, def; Emily Smith, fwd; Chloe Weaver, mid Sophomores – Madison Brdaric, mid/fwd; Keera Naugle, mid/fwd; Emma Stroud, gk

Outlook: Lake-Lehman won both the Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2 championships for the second consecutive season. The Black Knights were unable to replicate 2016’s state playoff run, hitting a Midd-West team that featured one of the top players in the state. Lake-Lehman will have find a replacement up top to replace Mackenzie Love and Amanda Ayers. Look for Maddy Brdaric to be a goal-scoring threat for the Black Knights in their quest for a three-peat.

Meyers

Coach: Brynn Nargoski

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 7-9 (t-5th, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Lake-Lehman 10-0 in quarterfinal. Beat Nanticoke 4-0 in first round.

Key returners: Seniors – Ashley Bruno, Olivia Livingston, Isabella Weidow, Jenay Zelinka; Juniors – Emma Barker, Sara Morris, Abbey Weidler. Sophomores – Hayley Krasnavage, Olivia Livingston

Outlook: Meyers has been drastically improving over the past few years under the direction of Nargoski. The Mohawks’ statement win came in the District 2 playoffs with a 4-0 victory over Nanticoke. Sara Morris and Haley Krasnavage will need to help offensively after the graduation of Erin Morris. Look for Meyers to be tough on opponents in its final season.

Wyoming Area

Coach: Nikki Sitkowski

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 13-3 (t-2nd, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Berwick 3-1 in quarterfinal. Beat GAR 13-0 in first round.

Key returners: Senior – Aleah Kranson. Juniors – Tierney Porfirio, Caitlin McDonough, Carley Yuhas, Abigail Yatsko

Outlook: “I would like to continue to build on last years’ successes. We need to stay focused on our team goals and stay injury free. We have the potential to do big things this year as long as we work together!”

Wyoming Seminary

Coach: Jesse Williams

2018 Classification: 2A

2017 WVC record/finish: 4-12 (7th, Div. 2)

2017 Postseason: Lost to Lakeland 1-0 in semi. Beat Elk Lake 5-1 in quarterfinal.

Key players: Seniors – Annemaaike Reitsma, Emily Matthews, Hannah Gilbert

Outlook: “We will continue to build and work hard to be competitive in the postseason.”

Dallas’ Emma Sweitzer (left) is one of the talented returning standouts in the Wyoming Valley Conference this season.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL110917DALEastPennGSOC3-2.jpgDallas’ Emma Sweitzer (left) is one of the talented returning standouts in the Wyoming Valley Conference this season. Times Leader file photo

By Jay Monahan

For Times Leader