The Line Mountain girls’ soccer team is on a nice two-year run, but can that success continue after graduation stripped three outstanding players from the roster?
Southern Columbia also had a great run a year ago and the Tigers return their top three scorers.
Shamokin and Mount Carmel were a few tough losses away from a chance at the playoffs, while Lourdes Regional has struggled, but returns a lot of firepower.
But a new season starts this weekend and with that always comes hope for better results ahead.
The off-season and preseason work is finished. It’s time to put it to the test.
Coach Shannon Snyder believes that, despite the graduation losses, she has enough returning players complemented by some young talent to keep the Eagles headed in the right direction.
Gone to graduation are Lacey Snyder, Autumn Czaplicki, Alyssa Lambert and Maura Lundy, all players who made major contributions to the Eagles’ 15-5 campaign, which included 7-3 in the tough Tri-Valley League North Division. The Eagles were 12-7-1 in 2016.
Snyder is playing soccer at Lock Haven University, Czaplicki is playing rugby at West Chester and Lambert will compete in track and field at Moravian College.
Czaplicki was an outstanding forward who showed her versatility by moving to goal after starting keeper Tawney Rebuck was lost to an injury.
Lambert had a lot of speed, but Snyder believes she has some speed coming in. She believes the hardest spot to fill will be that of Lacey Snyder, who was a strong aggressive player in the enter defense, who played there for three years.
“She was willing to give up a goal for the win and we are going to have to find someone that’s going to be willing to do that,” the coach said.
A key returner is senior midfielder Emily Bingaman, who was among the TVL scoring leaders with nine goals and four assists. Snyder may pair Bingaman with senior Morgan Keim because she said the two work well together and are solid with good footwork.
The Eagles’ only losses in the league were twice to overall champion East Juniata and one to Juniata, which they also defeated during the season
The Tigers and Indians are perennially the top two teams in the division, but Snyder said, “I think we have the potential to be there. I think we have enough talent and knowledge from the seniors that we can be right back up there in that top three.”
Snyder said she has some good freshmen with potential to fill some spots, but she also has her largest senior group ever.
“They were all starters and I will put them in the middle and let them direct it a little bit, but it may take a couple games. But I think we’ll get them on track,” she added.
That senior group is led by four four-year starters: Bingaman, Keim and defenders Kasey Boyer and Emilee Smith.
With an eye toward the post-season, where the Eagles fell 4-0 to Northeast Bradford in the first round of the District 4 Class A playoffs, Snyder hopes new non-league opponent Shamokin will help better prepare the Eagles for the playoffs.
Shamokin replaces Bloomsburg on the schedule and Snyder said, “They are strong, they are very aggressive, but that’s what we need to play against.”
The Tigers have a larger than usual squad, with 35 players, including 14 freshmen, but most importantly the roster includes last year’s top three scorers: junior forward Morgan Marks, senior forward Kari Cambria and junior midfielder Maggie Morrison.
“They will provide a solid foundation in our attack,” coach Derek Stine said.
The coach said that as the freshmen continue to mature and adapt to the speed and physicality the coaches believes many of them have the ability to make an immediate impact at the varsity level.
The coaches added that senior defenders Jill Marks and Sami Palacz return to lead a solid back line that will help to limit opponents’ opportunities in the ace of the net.
The Tigers will face some new opponents with the realignment of Pennsylvania Heartland Conference Division 3. Central Columbia and Montoursville moved to Division 2 and were replaced by Loyalsock and old rival Bloomsburg.
“With Division 3 being the smallest, we have more non-league games than in years past,” Stine said. “We have significantly increased the difficulty of our schedule by adding old rivals like Danville, Mifflinburg, Montoursville and East Juniata,” he said, but noting the downside was the loss of rival games with Shamokin, Warrior Run and Lewisburg.
“Although small, Division 3 is extremely competitive with returning District 4 champion Bloomsburg and other strong opponents. We look to be competitive in the league and take it one step at a time and hopefully win the division again this season,” he said.
The coaches added that the goal is to immediately contend for conference and D4 titles.
“Our goals are high, and the girls have a proven work rate to continue to improve and achieve at the highest levels,” Stine said.
Although competing in the top division of the PHAC with the largest schools, coach Todd Nye’s Indians have a roster smaller than many of the smaller divisions, with only 19 players.
“We have to get healthy and stay healthy in order to be successful,” said Nye’s, whose teams were 7-11 each of the last two seasons and were 4-8 in the division last year.
Leading scorer Kaitlyn Dunn, a junior midfielder, leads a group of 10 key returners who Nye hopes to help the team take the next step. Dunn scored 10 goals and had four assists last season after a freshman season in which she hit the back of the net 12 times and added a pair of assists.
The others are senior goalkeeper/midfielder Abby Nye, senior forward Lauren Wagner, senior midfielders Chloe Kramer and Andrea Segura, junior forward/midfielder Sophie Rossnock, sophomore forward Emma Kramer, senior defender/goalkeeper Lydia Deptula, sophomore defender/midfielder Grace Nazih and sophomore goalkeeper/defender Olivia Haupt. Freshmen expected to contribute on varsity, Nye said, include midfielder Sadie Komara and defenders Sarah Hoover, Madyson Waugh and Karrah Kurtz.
The top graduation losses were Maryssa Erdman, Ciara Tharp and Abbie Fiori.
The Indians will again have an uphill battle in the division.
“As we know, the Heartland Conference is tough no matter what division you play in and this year, with the realignment, I believe Midd-West and Central Columbia will probably be the teams to beat,” Nye said.
Despite saying that the Schuylkill League is one of the toughest leagues she has ever seen, and the Red Raiders play in Schuylkill Division 2, Lourdes assistant coach Jessica Trell believes the team has a good chance to improve on last season’s record (5-12 overall, 5-9 league).
“(Division foes) Schuylkill Haven, Minersville and Williams Valley are always powerhouses to play,” Trell said. “They all move the ball really well and have tough defenses.”
Trell added, “Teamwork is the biggest key. Our girls know to be successful they must work together and that the open player must take the shot, followed by support crashing the goal. We must transition from offense to defense and defense to offense.”
The Red Raiders lost two leaders to graduation, Zoey Bower and Jessica Milewski, their defensive leader and a strong transitional plyer at midfield, Trell said.
But, in addition to nine starters returning, the Red Raiders also welcomed back defender Cassidy Shovlin, a senior who took last season off. “Shovlin is a strong defensive player and plays with no fear,” Trell said. “She’ll be a strong defender for us and is quite capable of filling Bower’s shoes.
Trell said the many players can rotate through the forward and midfield positions and, with a great deal of speed. She said the coaches are working with the players on a new offense to better prepare for the tough league play.
“Offensively, we will need to attack very aggressively and not pass up on open shots. Defensively, we have to communicate to ensure there is no breakdown in coverage, so areas aren’t left open for shooting.”
The nine returners include the four captains: midfielder/goalkeeper Gia Candelora, forward/midfielder Kelsey Ober, midfielder/defender Mary Richardson and forward/midfielder Riley Trell, who will be asked to provide strong leadership. All play in the midfield, with Candelora being transitional to goalie if needed; Richardson moves between midfield and the defensive end while Ober and Trell are strong forces at the attack positions but can switch positions during play to promote progression and momentum, Trell said.
She added that the team is blessed with strong juniors in Mackenzie Catino and Kolbi Krebs, two of the fastest players on the team, who are integral to providing support for the front line and attack on goal.
Sophomore Ashley Albert is returning to defense and has shown aggressive play despite being outsized on most occasions. Trell said Albert will be back by co-defenders Shovlin and senior Elizabeth Nguyen, who has started since her freshman year. Sophomore Alivia Leeman will be called upon to shoot more on goal. Rounding out the defensive end is returning goalkeeper Abby Fobia.
“Fobia isn’t afraid to get dirty and directs the defense in the backfield to protect the goal,” Trell said.
Other returning players the coaches look to for contributions are junior Caitlin Shulski and sophomores Allie Albert, Peyton Kehler, Morgan Munson, Katie Sandri and Emily Shaffer.
Trell said all are strong shooters and aggressive on defense.
The team has only one freshman, Jocelyn Olvany, but Trell said she is a seasoned player and will be called upon to play various positions as needed to support both the offense and defense.
There are also seven sophomores, giving the team depth on the bench. Trell said, “Well be substituting more to keep fresh legs on the field,” she said.
Two former college soccer teammates and four-year starters at NCAA Division III powerhouse Lancaster Bible College have signed on to guide the Red Tornadoes this season with the departure of veteran coach Rich Miller.
First-year head coach Emily Lloyd, a graduate of Northumberland County Christian School, and a physical education teacher at Mount Carmel Area High School, was the North East Athletic Association goalkeeper of the year in 2011 and helped the team win the conference championship in 2012. Her assistant, Whitney (Heise) Whaley, graduated from Columbia Christian School, and also helped the team win the 2012 title. Both new coaches made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Lloyd will be the first Mount Carmel coach in four years to be without the services of Nicole Varano, the school’s all-time leading scorer, who graduated and is headed to Bloomsburg University.
The Red Tornadoes also lost Maci Mazzatesta, Myia Miriello, Chloe Smith and Camlin Bogutski.
But Lloyd’s top returners bring plenty of speed to the field as track and field standouts Talia Mazzatesta and Payton Carl are joined by Emily Krulak and Daniela Mangiapane.
Lloyd said her first impression of her new squad is that it is a unified team “working together to get the job done.”
She added, “I have some very talented players returning as well as some new recruits to the team. I am looking forward to them learning to work and play together and put it all out on the field every game.”