The boys soccer field once again looks to be strong with the usual contenders dominating the landscape.
Matt Hibbs, who earned second team HAC II honors for his impressive freshman campaign, will be the man expected to lead Loyalsock this season.
Hibbs scored a decisive goal in a 1-0 win over Montoursville last season, while helping the Lancer reach the district playoffs and finish second in the their division.
Loyalsock’s Louis Comfort, left, and Elijah Solley, right, and Warrior Run’s Derek Cotner, middle, all played in last year’s District 4 playoff match won by Warrior Run and all three return this season to what should be two of the area’s better teams.
Hibbs, along with brother Dan, posted a hat-trick in the team's 6-0 opening round win over Line Mountain in the District 4 Class A tournament.
And much like the girl's side of the bracket, Loyalsock collided with Warrior Run, though, it wasn't quite as deep as the girl's semifinal. Warrior Run won that one, 2-0, behind second-half goals from Mason Wagner and Brett Riley.
"I met returning upperclassmen the week after I was hired and had the players fill out a sheet asking them various questions," Loyalsock coach Andy Zimmerman said. "Every single player answered 'Win the district'. When is comes to my players on the field goal it is to win the district championship and move on to the state playoffs."
The postseason experience should help with Loyalsock's younger players, who appear to be in a good position to challenge for a league title.
"The key to building on last year's success will be staying healthy," Zimmerman said. "Not only is this a young team with limited experience, but we have a roster of only 25 players. All twenty guys are a crucial piece of this team, not just the starting 11, but the guys on the depth chart, as well."
Warrior Run will be another established group.
"We want to play high quality possession-style soccer and qualify for districts," Warrior Run coach Doug Bastian said. "A good start will build confidence amongst the players."
Williamsport was one of the area's biggest surprises last year, emerging to record 10 wins, send five players to the HAC All Stars as first or second teamers and compete against Abington Heights for the District 2-4 Class AAA title. The Millionaires also finished third in the division, losing two games to Lewisburg, but defeating Selinsgrove and Midd-West.
The strength of the team, Bernard Avoulou, graduated but Williamsport has other scoring threats.
"The one good thing we have going is that we can move around a bunch of guys to different positions, giving us a little flexibility with lineups. Dyan Bennet, Shaun Smith and Chet Schwoyer are strong players who will be moved all over the field. Gennaro Girardi will also provide a lot of energy throughout the midfield." Williamsport coach Lee Kaar said. "We have a bunch of underclassmen who we will be relying on as well. Ben Hillman, Bryan Kavanagh, and Brett Kavanagh are three sophomores who will contribute this year. Dylan Confair and Devin Marty are freshmen that will be counted on, as well."
Williamsport will also be ushering in a new coach with the departure of Chris Lovecchio, last season's co-coach of the year for the HAC I. Kaar will bring a lot of experience to Williamsport, though.
Williamsport does have plenty left to rally around, like senior keeper Tanner Kreisher. Throughout the season, Kreisher always kept Williamsport in games, but the potential he flashed in the District 2-4 championship game was impressive.
Kreisher stopped five of Abington Heights' eight shots on goal, deploying fully extended stops on the ground and jumping taps on high on-target attempts. Despite the loss, Kreisher gained value big-game experience.
"The team last year was senior laden," Kaar said. "The only guys who saw solid varsity time were Tanner Kreisher, Jakin Rintelman, and occasionally Matt Marrie. We will be counting on those three to be leaders on the field throughout the year."
One of Williamsport's strongest features is surprisingly going to be one of Lewisburg's most troubling. And it's going to be new territory for the Green Dragons. Well, it's at least going to be a new sensation for Lewisburg, which has relied on the services of four-year starter, Christian Gallagher.
Gallagher, the school's all-time leader in saves, will leave a hole in the defense. But Lewisburg, which has seemed to do a good job of producing talent to fill gaps left by departing seniors, will have Peter Ayers and Leander Cortolezis, both first-team HAC-I all star selections.
South Williamsport once again cruised through the HAC III, racking up 13 wins against one loss to claim a share of the league title. And it didn't stop there as the Mounties battled East Juniata once again for District 4 Class A supremacy.
All three of the goals scored in the final came in a five-minute span, with East Juniata punching the the go-ahead goal moments after Hunter Rosenburg punched in to tying goal.
Unlike previous years, South Williamsport will be reloading. And the young group had better learn quickly if it hopes to repeat the success of the past few years.
"Obviously, we lost a lot of talent and experience that served as the core of our team over the past 2-3 years," South Williamsport coach Mike Rodgers said. "We are very positive about some of the players who are still in our system and feel that they are ready to contribute."
The Mounties will be down two huge pieces in Rosenburg and Class A coach of the year J. Scott McNeil. The Mounties also lost Cody Beach and Brandon Johnson, two of the more dominant midfielders in the area.
"Our work rate both in games and on the practice will also be critical to our team's success," Rodgers said. "This offseason we ran voluntary workouts during the week. I was impressed by the numbers we had in attendance, showing the commitment of some of the younger guys moving forward."
Muncy, a team with plenty of experience, could compete with South Williamsport and Millville. The Indians return Ammar Sabanovic, a HAC-III all-star from a season ago.
"The keys to our success lie within our seniors," Muncy coach Mark Weatherhold said. "They must step up as a unit and be teachers on and off the fielt. This is really only their second year together as a group and they have gelled very well together from the start of the preseason."
Muncy will be tested early with games against Southern Columbia and Millville. The experience through the preseason could make Muncy a tough out if it reached the postseason.
"Our goals for the season are simple, consistency on both sides of the ball and everyone play as part of a unit" Wetherhold said. "Everyone has a role to play whether you are a senior of freshmen and to make the playoffs."
Montoursville, which opened the season with a second place finish in the annual Stanley E. Burke, Jr. Memorial Soccer Tournament, should be able to build on last year's success and reach the postseason.
"A good start will help us build for the rest of the season," Montoursville coach Rich Marriott said.