Although the official season kicked off Tuesday night, plenty of entertaining tournaments highlighted last weekend with a few area teams getting surprised and a few other ones performing at their expected levels.
Montoursville's annual Stanely E. Burke Memorial Cup Tournament gave the Warriors a fun Saturday featuring two games for each of the four teams involved.
"It's been in the program's history for so long I don't remember starting the season any other way," Montoursville girls coach Erin Bennett said. "It helps because it's a home tournament and once we get that under our belts we can start to concentrate on league play."
On the girls' side, Montoursville posted two goals in the first five minutes. The usual players were involved, with Carley Mill and Tayler Eshbach notching the team's first and second goals of the season. Lana Spitler, a name I'm sure many of you were wondering about, also got into the action, adding two goals in the 9-1 romp over Troy and later adding an unassisted effort as Montoursville defeated Central Columbia, 2-0, in the championship. Eshbach tallied the team's first goal in the championship game.
The second game against Central Columbia provided area fans with a nice glimpse into two of the more talented teams in the Heartland. And what was really impressive about Montoursville was its patience in the offensive attack.
Both teams were shut out in the first half with the first goal coming in the 76th minute when Eshbach took advantage of a Spitler assist. The attack was on from that point as Spitler added her third of the season a minute later.
"Central Columbia always has a good program," Bennett said. "They are very organized and you have to work to break them down."
The Hughesville girls had a wildly successful weekend at the Labor Day Lady Spartan Tournament.
Opening to the home crowd, Hughesville defeated Wyalusing, 10-0, in its first game, and then beat Penns Valley, 2-0, to win the championship.
"We moved the ball well on Saturday, and we controlled the tempo," Hughesville girl's soccer coach Murray Hanford said. "The team continually applied pressure and put the ball in dangerous locations with opportunities to score. Our attack came from multiple areas which made it very difficult to defend. We take a team approach into our offense and defense, where you share the responsibility and rewards. Everyone did their part to contribute on Saturday."
And it wasn't just the varsity girls doing their jobs.
The JV team won both of its games, notching 10-0 and 6-0 wins over Wyalusing and Northeast Bradford, respectively.
"Although the junior varsity girls are younger, the expectations to keep the level of play high is stressed," Hanford said. "The style for which we strive and play doesn't change. Control the ball and good things will happen. Everyone on the team understands that we want to control the ball, the tempo, and in the end, the results."
Alexis Avery had an impressive weekend for Hughesville. In the team's opening-round win, she scored two goals. Then followed that with the opening goal in Hughesville's championship victory.
"Alexis Avery works extremely hard. She plays at a high rate, and she knows how hustle will pay off," Hanford said. "With her and Brittany Snyders length and quickness, they will provide a lot of problems for teams to solve. Alexis is talented enough to play in multiple positions, which helps to vary how we attack teams. If you focus on one person, several others can step up to create problems for the opponent. I want them all to have high soccer IQ so they will adapt to what they are seeing at a given moment during a match. Don't force but adjust, while applying pressure to score."
And not to be out done, teammate Brittany Snyder posted four goals in the team's first game, including the first three goals of the Spartans' season.
"The team concept is strongly stressed. Keep moving without the ball and you will be rewarded by receiving it. Put yourself in position to create problems for the other team," Hanford said. "If everyone is involved and takes responsibility for what is happening on the field, then good things will happen. You are one of many parts on the field and must work together for us to have success."
Crossley's Top 5 Boys' Clubs of the Week
1. Warrior Run:?The Defenders are well coached, disciplined and, to an extent, experienced. Elias George provides plenty of offense, while a midfield led by Austin and Nick Bower will make crossing into the defensive third a challenge. The Defenders will be tested early with games against Montoursville and Hughesville.
2. Loyalsock: The Lancers had a tough go of it at last weekend's Midd-West tournament, dropping both games. Athens nipped Loyalsock, 2-1, and Midd-West dismantled the Lancers, 5-0. All that said, there's still plenty of reason to believe in this team.
3. Montoursville: The Warriors split their weekend tournament, defeating Hughesville, 2-1, in the first game and falling to Troy, 2-1, in the final. Jacob Bair tallied in each of the games, and will be counted on if this team plans on reaching the postseason. Sawyer Bressler provides a nice last line of defense for the Warriors.
4. Williamsport:?Graduation wasn't kind to the Millionaires this year. And the most noticeable hole will be the one left by Bernard Avoulou. But there is a reason they are at the top of the preseason rankings. The group of returning players brings plenty of experience, which will help Williamsport assert itself in the season's early goings. Tanner Kreisher was outstanding last season in goal and will provide leadership for the backline.
5. Muncy:?Talent-wise, with players like Ammar Sabanovic and Dawson Fox, Muncy is just as good as any team in the area. But that talent will only take it so far. It's time to start producing and, at least to me, this is the year the Indians put it together and reach the postseason.
Top field player
Jacob Bair, Montoursville:?Bair scored a goal in each of the Warrior's first two games. He will need to continue that pace throughout the season.
Still waiting on the season's official start, and I'm not in the business of just handing out a weekly award to hand one out.
Crossley's Top 5 Girls' Clubs of the Week
1. Loyalsock:?Yes, the loss of Cassaundra Soars is going to be evident, but it's not like Loyalsock doesn't have the firepower to overcome the loss. Morgan Chambers and Asia Ungard will provide plenty of experience and offensive prowess. Also in the mix at forward will be Allie Pagana and Alonna Soars, both of whom provided plenty of offense last year. Sophomore Angie Cardillo will be another player in the rotation at the forward spot.
2. Montoursville (2-0):?Unlike Loyalsock, Montoursville does have to deal with a loss at keeper. Audra Larson, a first-team HAC-I all-star from last season, departed, leaving a sizable hole in the backend of Montoursville's defense. All that said, the Warriors still have a formidable front with Lana Spitler and Carly Mill. And when you throw in the midfield talent of Tayler Eshbach and Kirsten O'Malley, it's easy to see why this team has lofty goals heading into the 2012 season.
3. Warrior Run:?Once again we can all call the girls from Turbotville returning champions after another successful PIAA run. But this isn't the same team, and the postseason bracket is going to look a little different. With that said, the Defenders still have a strong group of forwards in Taylor Landis and Jordyn Johnson, along with a bunch of talented midfielders in Emily Potter, Sarah Haluck and Chloe Eisenhuth. The team also has the top defender in the area in Laura Bastian. It will be a challenge to replace four-year starter Reda Vermilya in goal.
4. Lewisburg:?Last year it was all about the young group gaining experience. This year it's all about this group producing results. The Green Dragons return first-team all-stars at defense in Jaclyn Fisher and midfield in Lauren Gargano. The team also has second teamers in Sienna Fisher (GK) and Emily Cole (F). Lewisburg reached a .500 mark last year within the league, but will need to improve on that mark if it plans on qualifying for the postseason.
5. Hughesville: The Labor Day Spartan tournament opened with a bang as the gang in Green notched a, 10-0, win over Wyalusing for their first win of the season. Alexis Avery tallied three goals through two games, including the first goal in the Spartans, 2-0, win over Penns Valley in the championship. Hughesville plays in a tough division of the HAC, with teams like Loyalsock, Southern Columbia and Warrior Run. If the team plans on competing, which its more than capable of doing, it will require confident-boosting wins like the ones from this past weekend.
Top field player
Lana Spitler, Montoursville: Spitler tallied two goals in the team's, 9-1, win over Troy to open the annual Stanely E. Burke Memorial Tournament. She then went on to add an assist and goal in the championship game.
Allison Russell, Hughesville: Russell recorded two shutouts in Hughesville's weekend tournament. The Spartans outscored the opposition, 12-0, in two games.