The Heartland Athletic Conference has delivered a week full of scheduling gems.
The Montoursville girls soccer team opened the week with a third consecutive win over Lewisburg to increase their standing within the HAC-I.
The Warriors' offense has surged since its surprising shutout loss to Danville. Lana Spitler and Carly Mill have been key contributors and will need to continue the pace.
Montoursville closes the week with league games against Williamsport tonight and a road match with Selinsgrove.
On Saturday morning there is a match between Bloomsburg and the South Williamsport girls.
The Mounties have looked tough since beating Montgomery, 5-0, for their first win. South Williamsport has won three consecutive games, outscoring the opposition 14-0, but Bloomsburg will offer a good test.
Warrior Run and Loyalsock, if you haven't heard, will be playing later tonight. Over the last few years, these teams have played in games that have impacted the final league standings, the district playoffs and the PIAA playoffs.
Last year's regular season didn't offer fans any resolve as to which team was better. Both contests ended in 0-0 draws and did little more than add to the fire.
The postseason, which offered fans a chance to finally have some resolution, only added to the build up as Loyalsock claimed its second District 4 Class A title in as many years, defeating Warrior Run both times.
The postseason tension continued to build as the teams then seemed destined to meet up for one final showdown with a trip to the Class A state final on the line. And, once again, the teams delivered.
Loyalsock carried a 1-0 lead throughout most of the contest, but a late flurry by Warrior Run produced an equalizer in the final minutes. Once in extra time, the Defenders made quick work of the Lancers to punch their second consecutive state championship appearance. And I think we all know what happened from that point.
Now that we are all caught up, let's take a look at this year's first matchup.
Warrior Run has looked in midseason form from day one of the season. Period.
The Defenders have taken out Lewisburg, Southern Columbia, Mt. Carmel and Central Columbia. They are winning the matches they are supposed to win and they are winning the matches that are supposed to be tough handily.
Olivia George has shown no problems replacing Reda Vermilya in goal. The backline has continued to look impressive, even without an emotional leader like Alexis Muffley, and Taylor Landis and Jordyn Johnson have displayed the kind of understanding a year's worth of working together produces.
Loyalsock, on the other hand, had just as many flaws entering this year. But unlike Warrior Run, the warts are a little more noticeable.
The backline, without the presence of Kayla Van Fleet, has struggled to keep teams off Daneker at goal. And if it wasn't for Daneker at net, who is likely the best keeper in the area on the girls' side, Loyalsock could have more than one loss.
The boys offer just as many interesting games with league implications.
Montoursville opened a pivotal week with a 2-1 overtime loss to Hughesville. And, yes, it's as black and white as the page your reading, the win should benefit Hughesville and shake the already inconsistent Warriors confidence.
The good news for Montoursville, which lost 3-1 to Loyalsock on Wednesday, though, is it still has a game with Milton on Saturday. This won't be easy games to win, but could help the Warriors recover some confidence.
Muncy, winners of its last two games, has looked ready to compete within the HAC-III. And with the help of Ammar Sabanovic, who has scored three goals in two games, Muncy has a chance to make a run.
TOP GIRLS' CLUBS:
1. Warrior Run (6-0, 5-0 HAC-II):?The Defenders are set to take on the Lancers tonight, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at the week that was. Taylor Landis scored twice and assisted on another to help Warrior Run down Jersey Shore, 4-0. The Defenders then went on to defeat Mt. Carmel, 3-1, Tuesday.
2. Loyalsock (7-1):?The weekend wasn't great for the Lancers, who picked up their first loss of the season in the Midd-West Tournament. Loyalsock beat Juniata 1-0 before dropping the championship to Midd-West. Loyalsock was put the to the test against Hughesville a week ago, surviving a close, 1-0, contest. Hughesville dominated play in the second half and kept Loyalsock off the board.
3. Montoursville (7-1):?The Warriors are back to form after a disappointing loss to Danville. The Warriors opened the week with a 3-0 win over Milton Friday. They traveled to Athens to take down the Wildcats, 6-1. Spitler had a hat trick in the 6-1 win and has Montoursville playing at the level that had it undefeated at this time a year ago.
4. Lewisburg (5-3): The Green Dragons finished 2-1 in the past week. The Green Dragons opened the week with a 4-1 win over Mifflinburg. Then Lewisburg dropped a heated HAC-I affair to Montoursville, 2-1. The Dragons then defeated Williamsport, 4-1. Lewisburg has continued to show improvement throughout the season and will have to continue to build.
5. Hughesville (5-3):?Hughesville is in need of a quality win within the HAC-II. I truly believe one win will catapult this team into district contention. They have two matches against Shamokin and Jersey Shore before ending next week with contests against Mount Carmel and Warrior Run.
Top field player: Lana Spitler, Montoursville. Spitler assisted on a goal in Montoursville's, 2-1, win over Lewisburg. She then turned around and posted three goals against Shikellamy.
Top keeper: Morgan Bower, South Williamsport. Don't look now, but the South Williamsport girls are sitting at a very comfortable 5-2. The Mounties have played well within the division and Bower has posted two clean sheets this past week.
TOP BOYS' CLUBS:
1. Warrior Run (10-0): Warrior Run has continued to look like the class of the HAC-II. The Defenders are functioning at a high level in all three phases, and with a postseason berth all but assured, it's time to start thinking about a league and district title.
2. Lewisburg (8-0-1): Since the Green Dragons 1-1 tie against Danville, they have ripped off five straight wins, outscoring the opposition 14-1. Lewisburg has contests against Shikellamy and Milton before taking on Danville a week from today. Lewisburg defeated Shikellamy, 10-0, and Milton, 4-0, the first time around.
3. Muncy: Ammar Sabanovic has four goals in two games. In both instances, Muncy has managed wins, defeating South Williamsport 4-2 and then winning 1-0 over Sullivan County. The Indians have quality wins over league opponents and should have little problems pushing the rest of the way for a playoff spot.
4. Montoursville (4-5):?It was a tough week for the Warriors. It started with a Saturday, 2-0, loss to Central Columbia, then continued with a difficult, 2-1, loss to Hughesville in OT. The silver lining of the difficult two-game stretch was a 7-1 win over Mt. Carmel. Jake Bair scored three goals and Devin Marriott finished with two. The Warriors will need to find more consistent offense if it hopes to qualify for the postseason.
5. Sullivan County (4-4):?The Griffins will have to manage a way to overcome a devastating injury to one of their top scorers, Doug Shrimp. Sullivan County defeated Montgomery, 7-1, to open the week and then fell to Muncy, 1-0, in overtime. Sullivan County is still in a good position to make a run for the playoffs, but it will have to find a way to score against quality teams.
Top field player: Ammar Sabanovic, Muncy. Sabanovic scored the game-winner in Muncy's 4-3 overtime win past South Williamsport. He then scored the lone goal in Muncy's 1-0 win over Sullivan County.
Top Keeper: Gavin Weatherhold, Muncy. As good as Sabanovic was in Muncy's win over Sullivan County, it was all set up by the 10 stops Weatherhold had in goal.
Crossley covers soccer for the Sun-Gazette and he may be reached at bcrossley at sungazette.com