Montoursville, Loyalsock could top deep District 4 AA girls soccer field
One is the defending PIAA Class A state finalist, the other enters the District 4 Class AA playoffs with a perfect record.
The two are Loyalsock and Montoursville, respectively. After coming up one win shy of a state title in a loss to Trinity in the Class A final, the Lancers are now in Class AA. Montoursville ran the table in the regular season, going 17-0. It’s the first time Montoursville enters the playoffs undefeated since 2011.
“I definitely think being undefeated has put a large target on our backs. I mean who doesn’t want to be the team to take down someone who hasn’t lost?” Montoursville senior Bri Ulmer said. “As a whole I don’t think there is any added pressure with a perfect record. We go into every game knowing there is a chance that we could lose, but we have the confidence in ourselves to pull through.”
“I definitely think we have a target on our backs. I feel like every year teams do whatever they can in order to come out on top against us,” Loyalsock senior Myriah Saar said. “It makes each and every game much more interesting that way knowing that no one is going to take it easy on us.”
The Warriors get Lewisburg in the quarterfinals, a team that Montoursville needed overtime twice to defeat this season. The Green Dragons have various top players, including Nicole Cho who has been solid late in the season.
“Lewisburg has always been a challenge for us. They play a possession-oriented style and they have multiple quick and technical players that are very threatening,” Ulmer said.
Montoursville has been as solid as can be all year, especially from an offensive standpoint. The Warriors have numerous weapons up top in Kyleigh Balint, Ulmer, Gill Mitchell, Caroline King or Lexi Marchioni, for instance, that can strike and spread it around.
“The only reason we made it through our tough District 4 schedule unbeaten is because we have many players who have contributed to the team’s success,” Montoursville coach Vic Gorini said. “Our hope is this trend continues through the playoffs. Our offensive players are versatile enough for us to move them around into various attacking positions, which makes it hard to contain all of them for an 80-minute game. Eventually, one of them will score.”
The Lancers face Troy in the quarterfinals and Loyalsock has plenty of offensive players that can make it dangerous in Saar, Rhiallie Jessell, Juliana Cruz and Jenna Gardner. For Saar, having more playmakers is something that has benefited them compared to years past.
“In previous years there were just two or three girls scoring all the goals for our teams. Teams that scout us or we have played before know who exactly those two or three players are, so they end up double-teamming those players the whole game and that’s where we would struggle,” Saar said. “This year, though, we have had many girls scoring from all over the field, in all different positions. I think we are a huge threat against other teams because no one knows who to mark.”
The rest of the field features Midd-West vs. Mifflinburg and Athens vs. Central Columbia. Midd-West is a solid team with a very talented scoring threat in Kelli Beiler.
“I don’t think any game is going to be easy. Every game we are going to have to battle,” Saar said. “We can’t take any team lightly because everyone has something different to bring to the table.”
And that should make the Class AA field an interesting one to watch.
Looking at the Class A field, it’s hard to argue that Warrior Run wouldn’t be the favorite to win and claim its third consecutive District 4 title. But don’t think that means the Defenders are automatically assuming they’re going to win it all.
Warrior Run coach Jen Allen has her team focused on the task at hand: one game at a time, especially since the Defenders lost two in a row last week.
“We are looking forward to the playoffs, but taking it game-by-game. Everyone we face will be a quality opponent and we need to make sure we play our best each game and work hard in practice,” Allen said. “We are taking it game-by-game. We cannot overlook any opponent. Everyone is out to win. We cannot lose sight of the game in front of us.”
Up first for the Defenders in the Class A field is Northeast Bradford in the Class A quarterfinals.
While Warrior Run doesn’t have a standout offensive scorer like in years past with players such as Erika Landis or Olivia George, the Defenders do have an extremely stingy defense and one of the district’s best goalies in Madi Welliver, who has 11 shutouts this season and 57 for her career.
And as a team, the continued pressure from Warrior Run makes it hard for teams to get chances to score on them.
“As a team, the girls believe that when we don’t have possession of the ball, all 11 players are on defense and work to regain possession,” Allen said. “This helps us immensely and takes pressure off our GK and backline. We’re playing solid team defense and hope to carry that into the playoffs.”
The Class A field is full of some talented players, such as Sayre’s all-time goal scorer in Chloe Tracy or Sullivan County’s all-time goal scorer in Macy McCarthy or her teammate, Kaiti Beinlich.
In other quarterfinal games, Sayre faces Benton, Southern Columbia plays East Juniata and Sullivan County faces Line Mountain. The Griffins are looking to get out of a recent playoff slump, as the Griffins have fell in the first round the past two years.