NTL boys soccer: Wellsboro hopes to get past D4 playoffs and into states

More times than not a loss will not only sting, but provide the entire team with a ton of motivation to improve in the offseason. That’s no different this year for Wellsboro.

The Green Hornets the last two years have not only lost in the postseason, but lost to East Juniata both times in the district semifinals. Both times a win would have meant a state playoff berth.

“It is motivation for the coaches and players both to improve,” Wellsboro coach John Shaffer said.

The Green Hornets went 16-6 last season and have eight players returning. Two big players that graduated, though, include leading-goal scor­er Josiah Hill, who scored over 40 goals in 2016, and goalie Casey Hoover.

And while losing Hill hurts in terms of goal scoring, Shaffer thinks it will force his team to be better and more polished offensively.

“You cannot replace Josiah’s speed, but hopefully we will have more variety in our attack and be tougher to defend,” Shaffer said. “Last year we were guilty of forcing it to Josiah and becoming dependent upon his speed.”

Three of the eight returning guys back include Tanner Runyan, Gabe Leach and Ryan Stough.

“It’s great to return eight starters from last year and our two players off the bench as well. They bring back experience and some grudges to help drive us forward,” Shaffer said. “We also bring in 10 freshmen and a few who will help us make an impact right away.”

In addition to a solid offense last year, Wellsboro’s defense was impressive as well, as the team posted five shutouts and averaged less than one goal allowed per game last season. And Shaffer is hoping the defense continues to improve.

“We hope to be even better this year on defense,” Shaffer said. “EJ scored four goals against us and Athens scored four and two, respectively, last year. We have to be better against the best teams. Defense has been a central theme of preseason this year.”

And like most years, the NTL should be competitive again with Wellsboro, Athens, Galeton, Northeast Bradford, Williamson and Sayre. Athens won the NTL championship last year with an 18-2-1 record, Wellsboro finished second and Galeton was third at 12-5.

Athens took a hit from graduation, losing a total of four NTL all-stars from last season including midfielder Shane Colegrove. Galeton graduated Cooper Sunderlin, an NTL all-star midfielder, NTL all-star defender Evan Griffen and NTL all-star goalie Dave Steadman in addition to fellow all-star Hunter Lidington, a second-team defender.

Galeton lost to Wellsboro in the first round of the District 4 Class A playoffs. Athens won the Class AAA championship last year, becoming the first Northern Tier boys team to ever win a district soccer championship.

Williamson went 8-8-2 last year, including a 6-6-2 mark in the NTL, and returns five seniors from last year’s team including captains Andrew Hackett and Ethan Shaeffer.

“We hope to improve upon that (record) this year. Seven returning seniors will be counted on for their experience and leadership,” first-year Williamson coach Dick Learn said. “Senior co-captains Andrew Hackett and Ethan Shaeffer will lead this group.”

Learn also noted midfielders Sam Fish and Simon Fish, and returning senior striker Andrew Learn, to be players to watch.

WELLSBORO

Coach: John Shaffer

Assistants: Todd Fitch, Garrett Carr

League: NTL

Classification: Class A

Last year: 16-6 (11-3 NTL) (def. Galeton in first round of District 4 Class A playoffs; lost to East Juniata in quarterfinals)

Last playoff appearance: 2016

Roster: Seniors: Tanner Runyan, Devin Webster, Gabe Leach, Nic Ingerick, Ryan Stough, Hunter Wilson, Johnny Rowland, Brandon Plume, Noah Fitch, Nolan Lohr. Juniors: Brett Rudy, Nate Redell, Cameron Tennis, Holden Kennedy, Adam Cornell. Sophomores: Luke Leach, Conrad Becker, Austin Richards. Freshmen: Ethan Ryan, Zach Rowland, Bayley Wilcox, Joseph Grab, Jonathon Wetzel, Cameron Littleton, Evan Hoover, Anthony Dunkel, Will Poirier, Sam Freeman, Kaeden Mann, Zach Singer.

WILLIAMSON

Coach: Dick Learn

Assistants: Michael Learn, Jason Hungerford

League: NTL

Classification: Class AA

Last year: 8-8-2 (6-6-2 NTL)

Last playoff appearance: 2015

Roster: Seniors: Sam Fish, Simon Fish, Andrew Hackett, Bredan Hungerford, Andrew Learn, Justin Robbins, Ethan Shaefer. Juniors: Zach Emmert, Micah Grist, Seth Lee, Ismad Ortiz, Seth Smith, Scott Draper, Gabe Prince, Blair Wilson, Brennan Bolt.

GALETON

Coach: Jim Sunderlin

Assistants: (not available)

League: NTL

Classification: Class A

Last year: 12-5-1 (9-3-1 NTL) (lost to Wellsboro in first round of District 4 Class A playoffs)

Last playoff appearance: 2016

Roster: (not available)

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