Griffin girls look to build on recent success
To say last year was a special season for Sullivan County would be a huge understatement.
After going 0-13 just four seasons prior, the Griffins last year put together one of the most impressive seasons in program history. Not only did Sullivan County win 15 games, but the Griffins won the program’s first postseason game in history and fell in the postseason to the eventual Class A state semifinalists in East Juniata.
And a big catalyst for that team last year, specifically on the offensive end, was Macy McCarthy. McCarthy was not only an all-state selection, but also shattered the school’s program record for scoring and ended her senior year with 43 goals, the most in the Sun-Gazette’s coverage area, and posted an area-high 10 hat tricks.
“It was wonderful to have a player who was not only good, but wanted to excel at soccer. She led by example: first on the field, last off the field, always working on little things to improve her game,” Swinick said. “If the rest of our players wanted to understand how to get better, they only had to pay attention to Macy’s work ethic.
“The obvious answer to can you replace someone who was the highest scoring female soccer player in school history and who scored 43 out of 92 goals last season is no,” Swinick added. “Of course it is my job to fill that void the best we can. Behind Macy last year were two freshmen who scored 15 goals each. I will be looking for more from them.
Those two freshmen were Bethany Beinlich and Sophie Springman.
Last year was the fourth consecutive year the Griffins made the postseason, and Swinick is hoping that Sullivan County can make it five in a row this year, but he knows it will take work to get there. The Griffins not only lost leading scorer McCarthy, but also lost two four-year starting full backs and their starting goalie and will be a fairly young team this year, having only three seniors and three juniors on the roster.
“A testament to growing the program, but a big challenge versus the better teams in the district,” Swinick said. “Like most small schools, we have a small talent pool. These 23 girls represent about 33 percent of the entire female population of the high school.”
The Griffins do have a few key returners back, including backs Savannah Baldwin, Leah Beinlich and Olivia Harney. The team also has Samantha Skoranski, a junior goalie.
The team also has a few freshmen competing for varsity spots in which Swinick expects two or three to be starters and another two or three to be contributors off the bench.
“The success of the team will be dependent upon how well we can integrate the new freshmen players and how well they pick up the advanced strategy and nuances of the game to which they have had limited exposure up to this time,” Swinick said. “Our coaches teach the game at a reasonably high level for high school. The good news from practice so far is that they seem willing to learn and are trying hard to execute what they see and are told.”
Another area team that got back to the playoffs was Muncy, which is coming off a 12-8 season in which the Indians lost a close contest with perennial district power Warrior Run in the District 4 Class A playoffs.
And for first-year coach Mark Pysher, he completely expects the Indians to get back to the playoffs after getting a taste of the postseason for two consecutive years.
“The team has been working hard and is improving more and more with each practice. I don’t see any reason for them to not make the playoffs this year. I will be very surprised if we don’t,” Pysher said. “With each practice, their understanding of the game grows as well as their confidence. They are looking forward to getting out there again.”
Muncy brings back a good core from last year’s 12-win team, including both of its Mid-Penn first-team all-star selections from last year in defender Alivia Heivly and forward Aleaha Bigelow. Bigelow was only a sophomore last season, but showed early on her speed would be something opposing defenders would struggle containing and it translated to Bigelow having the second-most goals in the Sun-Gazette’s coverage area with 27, behind only McCarthy of Sullivan County.
“Aleaha is not only fast, she is getting smarter as a player, along with her desire to score even more goals this year. She should be very exciting to watch,” Pysher said. “To go along with Aleaha Bigelow, we also have Lauren Anderson, she is a freshman and is very eager to start her own scoring trend for Muncy. Hannah Dgien, also a freshman, did very well as a defender in the junior high season. We also have a couple sophomores — Isabella Fave and Taylin Snyder — that I’m hoping will step up and help the varsity team.”
One question mark for Muncy will be who will step up in goal, as Makenna Snyder graduated after she had four shutouts for the Indians last year. But Muncy is in a good situation, currently with three players competing for the starting goalie job, but Pysher believes the starting job will go to senior Rebecca Dgien.
“Rebecca always gives her best effort, is very coachable and is often looking for opportunities to improve.”
Last year, Benton won the conference with an undefeated mark in the league at 12-0 and went 14-3 overall, and Pysher knows the Mid-Penn will be a competitive league again.
“There is no shortage of good soccer teams in this area, but I’m very confident that these players and this team will rise up and work together and do very well,” Pysher said. “While I’m sure we will have our struggles this season, we will use those tough times as an opportunity for the players to learn and grow, not only for this season, but for seasons to come.”
Montgomery is coming off a 4-13-1 season and will look to build off last year’s win total to get closer to getting to a district berth. Returning for the Red Raiders is senior Jessica Umpstead, a Mid-Penn first-team all-star selection at midfield last year.
After a few years of struggling to field a team, the St. John Neumann girls program won’t have a soccer team this year due to low numbers. It comes one season after Shayna McNamee tied Carinne Beiter as the school’s all-time girls goal scorer and a season in which Addi Matz became the school’s all-time saves leader.
Coach: Pete Swinick
Assistants: Nikki Baldwin
Last year: 15-5 (10-2 Mid-Penn) (lost to East Juniata in District 4 Class A semifinals)
Roster: Seniors: Savannah Baldwin, Leah Beinlich, Alexis Randall. Juniors: Kerigan Wettlaufer, Rachel Gavitt. Sophomores: Bethany Beinlich, Kyler Burke, Paige Burke, Angel Fitzgerald, Olivia Harney, Sophia Springman. Freshmen: Kassidy Beinlich, Grace Betts, Brianna Brown, Chloe Burke, Isabella Dunham, Lorena Marquardt, Ellie Springman, Kaelyn Wettlaufer, Madison Williams.
Coach: Mark Pysher
Assistants: Heather Baranoski
Last year: 12-8 (9-3 Mid-Penn) (lost to Warrior Run in District 4 Class A playoffs)
Roster: Seniors: Josephine Benamati, Alivia Heivly, Natalya Giroux, Alexis Baranoski, Rebecca Dgien. Juniors: Sacha Alvarez, Ashlynn Fowler, Aleaha Bigelow, Abby Edkin, Autumn Harris, Rylee McCafferty. Sophomores: Haylee DePasqua, Isabella Fave, Brooklyn Ohl, Taylin Snyder. Freshmen: Sarah Dghien, Hanna Dgien, Lauren Anderson, Caitlin Renson, Hailey Ohl, Alyssa Snyder, Zoe Yordy.
Coach: Melissa Balliet
Assistants: Tom Flick
Last year: 3-12-1 (3-7-1 Mid-Penn)
Roster: Seniors: Kara Hahn, Kaitlyn McCarty, Jessica Umpstead. Juniors: Megan Bartlow, Sarah Pautz, Karlie McLaughlin, Nita Imeri, Riley Fry, Kana Showers. Sophomores: Abi Duck, Brieanna Twigg, Jewels Tawney, Morgen Tupper. Freshmen: Cortney Smith, Marissa Rupert, Cara Bossley, Natalie St. James.