HAC boys soccer preview: Lewisburg’s expectations remain high

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette The Williamsport boys won their second consecutive district championship last year and are hoping to replicate that success in 2018.

Last year, Lewisburg lost 10 of its 11 starters. Coming off a 49-1 stretch in which it captured two state championships, expectations were a little tamed for a relatively young and inexperienced squad. But like it always does, Lewisburg continued to churn out talent and win another district title before falling in the state semifinals, ending its 19-game postseason win streak.

This year, the team returns seven starters and those championship expectations in Lewisburg are more prevalent than ever.

“It’s always in our minds that No. 1 — Win districts. It’s our No. 1 goal to work towards. We realize without it, we can’t enter the state tournament,” Lewisburg coach Skip Kratzer said. “Our overall goal entering each season is to win a state championship. It doesn’t mean we expect to win one, but we do strive towards that goal each and every season. It’s a funny game and sometimes cruel. One wrong bounce, one guy with a single lapse in judgment could be the end of the season at that point. We recognize that and work towards being ready to take advantage of our opportunities.”

Lewisburg will again be the class of the conference, district, and if everything goes to plan, the state. The Green Dragons bring back leading goal-scorer Ben Liscum (24 goals), but lose his brother and conference MVP Nate Liscum to graduation. Tommy Bhangdia also graduated and the loss of his 21 goals will be felt, but Lewisburg’s mentality, as it always has been, is next man up.

“We will be strong in the back and in possession through our midfield,” Kratzer said. “We return Ryan Veloz, Ben Liscum and Anthony Bhangdia — that’s a strong midfield.”

Also helping will be a talented and deep group of sophomores and freshmen. A combined 21 players, including 14 that are freshmen, will be counted on to make an early impact.

“I’m excited about the entire class, it’s a really strong one,” Kratzer said of his freshman. “What or how much transfers over to this year, we’ll have to see, but I’m certain this class has some pages of history to write of their own in the legacy of Lewisburg soccer.”

Lewisburg’s top competition in the HAC I will again be Williamsport. The Millionaires are coming off a second straight district championship and a 15-5 record. But it will be tough to replicate its past success with the loss of two all-conference defenders (Gabe McKeon and Zach Schwoyer) and the squads leading scorer (Tiarnan Ferry) and his 28 goals, which tied for the area lead last year. But the cupboard is far from bare. All-conference second-team goalie J.R. Confair makes his return with his nine shutouts. The athletic keeper will control a backline that is lacking experience.

“To be honest, it was great having him back in the net as a freshman when he didn’t have high school experience,” Kaar said of his senior keeper. “He’s such an athletic and vocal player on the field. He knows the game really well and it shows through his communication, movement, and overall leadership.”

“Losing Gabe McKeon, Zach Schwoyer, Sam Penman and Dylan Garner is tough, but we knew that coming in. There are a number of guys who are competing for some of those defensive positions and a few even experienced some playing time in the back line throughout the season last year,” Kaar added of his defense. “It’s a matter of some guys possibly adjusting to a new role on the team and so far we’ve had a bunch of guys show promise in the back line. Simon Wallace will provide some senior leadership in the back, while juniors Wes Engle, Jon Cramer, Amani Tran and Abel Hinojosa compete for time.”

Upfront, despite the loss of Ferry, Williamsport still is talented and fast. Tom Pombor posted 24 goals and eight assists last season while garnering all-conference first-team honors. Sam Hill also earned first-team recognition last year while tallying seven goals and a team-best 12 assists from the midfield.

“Tiarnan really improved on his movement off the ball from his junior year into his senior season and having Tom up front with him helped as well. Guys like Sam Hillman and Tom Pombor are skilled on the pitch. It’ll be fun to watch them work together and continue to improve.”

Jersey Shore is a sleeper in the HAC I as it put up tough games against Central Mountain and nearly beat Williamsport late in the regular season, falling in overtime, 1-0. The Bulldogs have a tough schedule but were playing some of their best soccer late in the year last season and even gave Class AA power Midd-West a scare.

Jersey Shore lost leading goal scorer Jacob Haag to graduation, but return second leading scorer Hunter Bierly, who put together a very strong sophomore season. All-HAC second-team defender Alex Trunzo makes his return to a back unit that allowed one goal or less in eight games.

HAC II

The area HAC II scene is small with just Milton and Loyalsock representing the area. Each missed out on the playoffs last season, but both return good numbers, including nine starters for Milton.

“We are returning nine quality starters this year plus more depth than we have had the past few years. We definitely feel like improving and creating a winning culture is and has been a process and we honestly feel like we are heading in the right direction,” Milton coach Eric Yoder said. “We certainly hope that we can improve our record from last year and make the playoffs but we are also in a difficult conference and will need to win a few close games.”

The Black Panthers finished a disappointing 6-11-1 overall, with a 2-7-1 mark in conference play. Despite nine returning starters, Milton does take a blow with the graduation of HAC II first-team all-star and leading scorer Alex Yoder. Gone are his 11 goals and four assists, but Eric Yoder is confident that it will be strength in numbers for the Black Panthers to fill the scoring void.

“Losing Alex does create a large void for us on offense that we are hoping to fill with multiple players rather than one primary threat,” Eric Yoder said. “Tony Ayala and Joel Yoder move up from defense last year and look to create a lot of scoring opportunities. We are also looking for Tyler Hendershot and Owen Yoder to step up and become a significant part of our offense as well.”

Owen Yoder put up five goals and an assist last year as a sophomore and is the leading returning goal-scorer.

Though Milton does return some talent up front, its biggest strength might be in the back. All-HAC second team defender Joel Yoder is back for his senior year and honorable mention goalkeeper Colton Loreman also returns after making 170 saves last season.

“Colton Loreman does bring a lot of experience in goal for us as he played a majority of his freshman season and nearly 100 percent of the minutes his sophomore year,” Eric Yoder said. “His experience will be invaluable, especially with a few defensive changes we have made this year. Colton kept us in a lot of games last year, making some amazing saves.”

Loyalsock is in much of the same situation that Milton is coming off last season. The Lancers missed the playoffs for just the second time in the 2000s, but the team is trending up with the loss of just two seniors.

“Loyalsock has had a bit of a downturn in recent seasons, but the team here is definitely hungry for success, it’s a squad with a lot of experience and depth. Only thing lacking is a bit of winning, which I believe is destined to happen this year,ã said first-year head coach Ian Scheller. “I am very excited for what our team has going on. We come into the season with a lot of upperclassmen and players that can make an impact.”

First-team all-conference midfielder Charlie Hunt is just one of two seniors gone from last season. The Lancers bring back four other all-conference players in Zac Stopper (forward), Alex Schluter (midfield), Ben Wescott (defender) and Connor Rude (goalie).

Stopper, Schluter and Connor Albaugh each scored four goals last year, second most on the team, and will lead an offense that brings back all but six goals from last year.

“Only losing two seniors is great for any coach. We have a bunch of incredibly talented seniors, who are all ready and willing to do whatever it takes to end their high school careers on a high note,” Scheller said. “This will and drive has helped our team in a major way, as well as myself as a coach, trying to integrate my style in the team.”

Rude made 100 saves last year as a junior and also leads a defense that returns all four starters, including Wescott.

“I think this team can achieve almost anything,” Scheller said. “If the circumstances are right, we could be contenders for a playoff berth and possibly a league title, but obviously we have a lot to prove as a program with our recent lack of success.”

HAC III

Warrior Run will try to stay atop a tough HAC III after finishing 17-3 overall and with a 12-0 conference record. Though it does lose five starters, the Defenders still bring back a lot of top-end talent like all-conference first-team forwards Tyrese (23 goals, three assists in 2017) and Alex Hazzoum (eight goals, 15 assists), who will try to offset the loss of Jordan Morrison and his 18 assists and 13 goals.

“I have plenty of firepower left and really feel that our midfield will be one of our strengths,” Warrior Run coach Andy Bieber said. “I know with the league change we probably won’t put up another 85 goal season, but I think we can still be in the 60-70 range with Alex, Tyrese and Levi Kennel leading the charge.”

Though the upfront is quick and talented, the defense lost two starters and a starting goalkeeper in all-conference first-teamer Tucker Hays, who had eight shutouts and allowed just 20 goals in 19 games. The Defenders also have to deal with an injury to returning starting defender, Austin Soltesz, who will miss his senior year with a torn ACL.

“We have Keegan Jenkins, a junior, as his backup for the past two seasons but he has really come into his own,ã Bieber said of the goalkeeper position. “He is a smart goalie who doesn’t rely on aggressiveness. He understands angles and has become very efficient in closing down the play in 1-on-1 situations. I feel being under a player like Tucker really benefited Keegan.”

One of Warrior Run’s top competitors will be Montoursville, which is one of the more experienced teams in the conference with seven returning starters. A major returner is Dominic Caputo, who led the Warriors with 15 goals. Also making a key return is forward Angelo Silvagni who posted eight goals and eight assists and earned all-conference second-team honors.

“Angelo Silvagni and Dominic Caputo are the keys to our offense this year,” said Montoursville coach Kevin Werkmeister. “This year they are stronger and faster which will help with our game plan of getting them the ball.”

Three-year starters Alex Bohlin and Colin Gorini will anchor down a back end that will be without starting goalkeeper Ian Plankenhorn, who broke his hand in a preseason scrimmage. Zach Baylor, last year’s junior varsity keeper, will do his best in goal until Plankenhorn makes his return to the net in a few weeks. Until then, Plankenhorn will play in the field.

Like Montoursville, Hughesville returns much of its starters from last year, including some of its top players. After scoring a single-season school-record 27 goals in 2017, Austin Lewis leads a group of returners that features four all-conference players.

Captain Brody Heller was a first-team all-conference defender and is the leader of the back, as is fellow captain goalkeeper Steven Millheim, who garnered honorable mention all-conference honors as he made an area-high 144 saves with three shutouts.

Midfielders Justus Leighow and Isaiah Savage also return as they had 11 and 10 assists last season, respectively.

With so much returning talent, including a roster that features 29 players, including nine seniors and eight juniors, Hughesville will try to makes its third straight trip to the postseason and will look to make a deeper run.

After a 2-16 2017 in which it finished second to last in the HAC III, South Williamsport brings back a squad that feature two returning all-stars in second-team forward Caleb Snyder, who scored six goals as a freshman, and second-team defender Brian Yoas. Also returning is leading scorer Curtis Sauers and his seven goals from last season.

“I’m looking for an increase in goal production from last year’s leading scorer, Curtis Sauers,” second-year coach Chris Vanaskie said. “I’m expecting Tayge Molino to lead the team and create chances from center midfield. Brian Yoas is a strong player and will continue to anchor the defense. Caleb Snyder is one of the most versatile players we have and we’re expecting big things from him after a very good freshman season. Some other returning players that we will need to step up big are Franklin Summerson, Nate Persun and Mason Shatzer.”

Despite some of its returning talent, the best may be yet to come for the Mounties. A 12-freshman class makes its way up to varsity to form half of the entire 24-man squad.

“Our young team from last year got younger this year. Half the team is freshmen and we will be relying on many of them to adapt quickly to the varsity level.

“This freshman class has been waiting for their chance to make an impact and players like Quaid Molino and Hayden Swinehart will need to fill important roles on the varsity squad,” Vanaskie said. “We have put in a lot of hard work in the offseason and the boys are eager to prove they can compete. We want to show that the struggles of last year only made us stronger. Our main goal is qualifying for playoffs.”

Central Mountain

Coach: Billy Hook

League: HAC I

Last year’s record: 4-10-2

Roster: Seniors- Garrett Hagaman, Ashton McCloskey, Brayden Brungard, Steven Giordano, Dalton Bechdel, Tyrease Williams. Juniors- Trey Gentzel, Seth Reese, Jason Killinger, Roland Dornisch, Jeremiah Thomas, Alec Leuthold, Naaman Conoway, Greg Walizer, Erick Hoy, Bryce Neff. Sophomores- Cy Probst, Ryan Alexander, Damon Cherry, Logan Alley, Blaine Falk, Chase Young, Marcus Smith, Grant Cole, Jensen Brown. Freshmen- Cooper Confer, Logan Myers, Jason DeJesus, William Cross, Bryce Glossner, Jackson Walker, Gabe Coakley, Caden Malek, Clayton Foster, Taylor Weaver.

Jersey Shore

Coach: Doug Moore

Assistants: (not available)

League: HAC I

Last year’s record: 8-10-1

Roster: Seniors- Dallas Peter, Dawson Wensel, Alex Trunzo, Daniel Paulhamus, Tim Martin, Noah Whitesell, Owen Lesser. Juniors- Lincoln Lilley, Hunter Bierly, Eric Bell, Luke Robinson, Schuyler Geary, Luke Maneval. Sophomores- Ross Fuller, Logan Bailey, Kevin Karney, Matthew Buttorff, Lake Merryman, Ezra Miller, Caleb Stemler, Reibson Eli, Riley Welshans, Tommy Sawyer, Justin Davy, Alex Butzler, Tate Naugle.

Lewisburg

Coaches: Skip Kratzer, Ben Kettlewell

Assistants: Terry Gerlinski, Larry Winans

League: HAC I

Last year’s record: 22-2

Roster: Seniors- Sebastian Guerrero, Ryan Veloz, Tate Llanso, Alex Sabo, Darren Baidoo, Daniel Olivero, Dominick Silvers. Juniors- Logan Moore, Cole Temple, Dominick Simone, Anton Permyashkin, Will Lowthert, Sawyer Fisher. Sophomores- Lucas Jordan, Jack Dieffenderfer, Anthony Bhangdia, Alan Daniel, Stephen Tiffin, Elijah Adams, James Koconis, Kesong Lin, Ben Liscum. Freshmen- Rudy Kristjanson-Gural, Simon Stumbris, Phillip Permyashkin, Caleb Kim, Gary Hahn, Julien Mercado-Bonanno, Zach Gose, Anthony Burns, William Gronlund, Ian McKinney, Nicholas Passaniti, Matt Rawson, Carter Hoover, Evan Hopkinson.

Williamsport

Coach: Lee Kaar

Assistants: Phil Marrie, Dave Confair, Dave Ferry

League: HAC I

Last year’s record: 15-5

Roster: Seniors- JR Confair, Simon Wallace, Leo Daverio, Tom Pombor, Sam Hillman, Anthony Hutchinson, Liam Ferry. Juniors- Amani Tran, Tyjair Barbee, Isaac Niemczyk, Abel Hinojosa, Caleb Hill, Zach Boyles, Austyn Levano, Jon Cramer, Timateo Girardi, Wesley Engel. Sophomores- Thomas Harper, Eliott Wannop, Kaleb McKeon, Tyler Fausnaught, Caleb Knight, Hemberth Pena-Vasquez, Michael Collyer, Brett Young. Freshmen- Jimmy Pombor, Logan Hall, Ethan Freynik, Jesse Kight, Samson Hill.

Loyalsock

Coach: Ian Scheller

Assistants: Pat Slattery, David Walters, Brian Bustin

League: HAC II

Last year’s record: 6-11-1

Roster: Seniors- Quinn Dietrick, Trace Haller, Alek Hamilton, Connor Rude, Alex Schluter, Zach Stopper, Ben Wescott, Ty Whitmoyer. Juniors- Connor Albaugh, Kaleb Dabback, Alex Heiser, Alex Reed, Josh Rosario. Sophomores- Caleb Alpaugh, Matt Barone, Liam Bastian, Ian Bowes, Jacob Daniels, Brady Dowell, Jay Oaks, Sam Rosario, Brennan Sullivan, Daniel Tripp, Ryan Vincent. Freshmen- Alex Alvarado, Jackson Ellis, Bradyn Gardner, Ben Grieco, Brady McKimpson, Donovan Morse, John Nickolaus, Matt O’Malley, Andres Quintana, Andrew Reed, Jackson Shangraw, Caleb Shimko, Connor Sullivan, Oliver Matz.

Milton

Coach: Eric Yoder

Assistants: Brett Ballo, Nick Ferguson

League: HAC II

Last year’s record: 6-11-1

Roster: Seniors: Tony Ayala, Lucas Burkhart, Josh Kern, Zach Burkhart, Joel Yoder. Juniors- Colton Loreman, Owen Lilley, Tyler Hendershot, Ian Lilley, Owen Yoder, Dylan Nicholas, Eric Baker, Paul Brown, Eli Yoder. Sophomores- Jamir Wilt, Pierce Edinger, Aven Ayala. Freshmen- Carter Lilley, Conner Smith, Austin Gainer, Cadyn Bittner, Trent Strous, Brodey Scoggins.

Hughesville

Coach: Jim Dennis

Assistant: Pete Larsen

League: HAC III

Last year’s record: 8-11

Roster: Seniors- Andrew Miller, Gavin Bassler, Brody Heller, Ryan Strimple, Isaiah Savage, Mason Lomison, Ben McGovern, Brent Taylor, Steven Millheim. Juniors- Spencer Thomas, Austin Lewis, Blake Sherwood, Drew Bieber, Austin Sheatler, Ethan Poust, Ethan Strother, Justus Leighow. Sophomores- Ethan Jackson, Jackson Middleswarth, Dylan Whitmoyer, Brandon Moore, Simon Hamm, Gabe Larsen, Jacob Rouhoff. Freshman- Eli Edkin, Zachary Jackson, James Kerschner, Nick Trevouledes, Aaron Girardi.

Montoursville

Coach: Kevin Werkmeister

Assistants: Bryan Pauling, Jared Summers, Caleb McCombie, Bradley Fisher

League: HAC III

Last year’s record: 10-9

Roster: Seniors- Austin Norton, Elijah Ward, Dominic Caputo, Alexander Bohlin. Juniors- Tristian Shirk, Ian Plankenhorn, Jonathan Schaefer, Justice Wheeler, Bodie Kaufman, Angelo Silvagni, Alexander Kremer, Luke Kirkpatrick, Colin Gorini. Sophomores- Bryce Bean, Jacob Foster, Michael Wise, Zach Baylor, Andrew Mayo, Ian Foote. Freshman- Austin Cummings, Alex Houghtaling, Ian MacLaughlin, Cooper Shirk, Brayden McKibben, Dan Kutay, Tyler Gilbert.

South Williamsport

Coach: Chris Vanaskie

Assistant: Adam Rubert, Manny Tsikitas

League: HAC III

Last year’s record: 2-16

Roster: Seniors- Trevor Effen, Tayge Molino, Keefe Raby, Franklin Summerson, Brian Yoas. Juniors- Jimmy Brokaw-Stealey, Nate Persun, Curtis Sauers, Mason Shatzer. Sophomores- Brendon Bowman, Zack Hanisek, Caleb Snyder. Freshmen- Isaiah Evens, Ross Flerlage, Gabe Harvey, Caleb Jackson, Ethan Kuriga, Myers Lorson, Quaid Molino, Logan Odgen, Connor Sauers, Hayden Swinehart, Noah Tsikitas, Brock Weaver.

Warrior Run

Coach: Andy Bieber

Assistants: Justin Yost, Schuyler Pontius, Jordan Morrison

League: HAC III

Last year’s record: 17-3

Roster: Seniors- Levi Kennel, Alex Frederick, Austin Soltesz, Ryan Neamand. Juniors- Tyrese Hazzoum, Sam Crawford, Zach Schaeffer, Ben Temple, JT Emmert, Keegan Jenkins. Sophomores- Alex Hazzoum, Logan Confer, Kaden Majcher, Brendan Geiger, A.J. Bieber, Hayden Durussell, Landan Kurtz. James Branthingham, Max Kennel, Noah Pick. Freshmen- Luke Mattox, Nathan McCormack, Tanner Confair, Brandon Emmert, Maddox Leitenberger, Carson Welliver, Jacob Yoder.

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