NTL boys soccer preview: Expectations remain high for Wellsboro
Gone is long-time coach John Shaffer, who was named the interim women’s soccer coach at Mansfield University last month, but the expectations remain the same. Shaffer’s right-hand man Todd Fitch heads the Wellsboro program now and he takes over when expectations are the highest after the Green Hornets captured the program’s first district championship last season.
“There is no question that being part of a winning program is exciting. The 2017 season was certainly memorable,” Fitch said, who jumped on as an assistant in 2010 when Shaffer took over. “With that said, taking over a winning program brings on a whole new set of additional emotions. The bar has been raised and the expectations have been elevated. This realization and responsibility is constantly on the forefront of my mind.”
Wellsboro put together it’s best season in school history last season when it went 19-2-1, captured its first district title and won its first state playoff game. Despite all of last year’s success, Wellsboro has already forgotten about it and is solely focused on the 2018 season and will try to answer high expectations with impressive results.
“Fortunately, our boys get it. They recognize that we are entitled to nothing. Our boys don’t even talk about last season’s district title or the run in states,” Fitch said. “It is not that they don’t remember or care, rather, they know that our past is no guarantee of our future. We function around a set of standards that cause us to work as hard now as we did before we had some success. These guys want to put their own mark on the next chapter in the program’s story.”
Repeating last season will be tough, not just because it was historically good, but because Wellsboro lost nine seniors from that team. Included in that group is Tanner Runyan, who notched an area-best 29 goals and 15 assists, and Gabe Leach who had an area-nest 28 assists a a season ago.
“We had four boys who combined for over 80 goals last year. As a team I think we scored 130-some goals. Last season was never about just one player. Tanner and Noah (Fitch) have both graduated and we lose their scoring contributions. Fortunately, we get two from that group of four back again this year as well as others who found the back of the net in 2017. Our attack is going to look different but this year’s group is creative and I am optimistic that they will find the space necessary for scoring goals.”
There is still plenty of talent to go around. Brett Rudy is back after posting 23 goals and 13 assists in 2017, as is Kaeden Mann and his 19 goals and seven assists. Another big return is goalkeeper Nate Redell. He posted an area-best 14 shutouts last year, while making 89 saves.
“We have a strong sophomore class of players that are going to need to step in defensively and on the attack. Certainly, we have some guys who did not see a great deal of varsity time last season that are going to make contributions this year, especially on defense,” Fitch said. “Without a doubt, we have boys that are going to make an impact in their role in 2018.”
North Penn-Liberty loses a fair amount from a team that went 7-9 in 2017, including NTL Defensive Player of the Year Riley Walker. The first-team all-conference goalkeeper made over 100 saves last season. Also gone is one of its leading goal-scorer in Luke Yoder. But Nathaniel Johnston returns for his senior year after earning all-conference second-team honors as a midfielder. He tied for the team lead with 14 goals last season.
Galeton returns most of its key contributors from a season ago, including NTL first-team forward Isaiah Shuemaker and his team-best 26 goals. Also returning is Joel Griffen who tallied seven goals and a team-best 10 assists in 2017.
Goalkeeper Brandon Ruef returns in net for his senior season after making an impressive 168 saves, with a low 24 total goals against for a Galeton squad that finished 13-7 last year.
Coach: Jim Sunderlin
Last year’s record: 13-7
Roster: Seniors: Tanner Hall, Joel Griffen, Madelyn Sunderlin, Anthony Ward, Isaiah Shuemaker, Eva Olofson, Brandon Hulbert, Brandon Ruef, Evan Brooks, Brandon Mainus. Juniors: Jessie Evans, James Brumbach. Sophomores: Noah Shutt, Hunter Crowell, Ty Stover, Shane Bliss, Jake Cochran, William Holcomb, Joseph Brumbach. Freshmen: Rae-ann Hall, Shelby Gardner, Trey Kalacinski, Alura Fuller.
Coach: Jim Walker
Last year’s record: 7-9
Roster: Seniors: Nick Grinnell, Nathaniel Johnson, Logan Horsely, Cory Sponenberg. Juniors: Matt Vasquez, Ian Hulbert, Nolan Fredrick, Logan Tokarz, Lijah Sheddy. Sophomores: Taylor Nelson, Thomas King, Chris Rossell, Justin Rossell, River Hicks-Lee, Kevin Alexander, Daniel Lawrence. Freshmen- Sam Baumgartner, Caiden Alexander, Kurtis Wetzel, Aladen Jackson.
Coach: Todd Fitch
Last year’s record: 19-2-1
Roster: Seniors: Nate Redell, Chris Richardson, Adam Cornell, Holden Kennedy, Frankie Rexford, Brett Rudy, Cameron Tennis. Juniors: Luke Leach, Austin Richards. Sophomores: Ethan Ryan, Zach Singer, Kaeden Mann, Will Poirier, Bayley Wilcox, Joseph Grab, Zach Rowland.