Youth served for Montoursville
Glance at Montoursville’s roster and you’ll see it’s a young team.
It’s not simply a handful of freshman starters on the roster. No, try 33 players on the roster and 20 of them are freshmen.
The Warriors may be young, but that inexperience doesn’t mean a lack of quality soccer. The Warriors have taken their young roster and it has jelled as well as you would want it to.
The Warriors opened the season defeating Holy Redeemer and defending District 4 Class AAA champion Athens by a combined, 9-2, last Saturday at the Burke tournament. Wednesday afternoon, the team blanked Milton, last year’s District 4 Class AA semifinalist, 3-0, and Monday the Warriors tied Selinsgrove.
“They seem to feed off each other. They love getting out there, they’re hungry to get on the field. They give us a lot of energy,” Montoursville coach Vic Gorini said. “It’s competition all the time, but they seem pretty united. And if we can keep them that way, I think we’ll have a good run this year.”
Gorini noted after the win against Milton how he and his coaches have midfielders who used to be defenders and forwards who used to be midfielders. The team uses players wherever they can, using the versatility to their advantage.
“We’re just trying to sort it all out and find our shape out there and the kids have done a great job working together,” Gorini said.
“Everybody works together and I think we wouldn’t win any of these three games if it wasn’t for our team playing well together and the coaches,” Montoursville sophomore Lily Saul said.
Montoursville does have players with experience on the team. For instance Mackenzie Cohick and Hannah Albert help anchor the back line, and Avery Zales has experience the last two years in goal. Bella Masias also starts in the midfield.
“We have a core of veterans in the middle there and a lot of young (players) on the outside,” Gorini said.
The Warriors have had no problem scoring, outpacing their first three opponents, 11-2, with Saul doing the bulk of the damage with eight goals.
“I didn’t really expect it because last year I had 17 (goals) but I didn’t expect to get so much this early,” Saul said. “I’ve been practicing all summer and stuff, so it’s good.”
The Warriors are playing solid all around, not just from an offensive standpoint. Zales posted a shutout against Milton and the team has yet to allow more than one goal in a game.
“Our defense is so good. They work together and they’re strong,” Saul said. “We have two freshmen back there, but they work well with our other older players.”
Like most teams, Williamsport makes a point to practice corner kicks. And so far, they’ve utilized that practice during game action.
The Millionaires scored off a corner kick in a 7-1 rout of Central Mountain to start the season and then came up with another goal off a corner in a 3-1 win over Loyalsock last week.
“We have Abigail (Berthold), Hannah Myers and Mallory Pardoe that like to attack the ball with their heads,” Williamsport coach Scott McNeill said. “So we put all three in the box on corner kicks.
“We’re going to be very dangerous on corners this year.”
If the first two games are any indication, teams will need to be prepared to defend against Williamsport on corners to limit chances.
Much like Montoursville and even South Williamsport, Loyalsock also has a roster filled with younger players and girls who don’t have a lot of in-game experience. After the first game of the year — a 3-1 loss to Williamsport — Loyalsock coach Ben Comfort is happy to see his younger players getting playing time and making a contribution.
“You can’t really ever simulate a real game. We’ve had our three weeks of preseason. We had some scrimmages, but a real game’s different. I think the girls responded well,” Comfort said. “We have good senior leadership on the field.
“The younger girls stepped up and responded well and became part of the game and didn’t just stand around. I think that’s a good picture looking forward to what we can do the rest of the season once everything starts to come together.”
South Williamsport’s soccer field is in rough shape. The field adjacent to the varsity field wasn’t in much better shape and a practice field South Williamsport uses was deemed unplayable by referees when they looked at it.
South Williamsport obviously needed a place to play home games, and that’s when Penn College stepped up.
The Penn College athletic department reached out to South Williamsport and told them if they needed somewhere to play, they could use the Wildcats’ new turf soccer field, which was just installed this past summer.
“You can’t beat this facility, it’s a facility anyone would want to play on,” South Williamsport coach Marc Lovecchio said. “This is great because we don’t really have many other options. Our game field is pretty bad.”
During her four-year high school career, Loyalsock’s Rhiallie Jessell had 64 career goals, 20 of which were game-winners. So it’s not really a surprise to see Jessell coming up clutch in college this year as a sophomore at Saint Francis.
In just the second game for the Red Flash, Jessell scored with a left-foot shot in double overtime to defeat Air Force in Colorado, 3-2. She scored in the 105th minute.
Speaking of Loyalsock grads, former Lancer goalie Grace Schreckengast was named the MAC Freedom Defensive Player of the Week at Eastern University.
Schreckengast made 13 saves in a 2-0 shutout at Immaculata. She became the first goalie for Eastern in the last 15 years to have that many saves in a game without allowing a goal.
Warrior Run grad Madi Welliver, the state’s all-time leader in high school girls shutouts with 60, was named the Landmark Conference Defensive Athlete of the Week for Susquehanna after going 1-0 with a shutout and five saves.
Jon Gerardi’s Top 5 Girls Soccer Rankings
1. Montoursville (3-0-1)
The Warriors have been impressive early. Montoursville has a very young team with a ton of freshmen who play, but the Warriors have started 3-0-1 and have quality wins against Holy Redeemer, defending District 4 Class AAA champion Athens, and Milton, which was a District 4 Class AA semifinalist last year. The Warriors then tied against Selinsgrove on Monday.
2. Williamsport (4-0)
Williamsport started the year with a rout of Central Mountain, 7-0, and then defeated crosstown rival Loyalsock, 3-1. Katie Penman hasn’t missed a step since last year. The junior scored a hat trick against Central Mountain and then had a goal and assist against the Lancers. The Millionaires beat Milton in a 6-1 rout, scoring three goals in both halves Monday thanks to a hat trick from Kailee Helmrich.
3. Hughesville (3-1)
Here’s your fun fact of the week: The Spartans have as many shutouts in their first three games (2) than they did all of 2018 (2). Leah Peterman has posted two saves in goal for Hughesville, perhaps more impressive is the fact that she has only two saves in those two shutouts, a credit to how the back line in front of her is not allowing opponents to get off many shots. The Spartans have a played solid defense so far and that should help build confidence for the team as a whole.
4. Warrior Run (3-0-1)
The Defenders are nearly at their win total from 2018 (4), which is a good sign the team is going in the right direction. Warrior Run started the year with a scoreless tie against Jersey Shore before rattling off three consecutive wins against Lewisburg, Loyalsock and Midd-West. The Defenders have yet to allow a goal.
5. Lewisburg (3-3)
Last year’s Class AA state finalist started the year with a 2-1 win against Dallas before falling to Central Columbia at the Blue Jays’ tournament, 4-0. The Green Dragons then beat Troy, 2-0, and lost to Warrior Run, 1-0. The Green Dragons are still solid from a defensive standpoint and should be tough once the year gets going. And in those four games, Lewisburg has spread it around well as Ella Reish, Grace Rosevear, Amelia Kiepke, Mikayla Long and Sophie Kilbride all have a goal or assist.
Players of the week
Lily Saul, Montoursville
Haley Neidig, South Williamsport
Saul scored a hat trick in consecutive games of the annual Burke tournament, scoring three in a win over Holy Redeemer and adding three goals and two assists in a rout of Athens in the championship game. Against Milton a few days later, she came up with two huge goals in the second half to put Montoursville up in a 3-0 win.
Neidig scored three goals and had an assist in the Mounties’ loss to Holy Redeemer and had four goals in a win over the Red Tornadoes. Seven goals in your first three games and two hat tricks? Not a bad way to start your senior year.
Jon Gerardi covers girls soccer for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JonGerardi.