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Jon Gerardi on girls soccer: 1st year of club soccer at Neumann has been beneficial

St. John Neumann guidance counselor Jennifer McPherson was talking with athletic director Frank Luppachino earlier this year about how they hadn’t had a boys soccer team in four years. And there hadn’t been a girls team since 2017.

St. John Neumann saw an opportunity to have a club soccer team and reached out to various other schools, which thought it’d be beneficial as well with their low numbers.

That’s when Luppachino reached out to Carinne Beiter, Neumann’s all-time leading girls soccer goal-scorer.

Beiter was more than happy to coach the girls club team and help build up interest again at a school she played at for four years.

“Being at Neumann, sports were everything to me and these kids, you don’t get a lot of opportunities at Neumann,” Beiter said. “It’s a great school and you have a great education, but you need to get out and exercise and if I can get them to do that, I’ll do it. That was the best part of Neumann for me was being with my friends and playing sports. I was more than happy to help.”

The first year of club soccer at Neumann has been largely a success. The wins may not be piling up, but that’s a bit secondary. For the team, it’s about getting that experience of playing soccer and getting interest again.

The boys and girls club teams both had roughly 12 or 13 players each on it. Which may seem low, but seeing as Neumann’s girls soccer team in 2017 had just nine varsity players,it’s a step in the right direction of building up interest.

The boys club team is coached by Beiter’s brother, Isaac, who also was a talented soccer player.

For each game, the girls club team plays first and the boys play after. And Carinne Beiter noted how since it’s a club team, they have a bit of leeway with things, such as perhaps opting to play just 30-minute halves or playing with only nine or 10 players instead of a full 11 due to both Neumann and its opponents having small rosters.

Beiter was a three-sport athlete at Neumann during her career there, excelling at soccer, basketball and softball. She currently is an assistant softball coach with Neumann.

And her intensity and competitiveness hasn’t gone away since she’s played. It shows through with the club team.

“I’m not gonna lie, I’m super competitive. When we weren’t doing good I was frustrated, but had to back it up a little bit because they haven’t played. They were inexperienced and stuff, so I just started making a goal that game that we’re going to be more successful each game,” Beiter said.

That started with trailing 8-0 in the first game and Beiter telling her team at the half to not allow another goal. The team did that. Every game after that, the score got closer and closer until they tied a team 1-1.

That’s when Beiter told them now go out and win, which they did.

“It’s incredible because they’re the sweetest kids ever. They’re eager to learn and they’re just very respected. They’re great kids,” Beiter said.

At the team’s last practice, Beiter told the team they have enough people to form a varsity team and that this club team was just a little stepping stone to a bigger goal.

“I think they were kind of shocked with how many of them came out. ‘We can actually have a (varsity) team?’ And they were kind of mad,” Beiter said. “You got to advocate for yourself, ask questions and talk. It’s all a process about going up. But I think the kids can progress to a varsity season and I’d love to be a part of that too.”

A NEW ALL-TIME SCORER AT MUNCY

Once senior Aleaha Bigelow hit 50 goals late last year, she instantly had her eyes then on a new personal goal: become the all-time girls soccer scorer at Muncy. She was within striking distance once her senior year started in August and was hoping she could etch her name in the history books.

Last Tuesday, she did just that.

Bigelow scored four goals that night in a win against Sayre to surpass Carley DeVore’s mark of 69 goals. After recording a hat trick against Montgomery on Tuesday afternoon, Bigelow now sits at 76 career goals with at least one more game to play as the Indians host South Williamsport on Thursday in Muncy’s final regular season game.

“I don’t like to be self-conceited about it, it’s all a team effort. I thanked them for breaking the record because of all my team over the years. I’m pretty proud of myself for breaking the record and scoring goals, but I wouldn’t say that I’m very prideful about it,” Bigelow said.

Perhaps impressive for Bigelow is the fact she’s constantly marked on the field, sometimes even having two defenders solely focused on her. Bigelow had a little lull midway through the season scoring-wise, and while it was a tad frustrating she admitted, Bigelow just stayed patient.

“When I hit 50, that was one of my goals. I was like ‘I got to break the record,’ so I figured I would be able to do it my senior year, which is pretty awesome,” Bigelow said.

PLAYOFF PUSH

No player on Hughesville’s roster has experienced what its like to play in a postseason game.

The last time the Spartans were in the District 4 tournament, Hughesville’s seven seniors were in eighth grade. This group of seniors has been close, though, to getting into the postseason.

Each of the last two seasons, Hughesville was within two games of getting into the postseason, only to come up shy down the stretch in the final few games.

Coming up that close has motivated Hughesville. The seniors — and rest of team for that matter — want to get into the playoffs for the first time in their varsity careers and now they will get to.

Hughesville defeated Millville, 2-0, Monday to move to 9-7-1 on the year and clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2015.

“That’s been a goal of ours since summer. It’s great to see all the hard work coming to fruition. We still need another win, but their hard work is definitely paying off,” Hughesville first-year coach Alecia Gold said after beating South to move to eight wins.

“I think we’re all super excited and we just keep working every day toward that next win,” Hughesville senior Morgan Hopkins said.

Hopkins is a huge weapon for Hughesville, accounting for 19 of the team’s 37 goals and while the team is solid offensively, Hughesville also has a strong defense. The Spartans are allowing roughly two goals per game and yield just nine shots per game.

As to what’s been the key for the offense and defense both excelling, it’s simply great communication between the teammates.

“I think we work well as a team and we do the right things and we just keep putting (goals) in,” Hopkins said.

“(The key was) changing our mentality and I’m always preaching faster, smarter, harder soccer and it’s plain and simple,” Gold said. “We have the skills, just what decisions we’re making when we have the ball.”

50-GOAL CLUB

The latest member of the 50-goal club is South Williamsport senior Haley Neidig. She got the record Tuesday afternoon in a 4-0 win against Millville in which she scored three goals to put her at 51 for her career.

“A milestone for her and the team,” South Williamsport coach Marc Lovecchio said.

Neidig is the ninth 50-goal scorer in South Williamsport program history, joining former teammate Lela Warner (2015-18: 50), Tanya Masler (1999-02: 52), Kate Baldys (2003-06: 56), Allison Lachat (2000-03: 66), Autumn Rosenberg (2007-10: 71), Lyndy Levan (1995-98: 74), Kaitlyn Bower (2003-06: 88) and Christa Matlack (2003-06: 176).

Also becoming a recent 50-goal scorer was Hughesville senior Morgan Hopkins, who currently has 54 for her career. She joins just Kati Shaner (2003-06: 75) as the only 50-goal scorers in program history.

IMPROVEMENT, BIT BY BIT

North Penn-Mansfield has taken its lumps the past few years and hasn’t had a winning season since an 11-6-2 campaign in 2012. But give credit to Maryann Wilcox and the Tigers. They’re slowly but surely improving year by year, game by game.

Three years ago, Mansfield went 0-18. In 2017, the Tigers were 3-10 and last year the team went 4-14.

This season is a bit more of improvement, as Mansfield is 5-10-1.

“Team dynamics are one of the big factors this year. Our team gets along very well with each other and it shows on the field,” Wilcox said. “We have been stressing better ball control and making better decisions on the field and those concepts are setting in.”

Wilcox also credits the seniors on the team who have helped Mansfield, including goalie Sara Swingle, who just joined the team last year and has been a starting goalie for two seasons.

“She has a very strong work ethic and is always striving to be better herself,” Wilcox said. “That kind of attitude is contagious with the rest of the team.”

Alexandra Schmouder, Gracie Snyder and Riley David are all also seniors Wilcox credited with helping the team.

“All four of these seniors help keep the team motivated on and off the field and have been a lot of fun to work with,” Wilcox said. “This team has been a lotof fun this year making my job fun as well.

GIRLS SOCCER RANKINGS

1. Lewisburg (13-4-1) — The Green Dragons have rattled off nine consecutive wins after a 0-0 double overtime tie to Midd-West on September 18, and the Green Dragons haven’t lost a game since a 3-1 loss to East Juniata (17-1) on September 11. In other words, the Green Dragons are good. Lewisburg’s playing excellent and at the perfect time as the playoffs approach. Lewisburg has shutout three consecutive opponents in Loyalsock (3-0), Jersey Shore (6-0) and Hughesville (2-0). That’s no surprise though given how much pride the Green Dragons’ backline takes in how it plays defense with Chloe Michaels anchoring that unit.

2. Williamsport (10-4-3) — The Millionaires went 1-2 this past week. Last Tuesday, Williamsport lost to eight-win Shikellamy, 3-1. Two days later on Williamsport’s senior night, the Millionaires beat Montoursville, 1-0, in a game where Kailee Helmrich scored off an assist by Talia Lewis and then Williamsport lost to Mifflinburg yesterday, 1-0 in overtime. During that senior night, the Millionaires recognized the most decorated class in Williamsport history, as the seniors have been part of three consecutive district championships and without question the team is hoping to make it four in a row. The Millionaires will play in the District 2-4 Class AAAA playoffs which begin next week.

3. Montoursville (9-5-3) — Montoursville lost a tough game to Williamsport, 1-0, but responded well by defeating Loyalsock two nights later, 5-0. Lily Saul, who has been marked a lot by opposing defenses recently, scored twice and Lydia Earnest and Mackenzie Cohick both added goals. Montoursville is a strong team with a defense that flies a bit under the radar. The Warriors fell to Southern in overtime, 2-1, Monday and beat Central Mountain, 4-0, Tuesday afternoon.

4. Hughesville (8-7-1) — The Spartans avenged an earlier loss to South Williamsport by beating the Mounties, 6-3, in a game where Hughesville kept answering every South Williamsport goal to increase its lead. The Spartans lost consecutive games since then, falling to Bloomsburg, 3-1, and then losing to Lewisburg, 2-0. But give the Spartans credit in that loss to the Green Dragons. Lewisburg has a remarkably strong defense that prevents a lot of teams from getting off many shots and Hughesville fired off 11. Hughesville is on the playoff bubble and plays Millville and Milton this week and needs to win at least one to get into the postseason for the first time since 2015.

5. South Williamsport (8-8) — The Mounties lost three consecutive games before rebounding with a 4-0 win against Millville, but consider they were to three tough opponents: Hughesville (a team making a playoff push) and back-to-back losses to Southern Columbia and Benton, two ranked teams. If South Williamsport sneaks into the playoffs, it has the ability to make some noise and make a run.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Abi Duck, Montgomery — Duck was absolutely lights out in goal this past week. The Red Raiders’ goalie had an incredible 35 saves to single-handedly prevent Lourdes from beating the Red Raiders in a double overtime scoreless draw. A day later, she posted another 20 saves in a loss to Millville. In these past four games, Duck has recorded 69 saves and has done everything to keep the Red Raiders in games.

“She has stepped up I would say more than any player on our team this year with the biggest improvement, not only as a goal keeper but mentally as well,” Montgomery coach Melissa Balliet said. “She’s been able to let a ball in and still keep a positive attitude and keep fighting. … She’s just confident and cool in there and has stepped up tremendously this year.”

BOYS RANKINGS

1. Lewisburg (14-0-1) — Fun random fact of the day: did you know Lewisburg hasn’t missed the postseason since a 7-10-3 campaign in 2001, a year after winning its first state championship? The Green Dragons are a program that you can pencil in for a playoff berth every year and this is no different. Lewisburg easily is one of the most dangerous teams in District 4. Offensively, the team has scored an impressive 95 goals and defensively, has allowed just 11 goals against. And that backline is also allowing less than five shots against per game. Don’t at all be surprised if you see Lewisburg deep into the state playoffs this season.

The Green Dragons have a solid 1-2 punch in Anthony Bhangdia (27 goals) and Ben Liscum (18). Two players accounting for nearly 50 goals? That’s tough to beat.

2. Loyalsock (14-2) — Loyalsock was riding a six-game win streak by beating Benton, Danville, South Williamsport, Bloomsburg, Wellsboro and Southern Columbia before a tough 3-1 loss to one-loss Millville on Saturday night. The Lancers are a tough team to slow down, scoring 48 goals through 14 games and defensively the Lancers have allowed just 22 goals in those 14 games. The Lancers have a strong offensive duo as well this year in Connor Albaugh and Brady Dowell, a pair which has combined for 29 goals.

3. Williamsport (10-5) — Williamsport is back in the playoffs and the Millionaires, like their girl counterparts, have won three consecutive District 2-4 titles. Williamsport is looking to make it four in a row this year, which would be the second time in program history that’s happened (1986-89). The Millionaires have won three consecutive games, beating Danville in overtime, 1-0, and routing Shikellamy, 9-1. On Monday, the Millionaires blanked Central Mountain, 4-0. The Millionaires have just one game left to close the year out when they host Jersey Shore today.

4. Hughesville (9-6) — The Spartans secured a District 4 playoff berth with a 2-1 win over Bloomsburg on September 30. But since then, Hughesville has dropped consecutive games to Southern Columbia in double overtime, 3-2, and South Williamsport, 2-1. Hughesville has two games left against two tough teams in Loyalsock and Sullivan County, which should be good tests as the postseason begins.

T5. Sullivan County (11-6) — Quick trivia question, when was the last time Millville lost a boys soccer game? It was October 17, 2018 in a game to Midd-West. That was before last Wednesday at least. The Griffins handed Millville its first loss in nearly a year when Trace Neary scored on an assist by Bryon Fitzgerald with 5:40 to play in overtime in a 1-0, double overtime victory. Give credit to Sullivan County for beating Millville (14-1) in that game.

T5. Wellsboro (11-4) — The Green Hornets are once again in the postseason. Wellsboro lost a tough game to rival Athens, 2-1, and lost to Loyalsock two Saturdays ago, 4-1. But those two losses are peppered in during a 10-2 stretch. Wellsboro has an extremely solid offense with four players having 10 or more goals. Kaeden Mann (21 goals), Will Poirier (14), Luke Pondo (11) and Jack Poirier (10) lead the Green Hornets up top.

Hayden Swinehart, South Williamsport

Swinehart has provided South Williamsport’s offense with a bit of a boost the last few games. Against Hughesville, Swinehart was involved with both goals in a 2-1 win, scoring one and assisting on another.

He then added two goals — including the game-tying goal in the 47th minute — in a 4-3 overtime win against Sullivan County.

Jon Gerardi covers soccer for the Sun-Gazette. You can email him at jgerardi@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonGerardi.

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