Late October means playoff time in D4
It’s late October, and while some associate that with Major League Baseball and the World Series, to me it means that soccer playoffs are here. The district tournaments begins this week and we have 18 area teams hoping to hoist the district trophy next week.
So let’s jump in and see how right — or wrong — my predictions will be this year.
GIRLS CLASS A
Just eight teams are in the Class A field and even though South Williamsport is seeded sixth, don’t write off the Mounties. South Williamsport is riding a strong defense into the postseason. The Mounties have recorded three consecutive shutouts to end the regular season, and offensively it has a strong team.
Haley Neidig is having a tremendous year with a team-high 34 goals and Piper Minnier is second with 11. The duo can create problems for any team they see.
Defending state champion Southern Columbia is the No. 2 seed and is a favorite to win another district championship. The Tigers have a pair of 50-goal scorers in Maggie Morrison and Morgan Marks, two captains who have experience in big games, having both been part of last year’s state championship team.
Top-seeded East Juniata should pose problems for the bottom half of the bracket as well. East Juniata enters the postseason 18-1 and has outscored its opponents an impressive 137-11. The Tigers have shut out 11 teams. East Juniata’s only loss came to Fairfield, 2-0. East Juniata has scored 10 or more goals in a game eight times.
QUARTERFINALS: East Juniata over Line Mountain; Millville over Meadowbrook Christian; Southern Columbia over Wyalusing; South Williamsport over Bloomsburg.
SEMIFINALS: East Juniata over Millville; Southern Columbia over South Williamsport.
FINAL: Southern Columbia over East Juniata.
GIRLS CLASS AA
Central Columbia is the top seed, but Lewisburg is seeded third and can easily make a run to the district final. The Green Dragons have an extremely talented defense and an offense which can compete with just about any team.
Lewisburg faces either Montoursville or Milton in the quarterfinals. Montoursville and Milton both have the ability to upset teams seeded higher than themselves. For the Warriors, Avery Zales is a solid goalie and players such as Bella Masias and Lily Saul can create problems for defenses.
Janae Bergey and Leah Bergey are a solid 1-2 punch for the Black Panthers on the offensive end.
Another play-in game features Hughesville and Warrior Run. The Spartans are playoff-bound for the first time since 2015, and the seniors at Hughesville want to make their first playoff appearance count. Morgan Hopkins, Cierra Getz and others are hungry for a playoff win. Warrior Run has a strong defense this year and will pose a challenge for opponents.
Williamson is the 12th and last-seeded team in the tournament and it hasn’t had a playoff appearance since at least 2013.
FIRST ROUND: Midd-West over Shamokin; Towanda over Williamson; Hughesville over Warrior Run; Montoursville over Milton.
QUARTERFINALS: Central Columbia over Midd-West; Troy over Towanda; Benton over Hughesville; Lewisburg over Montoursville.
SEMIFINALS: Central Columbia over Troy; Lewisburg over Benton.
FINAL: Central Columbia over Lewisburg.
GIRLS CLASS AAA
Athens is hoping to win back-to-back district titles for the first time in program history. The Wildcats are the top-seeded team in the four-team field. Athens faces Mifflinburg in the top half of the bracket.
The bottom half pits Selinsgrove and Shikellamy against one another. The Seals are 11-5-2 and the Braves are 10-5-3. Selinsgrove swept the regular-season matchups over Shikellamy, 1-0 and 2-0, but don’t expect that to mean the Seals are pencilled in for a guaranteed victory.
SEMIFINALS: Athens over Mifflinburg; Selinsgrove over Shikellamy.
FINAL: Athens over Selinsgrove.
BOYS CLASS A
Top-seeded Millville is the defending District 4 Class A and PIAA champion and is 15-3. The Quakers have allowed just 14 goals and have scored 63.
The only teams to beat Millville are Sullivan County — which handed Millville its first loss in nearly a year — South Williamsport and Midd-West.
South Williamsport is in the tournament and could have a rematch with Millville in the semifinals if both advance.
No. 2-seed Benton is on the bottom half of the bracket, as is third-seeded Sullivan County. The Griffins are in the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Sullivan County appeared in its first district championship game last year and first state playoff game as well. Expect Sullivan County to be eager to return to the district final. The Griffins face East Juniata in the quarterfinals. Last year, Sullivan beat the Tigers in the quarterfinals, 4-3.
QUARTERFINALS: Millville over Galeton; South Williamsport over Northeast Bradford; Benton over Bloomsburg; Sullivan County over East Juniata.
SEMIFINALS: Millville over South Williamsport; Benton over Sullivan County.
FINAL: Millville over Benton.
BOYS CLASS AA
Without question, Lewisburg is the favorite to win another district championship. Lewisburg has yet to lose a game this year (17-0-1) and has outscored its opponents, 106-14. Ben Liscum, Anthony Bhangdia and Anton Permyashkin are all tough to slow down.
The Green Dragons are attempting to win their eighth district championship this decade. The only teams to break up Lewisburg’s run were Danville in 2013 and Midd-West last year.
Loyalsock has yet to win a district championship and is hoping 2019 is its year. Brady Dowell has been phenomenal for the Lancers, especially considering he’s coming off a broken leg. He leads the team with 14 goals.
Wellsboro won its only district title in 2017 and the Green Hornets again have a solid team. Wellsboro is seeded third. Kaeden Mann leads the team with 22 goals and Will Poirier has 14.
FIRST ROUND: Hughesvlle over Southern Columbia; Warrior Run over Troy; Milton over Williamson.
QUARTERFINALS: Lewisburg over Hughesville; Wellsboro over Danville; Loyalsock over Warrior Run; Midd-West over Milton.
SEMIFINALS: Lewisburg over Wellsboro; Loyalsock over Midd-West.
FINAL: Lewisburg over Loyalsock.
BOYS CLASS AAA
Jersey Shore is in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year after having only one playoff berth in program history previously. And like the last two years, Jersey Shore has to face Athens. Athens has beaten Jersey Shore each of the last two years, winning 8-0 last season and 2-1 in overtime in 2017. The Bulldogs are hoping this season is different.
Parker Miller leads the Bulldogs with 11 goals and Alex Butzler is second with six. Connor Cornelius has a team-high seven assists.
On the other side of the bracket, Selinsgrove faces Mifflinburg. The Seals (16-2) have scored 71 goals and have a strong offense. Nick Ritter (18 goals), Owen Magee (16) and Noah Derr (10) lead Selinsgrove’s offense.
SEMIFINALS: Selinsgrove over Mifflinburg; Athens over Jersey Shore.
FINAL: Selinsgrove over Athens.
Jon Gerardi covers high school soccer for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JonGerardi.