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Mid-Penn boys soccer preview: First-round exit has Sullivan motivated to get back

Sullivan County lost a heartbreaker to perennial district power East Juniata in the first round of last year’s District 4 Class A playoffs by just one goal. You could say that in the 11 months since losing that game in late October, it’s been eating at the Griffins players to get back to the postseason and further in the tournament.

It’s been fuel for the Griffins throughout the offseason.

“Dropping the first-round game to East Juniata was disappointing, but that loss provides motivation to work hard to get back to that position and have the opportunity to correct the outcome of that game,” Sullivan County coach Chris Koschak said.

The Griffins return a lot from last year’s team that went 11-8. Sullivan County has a seasoned goalie in Owen Schweitzer who has been a keeper since his freshman season. There’s also Alex Schweitzer, a standout defender who will be entering his senior year and has been a staple of Sullivan’s backline since his freshman year.

On the attacking end is Rocky Finnegan, a player who understands the game well and can read the field as an attacking midfielder and Trace Neary, who consistently is a threat to score goals or dish out assists.

Koshack also has defensive midfielder Bryon Fitzgerald and Jalen Thomas, an attacking threat, back on the team.

“(Thomas) has been a serious attacking threat over the last three years,” Koschak said.

In addition, the Griffins will have several sophomores contributing on both defense and offense, including Conner Smithkors, Maddox Bahr, Landon Baldwin, Trey Higley and Riley King.

“Landon Baldwin and Trey Higley have the ability to control the midfield,” Koshack said. “Riley King is an attacker who is able to read a defense and find a space to set himself up for an opportunity on goal.”

Much like Sullivan County, South Williamsport is entering the season after a bitter taste of losing in a close game in the postseason. The Mounties lost to District 4 Class A champion and state qualifier Millville in a double overtime thriller, 2-1, in the second round of districts.

The Mounties bring back the majority of the team’s offense, something that coach Chris Vanaskie is more than excited about, especially considering South Williamsport returns 20-goal scorer Hayden Swinehart and Quaid Molino, a player who recorded 20 assists.

“If they improve upon those numbers then we should do pretty well,” Vanaskie said of Swinehart and Molino.

South Williamsport also brings back a lot on the defensive end and Vanaskie knows their experience will be key in close games throughout the season.

“Guys like Caleb Snyder, Connor Sauers and Logan Ogden will be our leaders in the back this season,” Vanaskie said. “I’ve also seen some great improvement from goalkeeper Brock Weaver.”

South Williamsport is entering its first year in the Mid-Penn Conference after having competed in the HAC-III the past few seasons. But the Mounties know the teams they’re going to be facing and went 3-3 last year against Mid-Penn teams.

“Hopefully we’ll improve on that record and be in contention for a league championship,” Vanaskie said.

Muncy has a fairly large roster this year of 17 players, up from last year, and it’s something coach John Karichner is looking forward to.

“All returning players received a significant amount of varsity time last year and that experience will be beneficial for a young team,” Karichner said. “How much we improve will depend greatly on how the eight freshmen adapt to the speed and physicality at the varsity level compared to junior high.”

Muncy brings back a good core in goalie Eli Slamka, defenders Rowan Revata and Spencer Ort and midfielder Connor Sassano.

“The losses we incurred last year are driving the team towards its yearly goal of reaching the playoffs,” Karchiner said. “We are returning numerous starters in the middle of the field so that should be our strength as the year starts.”

Last year the Indians went 4-11-1.

Montgomery hasn’t had a boys soccer team since a 2-16 campaign in 2015. After four years though, the Red Raiders are back competing at the varsity level. The team will be competing again in the Mid-Penn this year after previously competing in the HAC-III when the Red Raiders last played in 2015.

The Red Raiders are a young team to say the least. Montgomery has just one senior and one junior on the roster. But the team doesn’t lack experience, per se, as the numerous sophomores and freshmen on the roster have been playing together through AYSO soccer for years and know how one another competes and plays on the field.

“The nice thing about AYSO is that all our players had a chance to play with one another and we’re not relying on the best 11 to stay on the field the whole time,” first-year coach Mike Sherman said. “They have an opportunity to work together and develop the program and team building from the most experience to the least experience. It gives everyone a shot to play together.”

The Red Raiders are looking forward to competing this year for the first time as varsity players. For senior Gabe Fender, this is his first time getting an opportunity to play varsity soccer as he was just an eighth grader when Montgomery last had a team in 2015.

“Our more experienced players are kind of taking the new guys under their wings. It’s a great group of kids that really work well together,” Sherman said. “What they lack in experience they’ll overcome by coming together as a team and encouraging each other.”

Sherman knows how tough the Mid-Penn will be as well with Sullivan County, South Williamsport, Muncy, Millville and Benton all to face.

“It’s a tough division because we’re playing a lot of teams that don’t have football, so they’re athletes are soccer players. We’re in a tough division and we understand that it might take a couple years to get to where we want to be,” Sherman said. “Athletic director Mike Snyder has been great to work with to kind of foster the program and put together a program that we’re looking to build toward the future with, not necessarily have instant success.”

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT

Coach: Chris Vanaskie

Assistants: Griffin Molino, Manny Tsikitas

League: Mid-Penn

Last year: 9-11 (4-4 HAC-III) (def. Northeast Bradford, 8-3, in first round of District 4 Class A playoffs; lost to Millville, 2-1 (2 OT), in second round)

Roster: Seniors: Caleb Snyder. Juniors: Noah Banzhof, Ross Flerlage, Caleb Jackson, Brandon Kriner, Myers Lorson, Quaid Molino, Logan Ogden, Kyan Rohler, Connor Sauers, Hayden Swinehart, Noah Tsikitas, Brock Weaver. Sophomores: Ben Manning, Alex Neidig. Freshmen: Brian Baysore, Calum Hockman, John Shaffer, Kayvan Shams, Conrad Street, Jackson Swinehart.

MUNCY

Coach: John Karichner

Assistants: Armando Sassano, Pete Ruhl

League: Mid-Penn

Last year: 4-11-1 (0-5-1 Mid-Penn)

Roster: Seniors: Joe Edkin, Connor Sassano, Spencer Ort. Juniors: Todd Modispaw, Cruz Nagle, Rocco Pepper, Loudon Boring. Sophomores: Rowan Revata, Eli Slamka. Freshmen: Malcolm Hoover, Konnor Shearer, James Walters, Brock Minier, Xavier Bloodgood, Bode Hart, Colt Snyder, Logan Ohl.

SULLIVAN COUNTY

Coach: Chris Koshack

Assistants: Lance Mabus, Matt Muthler, Danielle Schaad, Jeff Neary, Brian Bahr

League: Mid-Penn

Last year: 11-8 (3-3 Mid-Penn) (lost to East Juniata, 2-1, in first round of District 4 Class A playoffs)

Roster: Seniors: Jake Immel, Alexander Schweitzer, Jalan Thomas, Trace Neary. Juniors: Alexander Doran, Bryon Fitzgerald, Kye McDonald, Owen Schweitzer, Gavyn Stoner. Sophomores: Charles Vandine, Conner Smithkors, Trey Higley, Rocky FInnegan, Landon Baldwin, Maddox Bahr, Brock Wettlaufer.

MONTGOMERY

Coach: Mike Sherman

Assistants: Josh Thiles, Todd Smith, Doug Rice

League: Mid-Penn

Last year: Did not have a team

Roster: Seniors: Gabe Fender. Juniors: Hunter Leet. Sophomores: Dawson Smith, Gabe McNear, Brad Foresman, Oscar Huynh, Donnie Metzger, Hunter Jackson, Garrett Rine, Josh Alvarez. Freshmen: Aiden Bitler, Owen Sherman, Hunter Twigg, Aiden Keister, Noah Keister, Rayne Parrish.

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