NTL boys soccer: Wellsboro looks to be at top of Northern Tier
Wellsboro coach Todd Fitch was quick to quote one of his favorite authors Andy Andrews in saying that any time you are going after something big, it is going to be hard and that any reward worth having requires one to persist without exception.
That author’s quote is somewhat fitting for Fitch and his Green Hornets given the COVID-19 pandemic casting a net of uncertainty in the soccer world and throughout fall athletics.
“Each season has challenges that can be obscatcles when pursuing your goals, but with all the disruption and obscatcles created by the pandemic, it seems to me that persisting without exception is the most important goal for us this season,” Fitch said. “If we do that, I believe we will increase the probability of reaching any other goal or expectation we may have for the season.”
The Green Hornets bring back eight of the 11 players who started in Wellsboro’s final game last year — a loss in the District 4 Class AA playoffs to powerhouse Lewisburg — and it provides plenty of experience.
Among those back is Will Poirier, a player who has surpassed 50 career assists, and is just 17 goals from reaching 50 for his career. There’s also 50-goal scorer Kaeden Mann returning.
“(They) are two players who stand out as impact players,” Fitch said. “With that said, we are fortunate to have other high performers from the back to the front that will most certainly make an impact for us on the field.”
In total, Wellsboro welcomes back five Northern Tier League all-stars in Mann, Poirier, Joseph Grab, Zach Rowland and Zach Singer which will provide Wellsboro with a huge spark.
Also back is goalie Ethan Ryan, who had 73 saves last year for the Green Hornets, which went 14-6 and had a stingy defense that didn’t yield many opportunities.
Wellsboro finished second in the NTL with a 10-2 league record, behind only Athens’ perfect 12-0 mark. The Green Hornets likely will be a favorite to be among the top of the league again and should be playoff-bound for an eighth straight season.
“With all the questions that have surrounded the start of the fall season, I think the boys are anxious to simply have a season and be able to play,” Fitch said. “Once that happens, I have no doubt that their sights will be set on a return to the postseason and what might be possible once there.
Wellsboro also has a lot of younger players on its roster with an incoming group of 12 freshmen in addition to five sophomores on the roster.
North Penn-Liberty is hoping to build off last year’s four-win campaign and get to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Plain and simple, coach Matt Grinnell’s expectations are “always to do better than last year.”
Liberty has Caiden Alexander, Taylor Nelson, Jackson Brion, Brody Burleigh and Derek Litzelman all returning from last year’s team which will help provide the Mounties with experience. Alexander was the team’s lone NTL all-star selection in 2019, garnering second-team forward honors.
In addition, Grinnell sees Carter Grinnell, Daniel Harman and Zackary Wilcox as being some underclassmen that can step up and help make an impact.
“I do think we can win more games than last year,” Grinnell said. “I have some good kids that want to prove it as well. I hope we can get to a winning season. I know the kids will try their best.”
Grinnell noted that he expects both Athens and Wellsboro to be the toughest teams within the Northern Tier.
All the teams in the Northern Tier are hoping the 2020 season will be played without any interruptions, but Liberty and Wellsboro are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic makes this season one of the most unusual ones to date.
“The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has interfered in every teams’ preparation for the season,” Fitch said. “As a result, there are still a lot of uncertainties on how the season is going to look for each team and the league in 2020.”
Coach: Todd Fitch
Assistants: Wes Wood Brian Morral, Jason Gehman
League: Northern Tier
Last year: 14-6 (10-2 NTL) (def. Danville, 2-1, in first round of District 4 Class AA playoffs; lost to Lewisburg, 6-0, in second round)
Roster: Seniors: Joseph Grab, Kaeden Mann, Will Poirier, Zach Rowland, Ethan Ryan, Zach Singer, Jonathan Wetzel. Juniors: Ethan Barlett, Dustin Benedict, Gavin Gardner, Ayden Magli, Brody Morral, Matthew Richards, Owen Richardson. Sophomores; Jackson Brill, Aiden Gehman, Peyton McClure, Jack Poirier, Sam Rudy. Freshmen: Jacob Abadi, Dillon Boyce, Nehemiah Burrous, Mitchell Butler, Watson Feil, Declan Gile, Ian Hoose, Isaac Macias, Noah Morey, Wyatt Roth, Caden Smith, Blake Solow.
Coach: Matt Grinnell
Assistants: Brian Litzelman
League: Northern Tier
Last year: 4-11 (4-8 NTL)
Roster: Seniors: River Hicks-Lee, Taylor Nelson, Daniel Lawrence. Juniors: Caiden Alexander, Michael Harman, Zachary Hoffman, Aladen Jackson, Stettson McGovern, Kurtis Wetzel. Sophomores: Jackson Brion, Brody Burleigh, Derek Litzelman. Freshmen: Trenton Dawson, Carter Grinnell, Zackary Wilcox, Daniel Hartman, James Nearhoof.