NTL girls soccer: Williamson coming off its best season
Last year was the best season Williamson’s girls soccer program has ever had. That’s no exaggeration either. Prior to 2019, Williamson never had a winning season and never made a playoff appearance.
The Warriors were able to check both those off the list last fall.
Williamson finished the regular season 8-8-1 and secured its first playoff berth and while the Warriors lost to Towanda in the first round of the District 4 Class AA playoffs, that success is a building block in the right direction.
Williamson graduated a handful of talented players — including NTL all-star midfield Kiersten Green and all-star forward Claire Miller — but a group of freshmen should provide coach Jason Hungerford with a spark in 2020.
“I lost great athletes after last season. They were a huge part in what we accomplished,” Hungerford said. “I got five very talented freshmen to replace them but they are young and have to step right into varsity playing spots. I believe this team is just as capable as last year’s team. We have to work on a lot and will continue to grow.”
Those five freshmen are Kyra Daley, Keyana Thomas, Ruby Sherman, Maddie Millard and Maddison Huzey.
“They all will be starters in key places where we lost seniors,” Hungerford said. “They are a great group of young, talented girls.”
Williamson has plenty back though from last year, including goalie Abby Ackley who will be a two-year starter this fall. She was new to soccer last year but led the Northern Tier in saves.
There’s also backs Scout Abel and Charley Slusser returning, two players who stepped up last year and helped control the defense.
“These two have made huge improvements in just two short years playing soccer,” Hungerford said.
Kara Shieve will provide a boost in the midfield, as will Chelsea Hungerford who led Williamson as both as a freshman and sophomore.
“Look for her to step up into a leader role and help build our team for the next few seasons,” Hungerford said.
As for his expectations for the league this year, Hungerford said he wasn’t sure given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With all the things going on with COVID in the area, I’m not sure what the dynamic of the NTL looks like. Some student athletes are staying home, some are not playing sports at all and I think that alone could affect the league,” Hungerford said. “Every year seniors move on and freshmen come in which is always a huge factor. The pandemic though, I’m not sure how many teams that could affect though.”
North Penn-Mansfield hasn’t had as many wins as it would have liked the past handful of years, but last year showed some promise. The Tigers put together a five-win campaign and have been trending upwards the past few years.
It was an improvement upon a four-win season in 2018 and a three-win season in 2017.
They’re small steps, but steps nonetheless in the right direction.
Mansfield, like Williamson, faces solid competition with Wellsboro, Sayre and perennial power Athens in the NTL, and Maryann Wilcox knows this year won’t be any different in the league.
“I believe the NTL will be just as competitive as it always has been for us,” Wilcox said. “We are looking forward to the challenge as well as grateful for the opportunity to play this fall.”
Mansfield didn’t get a chance to practice until Monday, Aug. 31, and the Tigers face NTL heavyweights Towanda, Troy and Athens — who were the top three teams in the league — early in the season. Athens went 15-3-2 last year, Troy was second in the league and went 11-4-2 and Towanda went 13-4-2.
“Our team expectations are always to improve our previous record. However, this year is such a different year and we are just grateful to have the opportunity to play,” Wilcox said. “I do think that even with the late start and the loss of our graduates, we look to be competitive this year.”
Mansfield graduated its entire back line in Sara Swingle, Riley David, Ally Schmouder, Gracie Snyder and had an early graduation loss of Zoie McDermott. Swingle led the area in saves with 224 last year and was the only area goalie with more than 200 saves.
“Each of those girls brought something special to the team and their shoes will be hard to fill,” Wilcox said. “The girls that have returned are anxious and ready to do their best to fill those shoes.”
But Mansfield does return its lone Northern Tier League all-star selection last year in Kiersten Mitstifer. She led Mansfield in scoring with 10 goals and will be looked upon again this year to provide a boost to the offense.
“(She) has returned anxious and ready to play and looks as strong as ever,” Wilcox said. “She has already naturally taken a leadership role within the team. She is definitely a great role model on and off the field.”
The team also returns juniors Sophia Domench, Aleiah Jackson and sophomore Jaclyn Nelson, who Wilcox noted is ready to take over the midfield.
Wilcox pointed out freshmen Nikki Kiscadden, Tierney Patterson and Madison Post who she thinks will be able to make an impact and contribute to the team.
“The team seems to be very cohesive this year. All but three players are returners to the squad,” Wilcox said. “We have three new freshmen that are looking like they will compliment the team nicely.”
Wellsboro lost leading goal scorer Jena Boyce, who was the only Green Hornet last season with more than 10 goals (12) and was a first-team Northern Tier forward all-star selection. Wellsboro also graduated second-team NTL all-star defender Lauren Singer. But the Green Hornets do return Jordyn Abernathy (7 goals, 5 assist) and Cara Tennis (3 goals, 2 assists), in addition to plenty of others who saw time on the field last season.
“We hope that every player will improve their skills and character and play every game competitively and with good sportsmanship,” Wellsboro assistant coach Billy Stokes said. “Each year and each team is different, so it can be difficult to use other years as a benchmark for success. We hope the team will play with intensity every game and always be improving as individuals and as a team.”
“We have a strong group of returning juniors and seniors on offense,” Stokes added. “Some of our defenders are younger players, but they are very skilled and always play hard, and we’ve always had consistent goalkeeping.”
Stokes pointed out as well that several underclassmen are stepping into starting roles in the midfield and defensive positions.
“This team consistently works hard,” Stokes said. “We think their intensity and teamwork will make them tough to beat.”
Coach: Jorge Taboada
Assistants: Billy Stokes, Nolan Lohr
League: Northern Tier
Last year: 6-8 (5-5 NTL)
Roster: Seniors: Jena Boyce, Kerrah Clymer, Jessa Lohr, Madelyn Rudy, Cara Tennis. Juniors: Lillian Abadi, Sarah Abadi, Madelyn Bryant, Emma Coolidge, Hannah Morey. Sophomores: Molly Ingerick, Kate DeCamp, Rylie Boyce, Jordyn Abernathy. Freshmen: Kallie Baltzley, Brenna Cavanaugh, Sarah Ceiling, Emma Elkin, Emily Richardson, Caralyn Warner.
Coach: Jason Hungerford
Assistants: Brett Abel
League: Northern Tier
Last year: 8-9-1 (4-8 NTL) (lost to Towanda, 5-0, in first round of District 4 Class AA playoffs)
Roster: Seniors: Abby Ackley, Kara Sheive, Scout Abel, Abby Root, Charley Slusser. Juniors: Chelsea Hungerford, Paige Hepfer, Tiffany Dodson. Sophomores: Jules Mullikin, Hailey Warner. Freshmen: Kyra Daley, Keyana Thomas, Ruby Sherman, Maddie Millard, Maddison Huzey.
Coach: Maryann Wilcox
Assistants: Melissa Fenstermacher
League: Northern Tier
Last year: 5-12-1 (4-8-1 NTL)
Roster: Seniors: Alexis Crowe, Hannah Grinnell, Jenna Harris, Kiersten Mitstifer, Shaelynn Mosher, Ryann Upham. Juniors: Sophia Domenech, Aleiah Jackson, Lysabeth Likens. Sophomores: Amy Feaster, Khloe Mitstifer, Madeline DiMarco, Molli Hall, Mackenzie Feaster, Aliah Meyer, Jaclyn Nelson. Freshmen: Nikki Kiscadden, Tierney Patterson, Madison Post, Grace Kreger.