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SOCCER NOTEBOOK: Montgomery looking to future

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Montgomery’s Dolson Smith tries to play the ball around a Sullivan County defender during a game at Montgomery last week.

Montgomery coach Michael Sherman is looking ahead. Not to the postseason. Not to next season. Not even the season after that.

He’s looking ahead to 2023.

It’s the year that he’s hoping the Red Raiders’ program is competing at a high level. Montgomery is in its first season of varsity action since discontinuing the program five years ago. And while there are talented kids on the roster, Sherman’s realistic in his approach.

He knew coming in Montgomery likely wouldn’t be building toward a district playoff berth this season or even next season. Instead of hoping for immediate success, he’s building toward the future.

“We had a goal of 2023 as our year to do something. Just getting there and keeping the positive attitude is kind of where we’re at right now,” Sherman said. “Hopefully we’ve learned from some of our mistakes and each game we get a little bit better. The wins will eventually keep coming.”

Those wins haven’t come yet this year — Montgomery is winless with four games remaining — but the players are working toward the future and helping move the program in the right direction.

For Sherman, it’s the little things he notices which stand out, such as players getting in better position defensively, playing a corner kick better for a scoring opportunity, or even just solid goalie play from Josh Alvarez.

“A lot of our games against teams we may have been a little competitive with, we had to reschedule due to COVID and some leagues can’t play us,” Sherman said. “We’re getting better every day.”

Montgomery doesn’t have a largest roster, but the Red Raiders do the best they can with a limited bench.

“That’s been difficult for us asking our players to play 70 minutes. That’s been difficult for us,” Sherman said. “As we build the program, we should have more students become interested in soccer and join the program and give us a bench.”

Montgomery didn’t get the benefit of having a junior high season this past spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That could have been an important run up top the varsity season since all but two of the Red Raiders’ players would have played the entire junior high season together.

“That would have been good to get game experience,” Sherman said.

The scores don’t necessarily matter for the Red Raiders this year. Sure, Montgomery would love to be in the discussion for a playoff berth and rattle off some great wins. But the team gaining experience and improving. That’s what is most important for Sherman and his program.

PINK OUT SUCCESS

Every year numerous teams in District 4 have pink out games in Octobert to raise awareness for breast cancer. The games work to raise funds to battle the deadly disease. Williamsport coach Scott McNeill started doing pink out games when he was the boys soccer coach at South Williamsport and kept at it once he arrived at Williamsport with the girls program in 2013.

Each year the team uses donations, raffles and 50/50 tickets to help raise money to donate. This year was no different.

Against Loyalsock on Saturday, both teams donned pink in some form — Loyalsock’s players had pink warm-ups, Williamsport wore pink jerseys.

“It definitely hypes us up. We have the pink scrunchies, the pink paint on our faces, pink jerseys,” Williamsport’s Mallory Pardoe said after the Millionaires’ 1-0 win. “It’s just a good cause donating money to a good cause.”

Williamsport raised $1,370 Saturday night, which will be donated to the Kathryn Candor Lundy Breast Health Center. One anonymous donor matched up to $500 in donations and the winner of the 50/50 — who would have won $135 — donated it back for the cause.

Every year since McNeill started the pink out games with Williamsport, the program has raised at least $1,000 each year.

“Usually we have a silent auction and we didn’t want to ask businesses that have been down to do that. So we decided just to do donations and a 50/50,” McNeill said. “I think it’s a great thing to teach the girls to work toward something and give back to the community with a good cause.”

McNeill and Williamsport’s team captains go to the breast health center each year to donate the check in person.

Sullivan County is another area team which raising money for breast cancer awareness through a pink out. The Griffins beat Northeast Bradford, 8-2, Monday afternoon in the team’s pink out game. Sullivan County is raising money all week through hosting a hat day, wearing pink to school and accepting donations, according to coach Kelly Flottemesch. The team is also selling pink out T-shirts.

50-GOAL CLUB

Sullivan County’s Trace Neary is extremely dangerous and tough to contain on the field. Just ask any of the coaches in the Mid-Penn League what it’s like to try to plan for the Griffin offensive threat. Because of that, it wasn’t a matter of if Neary would hit 50 career goals, but when.

That was answered Monday afternoon when he scored four goals in a 9-1 win over Northeast Bradford to reach exactly 50 goals for his career. Neary reached the milestone with his fourth goal, which put the Griffins ahead, 7-0.

“It’s great to see the success that Trace has had producing goals over his career, and it reflects on the team as a whole as it shows the success the team is having overall,” Sullivan County coach Chris Koschak said. “The majority of Trace’s goals have been assisted showing a great team effort. It was also a team building effort. The team worked together to aid in Trace achieving this milestone.”

GIRLS SOCCER TOP 5

1. MONTOURSVILLE (8-3-1)

At the beginning of the month, the Warriors were coming off consecutive shutout losses to Lewisburg and state-ranked Bloomsburg. But since then, Montoursville is 3-0-1 with wins over Southern, Central Mountain and Selinsgrove (8-4-2), and a tie with Shikellamy (9-1-2). The Warriors have a young team but are jelling at the perfect time.

2. SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (8-2)

The Mounties have been playing well all season and went 2-1 this past week, falling to Benton (2-0) before beating Montgomery (8-1) and Millville (2-0). South is in the Mid-Penn this year for the first time and is right at the top of the league, behind just Benton and Sullivan County. All three also have at least eight wins.

3. LEWISBURG (9-3-1)

Lewisburg, much like its boy counterparts, has a solid defense and doesn’t allow many shots. So Lauren Gross flies a bit under the radar in goal. But give Gross credit, she had three saves to preserve a shutout over Williamsport, eight in a 1-0 win over a tough Southern Columbia team, and helped the Green Dragons top Central Mountain on Tuesday, 4-1.

4. SULLIVAN COUNTY (8-3)

The Griffins rebounded from a 7-1 loss to Northumberland Christian last week to post consecutive wins against Millville (4-0) and Northeast Bradford (8-2). Bethany Beinlich had multiple goals in each of those wins, and Chloe Burke had a goal and two assists in that span. The Griffins will be a tough offense to contain come districts.

5. MILTON (6-4)

The Black Panthers suffered consecutive losses for the first time this season to a very talented Central Columbia team (13-0) and Shamokin, but rebounded with a 2-1 win over Warrior Run.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Ella Reish, Lewisburg

Ella Reish has been outstanding the past few games for the Green Dragons, which is great for Lewisburg as the regular season winds down. Reish scored a goal in a 2-0 win against Williamsport, had the game’s lone goal in a 1-0 win over Southern Columbia, and scored two second-half goals to help propel Lewisburg past Central Mountain, 4-1.

BOYS SOCCER TOP 5

1. LEWISBURG (11-0)

In a rematch with Williamsport, Lewisburg pummeled the Millionaires, 8-0. Lewisburg is putting up goals left and right and, this past week, the Green Dragons outscored three opponents a ridiculous 24-0 with wins over Williamsport, Central Mountain and Loyalsock. Lewisburg’s defense didn’t allow a single shot on goal against the Wildcats or Lancers, either.

2. WARRIOR RUN (12-0)

The Defenders are cruising past teams with ease this season. Of Warrior Run’s 12 wins, seven are shutouts and no team has been able to get closer than a two-goal deficit with the Defenders. While the offense steals the show with 69 goals, give credit to a solid defensive effort Warrior Run.

3. WELLSBORO (8-0)

The Green Hornets made a statement Tuesday against rival Athens. After beating the Wildcats the first time, 2-1, Wellsboro cruised to a 3-0 win to take sole possession of first place in the Northern Tier League.

4. SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (7-1-1)

The Mounties haven’t lost a game since their season opener to perennial power Millville and are playing great down the stretch. In the rematch with the Quakers, the two ended in a 3-3 tie. South had a two-goal lead erased twice against Sullivan County, but eventually won with 15 seconds left in overtime.

5. MILTON (10-1)

The Black Panthers are riding a six-game winning streak after besting Southern Columbia, 4-2. Milton’s offense is great this year, averaging 3.1 goals per game. Connor Smith is leading the Black Panthers with both eight goals and nine assists.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

South Williamsport’s Hayden Swinehart

Swinehart just continues to put up numbers. He scored five goals in a rout over Montgomery, had two goals in a 3-3 double overtime tie with Millville, and scored four, including a game-winner in OT, against a tough Sullivan County team. Eleven goals in three games isn’t too shabby.

Jon Gerardi covers high school soccer for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached by phone at 570-326-1551 (ext. 3127) or by email at jgerardi@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JonGerardi.

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