Wellsboro has an extremely dangerous offense in boys soccer
The common complaint from many Americans about soccer is that it’s too low scoring and no one wants to watch a game for an hour and a half with teams struggling to score even once.
Tell that to the Wellsboro boys’ soccer attack. The Hornets have racked up an impressive 95 goals in 10 games. And, despite the program’s success over the past decade, including a state quarterfinal appearance, it’s been a long process to get a Hornet team to score and attack like they have this season.
“We do a lot of stuff (in practice) where the boys are having to play under pressure, in small sided games, to help with their movement,” Wellsboro coach Todd Fitch said.
Fitch — in his third year at the helm and his 10th overall with the program — has overseen the attacking style transformation directly. Ever since current Mansfield University women’s soccer coach John Shaffer and Fitch took over the program starting with the 2010 season, Fitch oversaw the Hornet attack. It takes longer to develop a great attacking culture than a great defensive one.
So those early successful Wellsboro teams — such as their 2011 NTL championship team, 2013 District 4 runners-up team and 2015 District 4 semifinalist team — were great defensive teams that were content to try to win matches 1-0. The 2017 District 4 champions and PIAA Class A quarterfinalists were the first Hornet teams to break out offensively, scoring 138 goals in 23 matches — an impressive six goals a match — but nothing like what they’ve done on the offensive end this year.
“It’s the process,” Fitch said. “I’m just going to continue to put it back on the players. These guys have developed their skillset to be able to execute and do some of the things they’re doing out there … the players make a coach look good.”
Oh, does Fitch have some players.
It starts with attacking midfielder Will Poirier. The senior, in the traditional No. 10 role globally assigned to a team’s best playmaker, has been phenomenal. His 24 goals and 27 assists lead the district in both categories on a per match basis. He has scored in all but one match all season and that match against rival Athens, he drew the penalty kick that ultimately gave Wellsboro their first goal in an impressive 3-0 win.
Poirier has always had the skill and awareness to put up big numbers, but he’s become increasingly physically dominant towards the end of his career. He now stands at 6-foot-2 and through his work in the offseason has added considerable strength. Those things, plus extra skill development in the offseason, has allowed him to become the first Hornet to ever have 50 goals and 50 assists in a career. He will leave Wellsboro as the all-time leader in assists.
“We’ve all got great chemistry and we work together,” said Poirier. “We’ve been working together since we were six so we know each other’s strengths and it just becomes fun.”
The other headliner for Wellsboro is forward Kaeden Mann. Mann, a four year starter at forward who scored the district-winning goal as a freshman in 2017, has been consistently one of the best goalscorers in the district. His signature skill is his timely and precise movement. He will drift out wide and dart inside, make runs in between the center backs and fullbacks, and has a sixth sense when it comes to getting on the end of crosses and cutbacks.
Mann, second on the program’s all time scoring list, combines that movement with good speed, toughness, an insatiable appetite to press and clinical finishing with both feet to cause serious problems for opponents.
“My freshman year with Coach Shaffer he taught me always to be on the move and don’t be stagnant and I’ve tried to do that over the years,” Mann said.
Teams cannot just focus on those two, though. Sophomore Jack Poirier has 17 goals himself, and has been at the other end of many of his older brother’s assists. Owen Richardson, who was the starting center forward last year while Mann played left wing, has added seven goals from central midfield. Joe Grab — who has since left to play basketball at Spire Academy — had 13 goals in just eight games.
Add in a center back pairing off Zach Rowland and Zach Singer, who stand at 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3 respectively, and you have a team that can beat you on set pieces as well.
“Our combination of speed, size, skill and finishing has been unstoppable,” Will Poirier said.
The flashy numbers are not the focus for this Wellsboro team, though. A run at a district and state title await it. In their path will be a loaded District 4 Class AA field that includes the top-ranked team in the PSCA Coaches Poll, as well as perennial power Midd-West. Wellsboro, who is ranked third in the same poll, will rely on their dynamic attack if they want to reach their goals.
“This is their return on their investment,” Fitch said.