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Jon Gerardi on soccer: Slamka is proving to be outstanding GK

As the referee called for a waterbreak halfway through the second half, Muncy goalkeeper Eli Slamka trotted toward his team’s bench. Once he took a drink, he looked at Muncy coach John Karichner and told him the sun was in his eyes.

“I can’t see coach,” Slamka said.

“I can’t tell, you’re doing a great job,” Karichner responded.

The sun may have been setting toward New Street in Muncy beyond the left goal, but whatever Slamka was doing to try to combat the sun was working.

Slamka was playing as incredible in goal as you could want a goalie to. It seemed no matter where South Williamsport rifled a shot against Slamka last Tuesday, the junior goalie was there to block it.

A sliding stop with his foot.

A diving block with his body.

An outstretched hand toward the top of the crossbar.

Slamka put on a clinic for those in attendance, and it’s something he’s been doing so far all year through just three games.

“I don’t know how he gets to some of those. (In opener) there was a ball in upper 90 he went, one-handed on it and grabbed it and hugged it in,” Karchiner said. “A couple where he was going horizontal. It’s just amazing. Every game it’s something different.”

Slamka already leads the area through four games in saves with an impressive 56, and Slamka has done absolutely everything to keep Muncy in every game they’ve played in.

He recorded 15 saves in a narrow 2-1 overtime loss to Hughesville on Sept. 4 in the Hughesville Tournament opener. He then recorded 14 in a shootout loss to North Penn-Liberty in the consolation match.

He then posted a 16-save effort against South Williamsport on Tuesday in a 2-0 loss.

“He’s been keeping us in everything so far this year,” Karchiner said.

Slamka was quick to point out the solid defensive efforts of Rowan Revata and Logan Ohl, as did Karchiner. And having those two on the backline helps prevent many players from getting clear looks at the goal and forced to take deep shots from outside of the 18, which Slamka prefers since it gives him more time to react.

But no matter where a shot is coming from, Slamka enjoys the challenge. Whether it’s outside the 18, down the sideline inside of the 18 or just outside the 6-yard box, Slamka is going to do anything he can to block it. And that challenge motivates him game after game.

“It’s pretty fun. I really just love going after the balls and diving for the balls. It really is fun,” Slamka said.

Muncy practices a lot of situations and it helps Slamka get a feel for the position. He’s played goalie since his freshman year, and the past two years have helped him gain invaluable experience in a tough position that doesn’t often get a lot of the headlines.

“I just try to see where defenders are going to go,” Slamka said. “I can sometimes tell where they’re aiming by their hips. Sometimes it’s just a blind guess. When the sun was in my eyes, I just laid out and got it.”

“He’s just growing more into his body and getting a lot more confident,” Karchiner said. “This is his third year starting as a junior. So those two previous years were a big help. He was thrown into the fire and this is where it starts paying off.”

It’s definitely been paying off. Just watch Slamka in action and you’ll see.

50-GOAL CLUB

Montoursville senior Lily Saul can breathe a little easier now. After recording a hat trick in the opener of the Burke Tournament, the Warrior reached 50 goals for her career.

She followed that performance up with another hat trick against Wyoming Valley West in the Burke Tournament championship game.

Saul got the 50-goal milestone out of the way and doesn’t need to worry about any possible stress of trying to get it and can play looser and more relaxed. And that may be bad news for opposing defenses.

STARTING STRONG

The season is just beginning but for the Loyalsock girls, 2021 is already a huge success. Last fall, the Lancers went winless. But as I said in my league preview, don’t take that record as any indication of how good Loyalsock was. The Lancers were competitive last year, and it’s showing this year what those close games meant.

The Lancers are already 2-2 this year and started the season off with two wins to snap an 11-game losing skid at the end of last season.

Loyalsock started the year with a 7-0 win over North Penn-Mansfield and a 1-0 win against Northeast Bradford and in those two games on Sept. 4, the Lancers had eight players record a goal. Loyalsock is doing excellent spreading the ball around early and opening up the offense.

Not to mention Rylie French is already off to a superb start in goal. The senior posted consecutive shutouts against North Penn-Mansfield and Northeast Bradford and came up with a huge 13-save performance in a 1-0 overtime thriller loss to Williamsport on Tuesday.

LOCALS IN COLLEGE

What a start to the college season for area grads.

• South Williamsport grad Bella Green was named the MAC Freedom Offensive Player of the Week after she had three goals and two assists in Lycoming’s opening 8-0 winover Gwynedd Mercy. Green also came up with a game-winning goal against Penn State Altoona on Sunday.

• Hughesville grad Jayden Leighow also posted a hat trick Lycoming’s win over Gwynedd Mercy.

• Pitt-Johnstown opened the season with a 2-1 loss to Lock Haven, but South Williamsport grad Haley Neidig had an assist which put Pitt-Johnstown ahead, 1-0. Neidig already started two games for Pitt-Johnstown and had a goal and assist in a 3-1 victory against Mansfield.

• Former Loyalsock standout and two-time Sun-Gazette Player of the Year Rhiallie Jessell has started in all four games for Saint Francis and has played at least 66 minutes in each contest.

• Jessell’s former teammate Juliana Cruz also started against Lock Haven for California (Pa.) in the Vulcans’ 4-0 loss to the Bald Eagles in their season opener, playing 90 minutes.

• In men’s soccer, Williamsport grad Tom Pombor scored a goal in a 1-1 tie against California (Pa.) in Lock Haven’s opener.

• Milton grad Tyler Henderson has played in three games — and started one — for Penn College.

A FRIENDLY REMINDER

A note to all our area coaches, make sure to call or email in scores after each game, win or lose, so area athletes can get recognition and credit. Scores can be emailed to sportsdesk@sungazette.com.

Jon Gerardi covers high school soccer for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached by email at jgerardi@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JonGerardi.

Jon Gerardi’s Top 5 rankings

GIRLS SOCCER

1. MONTOURSVILLE (3-0): Talk about a tough Burke Tournament to start the season. Montoursville first beat Northumberland Christian, a team which went 18-2-1 last fall and reached the District 4 Class A semifinals. It then beat 2020 District 2 Class AAAA semifinalist Wyoming Valley West in the tournament final. The Warriors started out with two very tough opponents and won both convincingly. That’s going to give the Warriors a huge confidence boost as the season gets rolling.

2. WILLIAMSPORT (2-0): The Millionaires edged Loyalsock in their season opener, 1-0, as Kailee Helmrich scored the game winning goal, and Helmrich came up clutch with a hat trick in a 3-0 shutout over Crestwood. Helmrich has stepped up early for the Millionaires offenseively.

3. SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (4-0) : Four games, four shutouts. That’s how South Williamsport started its season. The Mounties have scored an impressive 36 goals so far and have yet to allow someone to score on them. The Mounties have blanked Sullivan County (twice), Wellsboro and CMVT en route to their 4-0 start.

4. MILTON (4-0): The Black Panthers are off to their best start to a season since at least 2009 and are already ahlfway to last year’s win total. Rod Harris has done a great job the past three seasons. The Black Panthers have shown so far they have a lot of offensive playmakers in Madison Zeiber, Alexis Beaver, Janae Bergey, Makenzie Lopez and Amelia Gainer, to name a few.

5. LOYALSOCK (2-2): The Lancers are starting the season really strong after a tough season in 2020. Loyalsock began this year wtih a shutout over North Penn-Mansfield and Northeast Bradford before taking a tough Williamsport team into overtime. Loyalsock did well spreading the ball around in its first two games as well as eight players found the back of the net.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK — Hughesville’s Makenzie Leitenberger and Montoursville’s Lily Saul: Leitenberger has emerged early so far as a scoring threat defenses need to watch out for when playing Hughesville. Through three games she already has six goals, including scoring four in a shutout victory against Sullivan County. Saul has started the season with a bang, scoring consecutive hat tricks in the Burke Tournament before adding two and an assist in a win against State College.

BOYS SOCCER

1. LEWISBURG (2-0): The names change, the results don’t. That’s because Lewisburg never rebuilds, it simply reloads. The same’s true this year. The Green Dragons are off to a 2-0 start, building upon last year’s win streak, to sit at 24 consecutive. Nick Passaniti has stepped up early as a huge weapon for Lewisburg. He scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win against Moravian Academy and then scored both goals in a 2-0 win over a tough Crestwood team.

2. SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (3-0): Chris Vanaskie said before the season started that reaching districts last year was nice for South Williamsport’s confidence, and it’s showing so far early. The Mounties beat Wellsboro (4-1), Muncy (2-0) and Millville (7-0). Hayden Swinehart is picking up where he left off as he scored at least one goal in all three games and defensively, the Mounties are playing outstanding, yielding just one goal through three games.

3. WILLIAMSPORT (1-1): The Millionaires began the season with a tough loss to State College, 1-0. Williamsport had to replace standout goalie Elliot Wannop ä the latest in a long line of successful keepers at Williamsport ä and Sam Radulski was more than tested in his first game between the posts. Radulski, a sophomore, recorded 20 saves against State College and allowed just the one goal and did everything he could to keep the game close.

4. WELLSBORO (2-1-1): After a tough loss to start the season against a talented South Williamsport team, the Green Hornets rebounded with a convincing 7-2 win against Williamsport to get back to .500. Wellsboro has a lot of playmakers not just up top, but in the midfield and backline as well, and will be a tough team this year.

5. MONTOURSVILLE (2-2): The Warriors beat Lake-Lehman (4-1) and Milton (2-1, OT) so far with losses to Athens (3-2) and Jersey Shore (1-0). Montoursville’s offense is playing well, averaging 2.0 goals per game so far, and have plenty of players up top to dish the ball to.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK — South Williamsport’s Hayden Swinehart: The Mountie had 36 goals last year and hasn’t missed a beat entering the 2021 season. Swinehart has scored at least one goal in all three of South Williamsport’s games, including a four-goal performance in a 7-0 win over Millville. He had a goal in a 4-1 win to open the year against Wellsboro and scored in a narrow 2-0 win at Muncy.

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