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Gerardi: Goalies have stolen the show in games this year

I got spoiled this past week watching two absolutely phenomenal games with Lewisburg/Williamsport boys and girls soccer. I ohh’d and ahh’d throughout both contests more times than I could count.

But while the games themselves were extremely exciting — Lewisburg boys won 1-0, and Williamsport girls tied Lewisburg 1-1 in double overtime — and there were some shots that made you just say ‘Wow,’ it was the play of goalies that stole the show.

And really, goalies have been playing outstanding throughout this season.

Sam Radulski recorded 13 saves against a potent Lewisburg team that is the defending Class AA state champion. And Adelia Engle came up time and time again on Thursday with saves and blocks that kept Williamsport in the game, especially in both overtime periods.

“When a kid has confidence, they chat a little bit more, they talk up their teammates more,” Williamsport boys coach Lee Kaar said. “He’s only going to get better. He still has some things to clean up, but I was pleased with how he played tonight physically, and he had his head in it.”

And it wasn’t just Radulski and Engle who were making outstanding stops. Lewisburg’s Tony Burns, who is third all-time in Lewisburg history with 42 career shutouts and counting, made some nice saves throughout Wednesday’s game to preserve his shutout. And Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell has seen a tremendous amount of growth in Burns as a goalie from his freshman year to this season.

“First year was him getting comfortable back there and start talking with guys in front of you. Sophomore year he was talking a little bit more than that and organizing on set pieces,” Kettlewell said. “Last year it was like, ‘OK, I can organize everything’ and now he leads us. He tells us what to do on and off the field as one of our captains. It’s huge. … He keeps everybody organized and knows what to do with constant communication. I’m always impressed by him.”

This year, it seems there’s talented goalies no matter where you look. Eli Slamka has been great all year for Muncy. Milton’s Mo Reiner has been coming up big throughout the year. There’s Bailey Gavitt at Hughesville, Mason Lauchle at Montoursville and Brock Weaver at South Williamsport.

Don’t forget the duo of Kierstyn Dawes and Anna Baylor at Montoursville who split halves and both play well, and Aiden Gehman at Wellsboro.

In the Northern Tier, Tierney Patterson of North Penn-Mansfield seemingly puts up double-digit saves each game to keep the Tigers in games.

“Tierney is a very dedicated and serious athlete. She is hungry to learn and to improve her skill. She took a big hit last year that injured her and was out for a couple of games,” N.P.-Mansfield coach Maryann Wilcox said. “It made her a bit timid at the start of this season, so mind set was something that she has had to work on early in the season. Tierney is back in the right mindset and has been tough in goal.”

She recorded 34 saves recently in a game, which is the second most ever for a North Penn-Mansfield player in a single game, trailing only Alaina McKee’s 40 in 2017. She had 30 on Monday as well.

“Tierney has complete respect from her teammates. We have a very small team and, unfortunately, we do allow too many shots on our goal keeper,” Wilcox said. “With that being said, we need a goal keeper that is up for the challenge both mentally and physically.”

Patterson is also nearing a milestone of 500 career saves in just two seasons.

“Almost 500 saves in two seasons to me means that all of my bumps, bruises, cuts, turf burns and trips to the chiropractor were worth it,” Patterson said. “That also means that we Lady Tigers need to keep moving forward and achieve our team goals and own personal goals.”

I could go on and on about the numerous great goalies we have in this area and how big their play has been for their respective teams. Next time you get out to an area soccer game, keep an eye on the goalies. Chances are, you’re going to see them making some remarkable plays.

BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD

Don’t judge the Loyalsock or Lewisburg girls soccer teams by their records. They’re a lot better than the wins/losses. The Green Dragons are sitting at 4-4-3 and the Lancers are 5-8-1.

Lewisburg has an extremely talented defensive unit led by speedster Elena Malone and have playmakers up top who are capable of scoring.

“We’re getting better at the periods of time in a game where we’re not possessing and playing. The tougher teams that have momentum, it’s tough for us to get it back, but that time is shrinking,” Lewisburg coach Terry Gerlinski said. “It’s gotten a little more consistent.”

The Lancers opened the year 2-0 with consecutive shutouts before falling in overtime to Williamsport (1-0). Loyalsock beat Jersey Shore and Danville to move to 4-3, but since then have gone 1-5-1.

“This is our second year as a coaching staff, and I feel like the girls are actually starting to pick up the concepts we’re trying to teach. It’s been rough for them because we’ve switched things up quite a bit positionally and formation-wise,” Loyalsock coach Dan Solley said after a game against Warrior Run earlier this year. “They’re a young team and I think we have a long way to go.”

50-GOAL CLUB

Add another name to the area’s 50-goal scoring club: Piper Minier. The South Williamsport junior recorded her 50th career goal in South Williamsport’s 10-0 win against Montgomery on Saturday afternoon.

“I could not be more proud of her and her teammates. Her accomplishment is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication,” South Williamsport coach Marc Lovecchio said. “To see her teammates react to her scoring the 50th was indicative of how much they care and respect Piper. She is one of the hardest workers on the team. She always wants to improve and is willing to play whatever role or positions is needed for team success.”

Minier always hustles during South’s games. Even when she doesn’t have the ball at her feet, you can see Minier reading defenses and hustling to wherever she needs to be to help make a play happen.

So perhaps its no surprise she leads the Mounties in both goals (24) and assists (12).

“She’s very coachable and a great teammate understanding that relationships matter far more than wins and losses,” Lovecchio said.

She’s South’s first 50-goal scorer since teammate Haley Neidig reached the mark in 2019, and is the third 50-goal scorer at South since 2018 when Lela Warner did so. Minier is the 10th 50-goal scorer all-time at South and has a chance to climb the list, as she’s two behind Tanya Maslar (1999-02, 52), and six behind both Neidig (2016-19, 56) and Kate Baldys (2003-06, 56).

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 (11-1-1): After tying Lewisburg last Wednesday in double overtime, 0-0, the Warriors have responded witih four straight wins, three of which have been shutouts. Montoursville defeated Altoona (4-3), Central Mountain (4-0), Shikellamy (3-0) and Bellefonte (6-0) en route to securing a District 4 playoff berth.

2. MILTON (10-2-1): Speaking of securing a district berth, the Black Panthers are playoff bound for the third time in four years. Rod Harris has done an outstanding job turning the Black Panthers’ program around. Prior to Harris, Milton hadn’t reached the postseason since losing in the district semifinals in 2009. The Black Panthers also just a game out in the HAC-II for league title consideration, behind undefeated Central Columbia.

3. SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (12-1): South Williamsport beat Benton in a tough, close game last week, 3-1, and if coach Marc Lovecchio could have it his way, all 18 games would be tight, close contests like that. Those are the type of games that Lovecchio knows will prepare his team once the postseason rolls around.

4. HUGHESVILLE (7-4-1): By the time you read this, Hughesville will have played a tough road game against undefeated Central Columbia, which is ranked fourth in the state in Class AA, and entered with a 3-0-1 streak after consecutive losses to Class AAA state-ranked Mifflinburg and Warrior Run.

T5. WARRIOR RUN (7-5): The Defenders have lost consecutive games to two tough opponents in Milton (2-1) and Bloomsburg (1-0). With just five games remaining on the schedule, however, those losses could be beneficial in helping the team know what to work on for districts. Warrior Run’s remaining schedule is tough, however, with games against Shikellamy, Lewisburg and South Williamsport left.

T5. WILLIAMSPORT (5-6-1): After playing one of this season’s most exciting games against Lewisburg on Thursday, the Millionaires suffered a tough 7-0 loss against Mifflin County on Saturday. The Millionaires have to close out their schedule with Abington Heights, Hughesville and Montoursville. Williamsport’s a talented team, especially defensively, so don’t let the record fool you.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Elena Malone, Lewisburg

Against Williamsport, Malone closed in on every throughball Williamsport sent, and prevented Sarina Beiter or Kailee Helmrich from firing easy shots. Malone’s the epitome of what you’d want from a defender.

BOYS SOCCER

1. LEWISBURG (11-1-1): The Green Dragons are ranked fifth in Class AA in the state and have won four straight after a 4-1 loss to State College. That includes two 1-0 wins against perennial district power Midd-West and Williamsport.

2. MILTON (12-1): This is Milton’s third straight season with at least 12 victories, which actually ties the program’s longest such streak (2005-07). The Black Panthers are outscoring its opponents, 58-14, and are riding an 11-game win streak. Carter Lilly (16 goals) and Evan Yoder (10) have formed an impressive 1-2 offensive duo.

4. SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT (8-2): You know what’s a little scary? The fact that the Mounties have played 10 games and senior Hayden Swinehart is averaging 2.1 goals per game and has 21 so far this season. Swinehart is a talented player up top. The Mounties fell to Central Mountain on Saturday on the road, 1-0, but rebounded by blanking Sullivan County on Monday, 7-0.

T5. WILLIAMSPORT (6-6-1): Williamsport coach Lee Kaar knew that the Millionaires had a very tough schedule late in the year. That included games against Lewisburg and Athens, which Williamsport came up just shy in. The Millionaires lost to Jersey Shore, 4-1, on Monday, but Kaar and his staff will have Williamsport refocused for Wednesday’s game against Montoursville as just three games remain on the schedule.

T5. WARRIOR RUN (8-6): The Defenders lost in double overtime to Class AA state-ranked Midd-West, 2-1, before bouncing back Monday with a 7-2 win over Shamokin.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Hayden Swinehart, South Williamsport

Swinehart had another offensive outburst this week. First he put up three goals in a 6-1 win against Montgomery before he had an impressive six-goal outing in a 7-0 win over Sullivan County on Monday afternoon.

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