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Gerardi: Who’s winning districts? Plenty have a chance

I always look forward to the afternoon the District 4 soccer playoffs get released to see who’s on what side of the bracket. And of course, I always then try my best to predict who will win in each class.

And this year, there’s plenty of talented teams in Classes A, AA and AAA and, honestly, a lot of our area teams are more than capable of making a run at a title.

The District 2-4 Class AAAA playoff brackets have not yet been released.

So, without any further ado, here’s my predictions for this year’s district field…

I’m more than excited to see the Class AA girls bracket play out. At the top of the bracket, you have two tough teams playing in the first round in Warrior Run and Lewisburg.

The Green Dragons closed out the year with a 3-1 record to get into the postseason. Lewisburg has shut out seven opponents, including three since Oct. 16, and that’s thanks to a strong backline anchored by Elena Malone.

The Defenders had a rough spot in October, going 0-4 from Oct. 5-14 with losses to Milton, Bloomsburg, Mount Carmel and Shikellamy before stringing three consecutive wins together. These two teams just played a week ago with the Defenders earning a 4-2 win, but expect Round 2 to be a lot lower-scoring. Whoever wins gets no easy matchup against state-ranked and undefeated Central Columbia.

On the bottom half of the bracket is a good game between Hughesville and Milton. The Black Panthers are in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, and made it to the Class AA semifinals in 2018 for the first time since 2009. Rod Harris has done an outstanding job making Milton a playoff contender, and the offense has been solid with Janae Bergey, Mackenzie Lopez, Leah Walter and Alexis Beaver leading the charge. In goal, Mo Reiner has been outstanding throughout the year.

This is Hughesville’s second playoff appearance in three seasons and second 10-win season in as many years. The Spartans dropped consecutive games to undefeated Central Columbia and 11-win Southern Columbia late in the year before rattling off three consecutive wins to close out the season.

No matter who comes out on top in this one between Hughesville and Milton, it should be an outstanding contest.

PREDICTIONS

PLAY IN–Lewisburg def. Warrior Run; Shamokin def. Midd-West. QUARTERFINALS–Central Columbia def. Lewisburg; Bloomsburg def. Troy; Montoursville def. Shamokin; Milton def. Hughesville. SEMIFINALS–Central Columbia def. Bloomsburg; Montoursville def. Milton. FINAL–Montoursville def. Central Columbia.

GIRLS CLASS A

Muncy, Williamson and South Williamsport are the lone area teams on the girls side in the Class A field. South Williamsport is the only one of the three that secured a first-round bye by being seeded No. 1.

Muncy is having an outstanding season. The Indians, seeded sixth, face Millville today at 4 p.m. This is Muncy’s first playoff appearance since 2017, and the program’s first 12-win season since 2006. The Indians have a great offensive unit, having scored 82 goals so far this year, and defensively have allowed just 16 through 17 games. Sarah Dgien has 83 saves and has been in goal for eight shutouts. Up top, Emilie Nagel (22 goals, 16 assists), Mia Edkin (16, 12) and Cierra Charles (10, 2) lead the Indians’ scoring.

Williamson has a tough test in its first-round matchup by playing the defending Class A state champions in Southern Columbia. The Warriors finished the regular season 7-6 and the Tigers enter the postseason 11-7. Williamson will have to do its best to attempt and contain Loren Gehret, who has a team-high 26 goals and 13 assists and is averaging 1.4 goals per game.

South Williamsport is seeded No. 1 thanks to a 16-1 regular-season campaign, and will await the winner of Juniata Christian/Northeast Bradford in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Piper Minier has been a tough player to contain as she is second in the area in goals scored with 24. Throw in Olivia Casella (12 goals) and McKaye Wilton (10), among others, and the Mounties have an offense that can score fast and seemingly at will. The Mounties have also outscored their opponents, 107-3.

Another team with a first-round bye is second-seeded Mount Carmel, which will be another team that will be tough to beat.

South Williamsport, Benton, Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia will be four of the toughest teams in the field. The Red Tornadoes are led as well by Mia Chapman, who has a remarkable 42 goals scored so far this year. It’s her third consecutive season with at least 22 goals scored as she has 109.

PREDICTIONS

PLAY-IN–Northeast Bradford def. Juniata Christian; Northumberland Christian def. East Juniata; Benton def. Meadowbrook Christian; Line Mountain def. Wyalusing; Southern Columbia def. Williamson; Muncy def. Millville. QUARTERFINALS–South Williamsport def. Juniata Christian; Benton def. Northumberland Christian; Mount Carmel def. Line Mountain; Southern Columbia def. Muncy. SEMIFINALS–South Williamsport def. Benton; Southern Columbia def. Mount Carmel. FINAL–Southern Columbia def. South Williamsport.

GIRLS CLASS AAA

Mifflinburg is easily the team to beat in this field after going 17-1 in the regular season, winning the HAC-I league title with a 9-0 record, and outscoring opponents, 82-14. Defensively, the Wildcats have a 0.7 goals against average. Only two teams so far have scored more than one goal against the Wildcats in a game: Southern Columbia (two) and Benton (two).

What that boils down to is if you have a chance to fire a shot against Mifflinburg, you better take it.

Aside from Athens, Mifflinburg beat both other semifinalists this year, and did so in consecutive games. Mifflinburg beat Shikellamy, 2-0, and Selinsgrove, 3-1, and the Wildcats are ranked fifth in the state.

PREDICTIONS

SEMIFINALS–Mifflinburg def. Athens; Shikellamy def. Selinsgrove. FINAL–Mifflinburg def. Shikellamy.

BOYS CLASS A

Muncy is the only area team in the Class A field and has a tough quarterfinal against top-seeded Northumberland Christian. Northumberland Christian is 16-2 and has good wins against Benton and perennial district power Millville. The Indians entered playoffs with an 8-9 record and are hoping to be able to upset Northumberland Christian in the first round, something that will be far from easy to do.

Muncy’s led by Loudon Boring and Bode Hart, who each have eight goals, and Todd Modispaw’s seven goals. Hart has a team-high 11 assists as well.

Muncy will have to play solid defense for 80 minutes and contain both Henry McElroy (39 goals, 11 assists) and Daniel Hayner (19 goals).

Millville and East Juniata should be an entertaining quarterfinal matchup in a game between two schools known for their boys soccer programs. On the bottom half of the bracket, Southern Columbia will face Benton.

PREDICTIONS

QUARTERFINALS–Northumberland Christian def. Muncy; Millville def. East Juniata; Juniata Christian def. Northeast Bradford; Southern Columbia def. Benton. SEMIFINALS–Northumberland Christian def. Millville; Southern Columbia def. Juniata Christian. FINAL–Northumberland Christian def. Southern Columbia.

BOYS CLASS AA

There’s a lot of good games scattered throughout the field in this one. One good play-in game is Loyalsock at Montoursville tonight. Two rivals fighting under the lights in an all-or-nothing playoff game. What more could you ask for?

Dominick Pulizzi has been a go-to player up top for the Warriors as he leads the team with 14 goals and is tied for team-high assists at seven with Mason Winslow. Loyalsock entered districts with an 8-8-1 record, and the Lancers have been more than battle tested throughout the regular season. That includes a close 1-0 loss to a tough Danville team, a double-overtime tie against a solid Wellsboro team, and tough losses against Midd-West, Milton and Warrior Run. Loyalsock’s schedule has been tough.

These two met in the regular season in which the Lancers won, 5-0, but expect this rematch to be a lot closer.

The bad news for Montoursville or Loyalsock is that whoever wins has to play the defending District 4 and PIAA Class AA champions in Lewisburg.

The Green Dragons are a favorite to win districts – which would be title No. 7 in the last eight years – and enter the postseason 14-1-1. That lone loss came to State College. Since then, it’s been seven straight wins for the Green Dragons.

Lewisburg’s defense is solid as usual, as the Green Dragons have yielded just 10 goals all year. Lewisburg also has a great 1-2 punch offensively in Philip Permyashkin (15 goals, 12 assists) and Alfred Romano (14, 14).

North Penn-Liberty gets a tough first-round matchup against Central Columbia, and will look to upset the Blue Jays. Caiden Alexander leads the Mounties with 14 goals scored. However much like Montoursville/Loyalsock, the winner of this one gets a tough quarterfinal against Midd-West.

Milton and Wellsboro face off in the bottom half of the bracket in a game which should be good. The Black Panthers are 15-2-1 and are having their best season since a 16-win season in 2007 and 2005. Carter Lilley (21 goals, 13 assists) and Evan Yoder (12, 12) are two players the Green Hornets will have to key on defensively, as is Dom Ballo, who leads the team with 18 assists.

Wellsboro has plenty of playmakers too, including Jack Poirier (23 goals, 17 assists) and Matthew Richards (10 goals).

This is a tough field overall and teams will have to be playing at 110% if they want to win the title.

PREDICTIONS

PLAY-IN–Montoursville def. Loyalsock; Central Columbia def. North Penn-Liberty. QUARTERFINALS–Lewisburg def. Montoursville; South Williamsport def. Warrior Run; Midd-West def. Central Columbia; Milton def. Wellsboro. SEMIFINALS–Lewisburg def. South Williamsport; Midd-West def. Milton. FINAL–Lewisburg def. Midd-West.

BOYS CLASS AAA

It wasn’t too long ago that Athens won the District 4 Class AAA title, and don’t be surprised if the Wildcats do it again. Athens is 12-6 and are led by three solid goal scorers in Nate Quinn (21), Mason Hughey (15) and Korey Miller (10). But to win it all, Athens will have to get past Selinsgrove (12-5-1) in the semifinals.

On the top of the bracket is top-seeded Danville, a team hungry to win its first district title since 2013. The Ironmen are 14-4, the program’s most wins since going 14-4-1 in 2017. PJ Cera will be Mifflinburg’s main focus in the semifinals as the senior has 10 goals and six assists. But Danville has other playmakers including Nicholas Hand, Daniel Hartzell and Dameon White.

PREDICTIONS

SEMIFINALS–Danville def. Mifflinburg; Athens def. Selinsgrove. FINAL–Danville def. Athens.

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.

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