The Wyoming Valley Conference fall soccer experiment was interesting, to say the least.
Last season was the first time WVC teams joined the rest of the state and the Lackawanna Conference in playing in the fall, creating a fury of interesting dynamics. For starters, conference officials were unsure of the retention rate of players — better known as the field hockey effect — would have on the sport.
In the end, only GAR dropped its girls soccer program and the most of the league suffered minimal roster drops due to the season change. The result, however, was the creation of a cluttered lump of a singular, 16 team division (in hopefully its last season). The disparity between the top soccer clubs and the bottom tier left countless blowouts and very few close games. Needless to say, scoring was at an all-time high.
The traditional girls soccer powers — Berwick, Dallas, Coughlin — continued on to district playoffs while some new faces — Holy Redeemer, Wyoming Valley West, Lake-Lehman — entered the mix.
Returning Times Leader all-stars
*Allie Barber, junior forward, Pittston Area - Often targeted and difficult to defend, Barber’s speed poses problems for defenses and tends to score at will. She led the league in scoring as a freshman and was second during her sophomore season with 44 goals, 11 assists and 99 points.
*Kaylee Hillard, senior midfielder, Lake-Lehman - Enables Emily Sutton and Shoshana Mahoney to get downfield opportunities with a strong leg. Orchestrates much of the Black Knight offense.
*Megan Lercara, junior forward, Coughlin - Showed leadership at the tail end of last season, stepping up with six goals and 17 assists to propel the Crusaders into the District 2 playoffs.
*Shoshana Mahoney, senior forward, Lake-Lehman - Brings a wealth of speed and ball-handling skills to the pitch. Totaled 23 goals, 16 assists for 62 points and led the Black Knights to a strong finish.
*Emily Schramm, junior midfielder, Holy Redeemer - Schramm led to Royals to a seven-game improvement with 14 goals and 11 assists for 39 points.
*Emily Sutton, senior midfielder, Lake-Lehman - Sutton’s decision to choose soccer over cross country panned out with 17 goals, 11 assists for 45 points. Takes aggressive approach to the ball and can be a game-changer late in the season.
*Talia Szatkowski, junior midfielder, Dallas - The Mountaineers will depend much more on Szatkowski on offense with the graduation of Ashley Dunbar. Played defense last season with 14 goals and an assist to her name.
*Mary Tona, sophomore forward, Coughlin - Quickly established herself as a player with finesse and goal-scoring ability for a team that lost much of its offense to graduation. Netted 14 goals, eight assists and 36 points as a freshman.
*Tiffany Tubioli, sophomore sweeper, Pittston Area - Boasts a strong leg that creates fast-break opportunities for the Patriots’ high-scoring offense. Generates support for Barber and Madde Mimnaugh.
*Hayley Wilkinson, junior goalkeeper, Hazleton Area - Showcased herself as the conference’s top keeper in the fall. Made nine saves leading to an upset victory over Delaware Valley in the District 2 Class 3A tournament. Finished with an average of 11.6 stops per game, including 27 against Lake-Lehman.
Scouting the WVC
Graduation depleted much of defending WVC champion Berwick Bulldogs, and they are left without the likes of last year’s player of the year Kelly Sheptock. The Bulldogs are still intact with experience, led by junior Brianna Floryshak and a defense that let up three goals in 15 regular season games — a 0.2 goals-against average. Berwick did not trail for its first 17 games.
Dallas is without its leading scorer but still brings a number of scoring options in Talia Szatkowski, Wendy Greenwood and Ashley Strazdus.
Pittston Area and Lake-Lehman generated an interesting rivalry last season. The Black Knights rebounded from an early-season blowout to surprise the Patriots 3-1 in the first round of districts. Lake-Lehman gave Berwick its biggest scare of the season in a semifinal loss and bring the most leadership in Hillard, Sutton and Mahoney. Pittston Area brings a high-octane offense and will have to depend on other sources of offense besides Barber to leapfrog to the top of the division.
Coughlin and Holy Redeemer could be dark horses this season after squeaking into the playoffs last season. The Crusaders will benefit from a healthy (2012 spring all-star) Nora Fazzi who will surely complement Lercara and Tona with strong midfield work. The Royals have a very deep team that is skilled in the midfield.
Crestwood will be an interesting team to watch out for in 2013. Off-season injuries crushed the Comets, and their roster showcases a number of names that made them a playoff team in spring 2012. Morgan Kile will juggle field hockey and soccer, potentially making a strong impact down the stretch.
Look for Tunkhannock, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area and Wyoming Seminary to have strong showings and be in the running for district playoff slots.