Plenty of familiar faces on the boys side of the soccer field have gone on to greener pastures, having graduated from high school last spring.
Of the 15 Times Leader First Team All-Stars in 2012, just two are back this season.
But there is no lack of talent for 2013. Teams have re-loaded, some with fresh faces and some with players who contributed greatly in 2012. And the two players who return are good ones to have back in Dallas senior A.J. Nardone, who led Division I of the Wyoming Valley Conference in points last season with 54 points, and Coughlin junior Travis Keil, who busted onto the scene late last year helping the Crusaders to a District 2 Class 2A title.
What the movement means around the league is that there will likely be more parity. That has shown early on this season.
Perennial Division I power Dallas already has one loss and needed overtime to pick up a victory. Wyoming Seminary, which won Division II last season, is already in the hole with one loss. It’s early, but Division III has turned upside down with GAR unbeaten so far, while last year’s basement team in D-III, Hanover Area is already 1-0.
Here’s a look at some stories to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Returning Times Leader All-Stars
A.J. Nardone, Dallas senior: He belted 19 goals and 16 assists for a Division I-high 54 points in 2012 to help the Mountaineers to the Division I championship. His assist total led the entire conference for the second straight season. Over his last two season, he has totaled 27 goals, 30 assists and 84 points.
Travis Keil, Coughlin junior: Keil didn’t put up spectacular numbers in his sophomore season only scoring 19 points, including seven goals and five assists, but he didn’t have to on a team loaded with seniors. He did however score a pair of goals for the Crusaders in the District 2 Class 2A title match.
Returning players to keep an eye on
This list can be 187 players long with 11 from all 17 teams listed. That’s a sign of the parity the league can hold in 2013.
So instead of naming all of them and taking up a whole newspaper page, it was limited to a fraction of that and just one from each team. They are:
Tommy Sebia, Coughlin, Sr.; Alex Buchholz, Crestwood, Sr.; Brandon Scharff, Dallas, Sr.; Caleb Ancharski, Hazleton Area (keeper); Austin Harry, Lake-Lehman, Sr.; Nick Singer, Wyoming Valley West; Tyler Kukosky, Holy Redeemer, Jr.; Cal Lisman, Meyers, Sr.; Jordan Consagra, Pittston Area, Sr.; Colton Brown, Tunkhannock, So.; Andrew Drewchin, Wyoming Seminary, Sr.; Josh Moran, Berwick, So.; Anthony Tlatenchi, GAR, Jr.; Matt Clemons, Hanover Area, Sr.; Elijah Dove, MMI Prep, Sr.; Ed Lukowski, Nanticoke, So.; Aaron Carter, Wyoming Area, Sr. (keeper)
Around Division I
It looks like a wide open division as nearly every team can claim the title and it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Dallas has to be the favorite because it has won the last three division titles and many players are hoping to make it four.
But the other teams are not far behind by any means.
Coughlin, Crestwood, Lake-Lehman and Wyoming Valley West have all got off to good starts so far in the early going. Of course, the Crusaders and Black Knights squared off for the District 2 Class 2A title last year with Coughlin the victor. Crestwood also won a game in the 2A event, while the Spartans went 1-1 in the 3A tourney.
Hazleton Area, which is in a rebuilding season, may have some trouble against the other teams.
Around Division II
Wyoming Seminary and Tunkhannock decided the division championship on the final day of the season with the Blue Knights coming out on top after a tie.
The remaining three teams – Holy Redeemer, Pittston Area and Meyers – weren’t far behind. Sem and the Tigers also accounted for three of the top six scorers in the division last year. All three and four of the six have graduated. The other two remaining – Pittston Area’s Jordan Consagra and Meyers’ Cal Lisman – return to make the race for the title much more interesting.
The Royals lost some from 2012, but recently they always seem to stay in contention for the length of the season.
Around Division III
A legitimate case can be made for all six teams in the division to bring home the title this season.
Berwick is the reigning champ, and even though it’s in a rebuilding year, shouldn’t be counted out until officially eliminated. Hanover Area won the previous seasons and appears to be headed back to the right side of the .500 mark after winning just once last season.
That leaves Nanticoke as the favorite for finishing second in the division in 2012, five wins better than third-place Wyoming Area.
The Warriors are in position to pass Nanticoke in the standings though with nine returning starters from a year ago. With another year in a second-year coach’s system, Wyoming Area looks poised for a run.
GAR, which has won just 12 combined games in the last three years, is off to a good start with a pair of wins already as they are halfway to the 2012 total, which includes a win over Berwick.
MMI Prep rounds out the division with the only new coach in the conference as Terry Jankouskas begins his first season as coach of the Preppers.