Last updated: February 16. 2013 10:17PM - 277 Views

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The Wyoming Valley Conference caught up to most of the state and will play girls soccer in the fall rather than the spring.

Many leagues in the PIAA already competed in the fall. A handful of conferences throughout the state continued to play in the spring to avoid conflicts with field hockey.

The move was announced three years ago and goes into effect this year.

Unlike previously expected, most girls soccer teams were not affected by the move. Some teams actually experienced a growth in numbers this season due to track and field athletes trying out for soccer.

"We originally believed we would be hurting for numbers this fall," Crestwood coach Russ Kile said.

"Fortunately, we are carrying nearly 30 players even though most have little or no previous soccer experience. We're looking forward to capitalizing on the natural athletic talents of these individuals in the long term."

GAR was not able to field a team this season. The Grenadiers finished last season with an 8-5 record and placed third in Division 3. The GAR players are participating on the boys' team.

Returning all-stars

• Kelly Sheptock, senior fullback, Berwick – The three-time all-WVC all-star gives the Dawgs a physical presence inside.

• Talia Szatkowski, sophomore fullback, Dallas – Outstanding defensive debut, looks to follow in her sister Demetra's footsteps.

• Bridget Orlando, senior fullback, Berwick – A proven member of the Bulldogs' outstanding defensive corps, the two-time all-WVC selection helped Berwick reach its second consecutive district title.

• Nora Fazzi, junior midfielder, Coughlin – Controls the middle of the field with her speed and ballhandling skills.

• Caty Davenport, senior forward, Berwick – Overcame an early-season injury to score a team-high 13 goals and four assists.

• Ashley Dunbar, senior forward, Dallas – Dangerous whenever she touches the ball. She led Division 1 in scoring with 31 goals and a team-tying 13 assists.

• Shoshana Mahoney, junior forward, Lake-Lehman – Continued on her strong freshman campaign with 23 goals and two assists. One of the speediest players in the conference.

• Allie Barber, sophomore forward, Pittston Area – Leading goal scorer in the WVC led the Patriots to a division title in just her first varsity season.

Scouting the conference

Two-time returning district champion Berwick is the surefire leading contender for the Class 2A crown.

The Bulldogs bring back eight starters from a year ago, and will have to replace Bella Jaffin on the offense.

"We like being under the radar," Berwick coach Paul DiPippa said. "I don't know if any team enjoys being bull's-eye. Our goal is to compete for a district championship.

"We can go a little bit farther than we have in the past."

Dallas and Coughlin will apply the most pressure to the Bulldogs in the conference

The Mountaineers won the Division 1 title over Berwick with a 12-2 record. Ashley Dunbar chose soccer over field hockey and carried Dallas' scoring load.

Coughlin boasts the league's strongest midfield with Nora Fazzi commanding the pitch. The Crusaders are relying on inexperienced youth to again pull off an upset to leapfrog in the standings.

"Last year, we beat both Berwick and Dallas once," Coughlin coach Joe Spagnuolo said. "That said, we compete with them every opportunity. The bottom line is that we need to find leadership to win those games."

Two lightning-fast young forwards make Lake-Lehman and Pittston Area legitimate contenders. Shoshana Mahoney guided the Black Knights to a division title, and the Patriots' Allie Barber led the league in scoring.

One division

The uncertainty of several programs' survival from the switch to the fall forced the WVC to act in caution for the fall. Four divisions, previously based on program strength, are condensed into one.

Each of the conference's 16 teams play each other one time throughout the season.

Many of the league's coaches welcome the prospect of playing new programs.

DiPippa said playing new teams and different systems will prepare his Berwick team better for the post-season. The Bulldogs struggled against possession-based offenses in the past two state playoffs.

"When we played Mechanicsburg (in the first round of PIAAs), I don't feel they were a better team," he said. "They were more of a possession team and everything is down the middle of the field. A lot of the teams we play we are more direct. It'll be nice to see a different set of teams."

Facing each team once, Pittston Area coach Nicole Tieso said, will make games more meaningful.

"It's gonna make it very competitive," she said. "We're not going to see teams twice so we have one shot at them. It'll be interesting."

District changes

The switch to the fall season means that Abington Heights, Honesdale and Delaware Valley will no longer compete in the league.

WVC teams will have to contend with Lackawanna League schools they don't see during the regular season in the district playoffs.

No longer will WVC be lumped together for one district championship – however, state classification pits 12 of the conference's 16 schools at the Class 2A level.

Wyoming Valley West and Hazleton Area are eligible for Class 3A playoffs, while MMI Prep and Wyoming Seminary are in Class A.

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