The Wyoming Valley Conference's grand one-for-all girls soccer experiment created a scoring barrage. Big fish picked on the little fish. Double-digit victories became commonplace. Scoring statistics flew out the window.
All of the high-octane scoring offenses came to halt against a punishing Berwick defense.
At the forefront of the Berwick defense stood Kelly Sheptock, though she did anything but stand around her senior season. For her cutthroat defensive prowess and her ability to be (seemingly) everywhere on the field at once, Sheptock was named The Times Leader Player of the Year in girls soccer.
I was definitely surprised and honored when my coach (Paul DiPippa) told me about the award, she said. I'm a defender, and usually we don't get a lot of recognition because we don't have the empirical statistics that offensive players have.
While Sheptock's fall 2012 success isn't measured in goals and assists – she had six and three, respectively – it can be quantified with team success. The Dawgs let up three goals in 15 regular season games – an unworldly 0.20 goals-against average. Berwick did not trail for 17 games, until the District 2 Class 2A championship game.
We were very fluid, Sheptock said. Nicole Taylor, Bridget Orlando and I get along really well in the backfield. We went game-by-game. We focused on the game and not too far ahead.
Sheptock joins a senior class that finished with two conference championships, two district championships and three PIAA state tournament trips. Seniors Sheptock, Orlando and Caty Davenport – all three- or four-time all-WVC players – began playing together 10 years ago under the direction of Jim Paugh's travel team in Danville.
One thing we wanted was to leave the program better than we found it, Sheptock said.
This spring, Sheptock received surgery for chronic extertial composition syndrome, a neuromuscular condition that causes swelling of the calves, and was forced to sit out the majority of last season. She rebounded, led the Bulldogs to a district championship, and came back to the fall season with unprecedented performance.
I couldn't walk, she said. It was hard to be on the sidelines and not be able to play. It taught me a lot of lessons and how to respond.
Berwick's concrete defense crumbled in an unfathomable 6-1 loss to Scranton Prep in the district championship. Three days later, the Bulldogs regained their balance and held Trinity (Camp Hill), one of the top-scoring teams in the state, scoreless for 78 minutes. The Shamrocks scored two in the final three minutes to give Berwick its third straight first-round exit by a District 3 team.
We wanted Berwick to be known for its defense, and the Scranton Prep game was a strike in our back, Sheptock said. A lot of people in the state didn't think anything of us – just that we were another D2 team without any talent. So I'm happy for how we performed at states.
Sheptock, daughter of Wilkes head football coach Frank Sheptock, will attend Syracuse University next year.
Samantha Acacio, Wyoming Area
Autumn Atkinson, Crestwood
Allie Cachel, Crestwood
Olivia Conklin, Berwick
Nora Fazzi, Coughlin
Brianna Floryshak, Berwick
Wendy Greenwood, Dallas
Paige Heckman, WVW
Lidia Lawson, Redeemer
Megan Karuzie, Pittston Area
Samantha Mayers, Pittston Area
Madison Mimnaugh, Pittston Area
Nina Paolini, Redeemer
Katie Proulx, Tunkhannock
Allison Rinehimer, Berwick
Olivia Seely, Berwick
Ashley Strazdus, Dallas
Brittany Sugalski, Nanticoke
Emma Sukowaski, Coughlin
Ally Yuscavage, Seminary