For the last four years, the District 2 boys soccer tournaments were open to all teams.
What that did was give every squad a chance to pull an upset and did not cause much controversy by leaving any warranted teams out of the postseason loop.
This year, the playoff format will look a little different as most team sports in the district have transferred to a power points system that was similarly only used for football, and for individual sports such as wrestling. With that system now in place, only the top eight teams in each classification (if a classification has at least eight teams) will qualify for the district tournament.
Seeding will be based on the total points calculated. Points are earned by wins and matches, and victories, against WVC and non-conference opponents’ winning percentages and classifications.
In the past, out-of-conference games didn’t factor into seeding, but now every match will count for something.
Every two years, the PIAA changes school’s classifications if there is a change in a school’s enrollment. In most sports, that also changes the divisional alignment.
Three teams have changed divisions and classes. Berwick and Nanticoke bump up from Division 2 and Class 2A to Division 1 and Class 3A. Those teams will be affected by a harder strength of schedule, which could also benefit them in the postseason.
Wyoming Area is the lone squad team that moved down in the division and classification. The Warriors, who were youthful a year ago in Division 1 and Class 3A, should benefit from playing tough competition last year as the team is now more experienced and in playing smaller schools.
Around Division 1
Crestwood and Dallas, which squared off four times last year, including twice in the postseason for the division and district championships, should once again be the cream of the crop this season. Hubert Herrera led the Comets last season and returns for another go-around, while Sean Murphy and Max Gariano combined for 29 goals a year ago. With that type of firepower returning, the Comets should be in a similar position as last season.
“Division is Crestwood, Crestwood and more Crestwood,” Dallas coach Chris Scharff said when asked about the Division 1 contenders. “Crestwood has a lot of quality payers back and they were in the district final three straight years. And a dark horse is Valley West. I know Valley West will be kind of a sleeper.”
Around Division 2
A year ago, Meyers played in its first-ever state game after claiming runner-up in the district tournament. An inspired bunch playing its final season will look to get back to that glory.
But it won’t be easy because Lake-Lehman returns nine starters, Wyoming Area got much-needed experience playing in Division 1 and Class 3A last year, and Wyoming Seminary is always very competitive.
“I think our division will be very competitive this year,” Meyers coach Jack Nolan said. “As always, Wyoming Seminary is probably the favorite with Lake-Lehman being very strong with nine returning starters. We hope to be in the mix for the division.”
A familiar coach to Wyoming Valley Conference followers and some fresh faces are in new places this season.
One of the notable coaching change is at Nanticoke where the school’s legendary coach Mark Matusek hung up the whistle after being the only mentor the program has ever had in nearly three decades. Filling the big shoes is former four-year starter for the Trojans Josh Olzinski.
“I had the privilege of learning the ins and outs from him and realized I had big shoes to fill after taking over the program that he developed and grew since the beginning of the Nanticoke boys soccer program,” Olzinski said.
Another big change came in Division 2 where former Wyoming Valley West coach Aaron Littzi has replaced Rev. Charles Carrick. Carrick led the Blue Knights to 11 district appearances in all 11 years he coached, won two district titles and made three appearances in the state tournament. All three state appearances came in the last four years.
Littzi is not a newcomer by any means.
He has been around the local soccer scene for more than the last decade. He was an assistant at Misericordia, Marywood and Wyoming Seminary following a three-year stint as coach of the Spartans where he led the team to two district titles and three appearance in the district title game.
“I am very excited to be back coaching again and I am honored to take over an established Wyoming Seminary program,” Littzi said. “The previous coach, Charlie Carrick, did an excellent job and I will do my best to build on his success.”
The other newcomer to the sideline this season is at MMI where Jeremy Pease takes over the program from Todd Ronco, who lasted just one season.
Entering their eleventh season in the WVC, the Preppers have struggled mightily in that span not posting more than three wins in any season and haven’t had a conference win since October of 2015.
But with the new point system in tact and the Preppers being the only Class A team in the WVC they will earn more points for playing higher classified teams, and Pease is optimistic.
“I think this team is going to surprise some people,” he said. “We’ve not had a lot of team success in the recent past, but we have a great group of hungry players this season led by captains Libby Eckhart and Alex Sessock, both seniors.”
WVC BOYS SOCCER CAPSULES
Coach: Kelly Calvert, 3rd season
Home Field: Crispin Field and Salem Soccer Field, Berwick
2017 record: 10-5-1 (Division 2)
Key players lost: Kenneth Marshman, Fernel Guereva, Mitchell Thelemaque
Key players returning: Blake Girton, Sr., MF; Luis Garcia, Sr., GK; Misael Hernandez, Sr., F
Outlook: The Bulldogs were a tough out last year in Division 2. Moving up this year will certainly be a tougher task, but Calvert said her team is excited for the season.
“It has been exciting to observe players stepping up into leadership roles and encouraging their teammates to do the same,” Calvert said. “The players have been working hard at developing their defensive skills. Therefore, the team is looking to continue their progress by acquiring quick offensive transitions after they win the ball.”
Coach: Gerry Kashuda, 2nd season
Home Field: The Bog, Miners Mills
2017 record: 8-6
Key players lost: Josh Anstett, Cameron Corcoran, David Cortez, Alex Kresge, Jeff Mondulick, George Oko
Key players returning: Logan Davison, Jr., F/MF; Carlos Contreras, Sr., F/MF; Jacob Cortez, So., D; Christian Kosik, Sr., D; Chad Regan, Jr., D; David Sikora, Jr., GK; Dante Vitali, Jr., F/MF
Outlook: Being ousted early in the district playoffs last year and losing six starters to graduation, including two of the top scorers in the conference could mean trouble for the Crusaders this season in a tough division. But part of the reason the division is always so tough is because of the Crusaders, so don’t count them out by any means.
“We have continued to improve both offensively and defensively with every preseason tournament,” Kashuda said. “If we stay focused and continue to work well as a team, we should expect to contend.”
Coach: David McFarland, 2nd season
Home Field: Crestwood High School
2017 record: 13-1 (Division 1 champion and District 2 champion)
Key players lost: Thomas Roberts, Josh Rusinko, Anthony Kovalchik, Aidan Zabiegalski
Key players returning: Max Gariano, Sr., MF; Hubert Hererra, Sr., F; Michael Ceklosky, Sr., D; Sean Murphy, Sr., F
Outlook: The Comets should be a force once again in the division and district. They have a budding program that showed benefits last year.
“Following our successful 2017 season, we hope to repeat the same performance but we are well aware of the strong competition this year,” McFarland said. “I look forward to see in an official game the three or four freshmen who are joining our team this season. They are excited to discover the high school level this season and I believe they will help the team throughout this season.”
Coach: Chris Scharff, 21st season
Home Field: Dallas High School
2017 record: 13-1 (District 2 runner-up)
Key players lost: Ricky Wooditch, David Chopyak, Nate Maransky, Zach Kalna, Josh Kalna, Andrew Francis
Key players returning: Kyle Greenwood, GK; John Betzko, D; Joey Nardone, D; Ryan Fisher, D; Alex Solano, MF/F; Beaudyn Lewis, MF/F; Zach Holthaus, MF, F
Outlook: “We lost a lot of good players from the last two years but fortunately at Dallas we have good players coming back at Dallas,” Scharff said. “We’re looking forward to hopefully making a run at a district title as our goal.”
Hazleton Area (Class 4A)
Coach: Ryan Scarcella, 3rd season
Home Field: Maple Manor Field (former Bishop Hafey football field)
2017 record: 2-11-1 (District 2 runner-up)
Key players lost: Jonathan Pozniak
Key players returning: Gabe Fabian, MF; Luke Daveler, MF; Mike Mehalshick, MF; Joseph Rosero, MF; Chris Wolk, MF; Jeremy Aquino, GK
Outlook: The Cougars finished the regular season last year with a not-so-stellar mark, but being one of a few Class 4A boys soccer teams in the district they managed to reach the district title game. Expect a similar outcome this season, and with some experience returning, a better record should be obtained.
Nanticoke Area (3A)
Coach: Josh Olzinski, first season
Home Field: Greater Nanticoke Area High School football field
2017 record: 6-10 (Division 2)
Key players lost: Evan Stecco, Justin Ostopick
Key players returning: Garrett Dzugan, Sr., D/MF; William Kanjorski, Sr., MF; Christian Mavus, Sr., D; Adam Eckhart, Jr., F; Isaiah Johnson, Jr., GK
Outlook: Olzinski’s first season will be tough just because the Trojans are jumping up to Division 1 and Class 3A. But they return eight starters from last year’s team.
“The team already has lots of chemistry playing together,” Olzinski said. “They are great kids who present themselves as a team on and off the field. Our main goal is to remain positive throughout the entire season, work hard, and improve each and every day.”
Pittston Area (3A)
Coach: James Bell, 3rd season
Home Field: Pittston Primary Center, Rock Street, Hughestown
2017 record: 2-11-1
Key players lost: Shane Syms, Mike MiKitish, Dominic Stella, Nick Barbieri, Artie Menichini, Justin Talipan, Kyle Mildjeski, Ryan Lombardo
Key players returning: Kyle Mlodzienski, Sr., GK; Brian Rowan, Jr., MF; David Butler, Jr., MF; Josh Gostinucci, So., D
Outlook: The Patriots upset Coughlin in the first round of last year’s District 2 Tournament. Some of the players from that team are gone, but Mlodzienski is a four-year starter in goal having made more than 200 saves a year ago, while Rowan and Butler are now three-year starters. There is quite a bit experience with those three that can go a long way in a tough division.
Coach: Mark Stroney, 8th season (25th overall)
Home Field: Tewksbury Field, Digger Drive, Tunkhannock
2017 record: 8-5-1
Key players lost: Sawyer Aitken, Paul DeMarco, Matt Goodwin, Sean Harder, Billy Prebola
Key players returning: Eddie Melan, Sr., MF; Alex Paduck, Sr., MF; Zach Ross, Sr.; Ethan Munley, Jr. GK;
Outlook: The Tigers lost 12 seniors to graduation and could be looking at a rebuilding season for the first time in several years. That being said, there’s still 17 returners, including five seniors. Stroney’s teams are always one of the more prepared in the entire district. The loss of the seniors from last year will sting, but expect the Tigers to compete in every game.
Wyoming Valley West (3A)
Coach: Charlie Whited, 9th season
Home Field: Spartan Stadium
2017 record: 7-6-1
Key players lost: Jake Gurtis, Nick Bazadona, Mitch Forgash, Josh Payne
Key players returning: Kevin Grodzki, Sr., D; Nate Naugle, Sr., striker; Chris Stoodley, Sr., GK; Scott Nilson, Jr., MF; Tyler Gillispie, Jr., D; Ryan Stevens, So., D/MF; Landon Serbin, So., MF
Outlook: Even though the Spartans lost some power from last year’s team, they’re expected to be at or near the top of the division this season with experienced players returning and talented players upcoming.
“The boys are working hard in practice and there is good leadership in the senior captains,” Whited said. “I’m hoping this translates to wins. We are very inexperienced. The players have not played enough varsity matches.”
Coach: Len Witczak, 9th season
Home Field: Coal Street Park, Wilkes-Barre
2017 record: 4-12
Key players lost: Charles Witczak
Key players returning: Rafael Amigon, Sr..; Bryant Espinoza, Sr..; Daniel Perez, Sr., D; Joel Garza, GK
Outlook: A young team playing its final season needs the veterans mentioned above to step up to improve on last year’s showing.
Hanover Area (2A)
Coach: Matt Lukachinsky, 5th season
Home Field: Hanover Area High School
2017 record: 3-13
Key players lost: Darren Martinez, Modou Janneh
Key players returning: Ashton Schiel, Fr., MF/F; Tristan Davies, So., M; Zach Evans, Jr., GK; Hunter Ravert, Sr., F
Outlook: Picking up just three wins last season was a start for the group as freshmen. With many of those players returning, the Hawkeyes will be looking to improve on last year’s totals.
“We have a young core of sophomores who started many games as freshmen last year,” Lukachinsky said. “If we demand the best out of one another and establish a winning culture we can find success. I think it comes down to us finding consistency and hunger to win games.”
Holy Redeemer (2A)
Coach: Mike Davitt, 3rd season
Home Field: Luzerne County Complex, Forty Fort
2017 record: 9-5-2
Key players lost: Eric Schramm, Devin Dougherty
Key players returning: Lucas Barnak, Sr., MF; Lance McGrane, So., GK; Jimmy Dunleavy, Jr. D; Connor Kane, So., MF
Outlook: This could be a weird season for the Royals. They lost some big-time players from last year’s team and could be youthful. But that has mattered much in previous seasons.
“We are a very young team with 15 Sophomores,” Davitt said. “Our goals are to get better each and very practice and game.”
Coach: Mike Kostrobala, 13th season
Home Field: Lake-Lehman High School
2017 record: 11-4-1
Key players lost: Chris Ash, Henry Selingo,
Key players returning: Justin Timonte, Sr., MF; Abe Dabsheh, Sr., MF; Max Pazewski, So., MF; NateSalus, Jr. D; Kyle Sincavage, Jr., F
Outlook: Returning a nice core of nine starters from last year’s team that had a solid record, the Black Knights should be in position to contend for the division and district crowns this season in what could be very balanced at and near the top of the standings.
“I think our division should be fairly balanced so there are several teams that should compete for the division title,” Kostrobala said. “The experience we return should help us in some of those matches.”
Meyers (Class 2A)
Coach: Jack Nolan, 13th season
Home Field: Gibby Field, Wilkes-Barre or Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium
2017 record: 14-2 (Division 2 champion, District 2 runner-up)
Key players lost: Matt Manfre, Matt Manganiello, Mellt Molina, Kyle Ostrowski, Tyler Schneikart, Sam Germain, Johnny Torres
Key players returning: Michael Krasnavage, Sr. CM; Tanner Nilon, So., F/Striker; Joel Vazquez, Jr., GK; Ryan Casey, Sr., F; Anthony Macko, Sr., D; David Kasper, Sr., D
Outlook: Nolan thinks his squad in a bit of a rebuild mode after losing six starters to graduation. However, those losses should be made up on defense. After qualifying for states for the first time last year, that might be a tall task again this year, but if the team starts peaking at the right time, that could be in store once again.
“ I’m fortunate in the fact we have Krasnavage, Nilon, and Vazquez who I believe are all among the best in our league at their positions,” Nolan said. “Our numbers are a little down this year with only 20 on the roster so staying injury free will be key to our success.”
MMI Prep (Class A)
Coach: Jeremy Pease, first season
Home Field: MMI Athletic Complex
2017 record: 0-16
Key players lost: David Caldwell
Key players returning: Libby Eckhart, Sr., D; Alex Sessock, Sr., D; Jimmy Kelly, So., GK; Greg Leonard, So., D; Ben Putnam,Jr., D; Kai Mele, Jr., D; Keefer Hoover,Sr., MF; Nick Carrato, Sr., MF; Kaity McGeehan,Sr., MF; Hugh Soltau, Jr., MF; Josiah Pacchioli, Jr., MF
Outlook: Last year was tough for the Preppers. Heck, it’s always tough for the team to compete in the division and the district. But a new coach brings a new enthusiasm and confidence.
“I think this team is going to surprise some people. We’ve not had a lot of team success in the recent past, but we have a great group of hungry players this season led by Captains Libby Eckhart and Alex Sessock,” Peese said. “I expect our team to get better from week to week as they gel into a true soccer team.”
Wyoming Area (2A)
Coach: Rick Branco, 2nd season
Home Field: Tenth Street Elementary School, Wyoming
2017 record: 1-13 (Division 1)
Key players lost: Brandon Williams, Casey Orlando, Anthony DeAngelo, Mason Eagon,
Key players returning: Gavin Lahart, Jr. F; Nick Belles, Jr., F; Damien Bronsburg, Sr., MF; Luke Coolbaugh, Jr., MF/D; Stanley Moderski, Jr., MF; Mike Remley, Sr., MF; Matt Lewis, So. FB; Adam Wisniewski, So., GK; Eddie Galushka, Sr., D; Brett Kostik, Sr., MF; Josh Cumbo, Jr., F
Outlook: Being in Division 1 last year, the Warriors got a lot of experience against some of the tougher teams in the conference and district. This year, with a year under their belts and moving down in the division and classification, the team should be primed to compete near the top of the division.
“Heading into my second year as head coach, I am feeling very good about my team this year. Last year, we were a young team competing in a very strong conference and will be returning nine starters that will be bringing that experience with them,” Branco said. “This season, we’ll be facing strong competition in 2A, but I feel that my group this year has the potential to be contenders in the conference.”
Wyoming Seminary (Class 2A)
Coach: Aaron Littzi, first season
Home Field: Nesbitt Stadium, Kingston
2017 record: 13-3
Key Players lost: Matt Parsons
Key players returning: Edge Miller, Sr., MF; Will Ziegler, Sr., D; Ryan Anderson, Sr., GK; Reggie Grayek, Jr., M; Jared Weisenberger, Jr., M; Luke Johns, So., F
Outlook: Over the last few years, the Blue Knights have regained their position as one of the feared teams in the division and district. A new coach won’t hamper that all because he brings plenty of head coaching experience after being at Wyoming Valley West previously.
“We have seven returning starters from last season and we are striving to be highly competitive again this year,” Littzi said.
Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports