HS SOCCER: Three Area Teams Open State Tourney Tonigh
Montrose girls soccer coach Jenton Esworthy makes no bones about it.
If his Lady Meteors play within the system that has led them to a 17-1 record, he is confident his team will be playing Saturday in the PIAA Class 1A quarterfinals.
But first is today’s 6 p.m. opening-round game at Dunmore High School against a Fairfield team that is just two years removed from its own state championship.
“They’re solid,” Esworthy said. “To be honest with you, they’re beatable. Right now I believe if we stick with our system and understand the system, which we’ve been playing to the whole year, we’ll be just fine.”
Much of that system revolves around North Carolina-Greensboro recruit Maddy Gilhool, who is the state’s single-season goal scoring leader, according to the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association’s website.
Gilhool has 80 goals this season, a huge part of an attack that scored 176 times, which ranks second in state history, according to the PSCA.
“It’s what I said in our banquet (Sunday),” Esworthy said. “We have people getting Maddy the ball in spaces, a perfectly weighted ball, or the correct pass to lead her into the right area. We truly have a team effort finding her.”
Great foot speed is almost as important to Gilhool as her striking ability. Fairfield hopes it can counter that with its own speedy defender, Millie Heinbaugh, a state qualifier in the 200-meter dash.
“They meet our style because they play a high line,” Esworthy said. “And I will let Maddy run with anybody in the state from that space.”
Class 1A boys
The other Lackawanna League team to win a District 2 title will make the long journey to the Williamsport Area as Gregory the Great meets Millville at Balls Mills Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.
It’s just second trip to states for the Elmhurst Twp. boarding school.
“It’s more than just another game,” coach Garret van Beek said. “Our guys are excited. The guys are excited to showcase their hard work at the next level, on the next stage.
“We are ready for the challenge. Regardless of when our season ends, we want to represent ourselves, our school and our program well.”
While Millville may have the experience edge with three straight playoff appearances, van Beek wants his players to focus on themselves.
“At this stage, everyone has to be good to make it this far,” van Beek said. “We talk about things that are in our control, and what’s out of our control. One thing we can control is what we do.
“We have three assistant coaches who have done the lion’s share of the work coaching, implementing new systems and strategies, and helping players bring out certain skills better.
“We showcased that against Forest City. We had a good strategy.”
Class 3A girls
Scranton Prep’s girls are also on the road for their Class 3A opener, facing Athens at Towanda High School at 6 p.m.
Athens scored twice in a four-minute span in the final 10 minutes to reach the state tournament, while the Classics are looking to bounce back from the loss to Dallas in the District 2 final.
“I think you can always learn about yourself when you lose and with Dallas, playing a team with that much speed, it’s going to help us for our next game,” Scranton Prep coach Doug Knieser said.
In Athens, the Classics will meet a team that somewhat mirrors Wallenpaupack, a rival the Classics beat three times, including the district semifinals.
Like Wallenpaupack’s Rachael Tirjan, Athens’ Rachel Hutchinson, a St. Bonaventure recruit, has more than 100 career goals.
“They have one girl who is their main scoring threat and a couple other girls do a nice job being secondary options,” Knieser said. “I think the game is going to be pretty even. We need to manage the game, environment and not let it get too big for them.
“If we go out and play a good game, I like our chances, but I expect it to be close and hard fought.”
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CLASS 1A GIRLS
Fairfield (20-2) vs. Montrose (17-1)
• When: Tonight, 6
• Where: Dunmore High School
• At stake: The winner advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals to face the winner of 4-1 Southern Columbia and 11-1 Moravian Academy.
• How they got here: Fairfield lost in overtime to Camp Hill, 1-0, in the District 3 title game. Montrose beat Mountain View, 6-0, in the District 2 final.
• Noteworthy: Montrose’s Brianna Spence had 17 goals and 16 assists in the regular season. Gabby Davis added 14 goals and 11 assists, and freshman Cici Adams had 13 goals. Goalkeeper Katie Puterbaugh had 11 solo shutouts and a hand in three others.
CLASS 3A GIRLS
Scranton Prep (15-3) vs. Athens (15-3)
• When: Tonight, 6
• Where: Towanda High School
• At stake: The winner advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals to face the winner of 1-1 Villa Joseph Marie and 3-3 Lower Dauphin.
• How they got here: Scranton Prep fell in the District 2 final, 4-1, to Dallas. Athens edged Mifflinburg, 2-1, in the District 4 title game.
Noteworthy: Scranton Prep’s Catie Collins scored five goals in the District 2 playoffs and has nine in her last five games. The Classics are holding their breath waiting to find out if University of Pittsburgh recruit Ione Fetsko, who scored 17 goals in league play, will be medically cleared to play in tonight’s game. She underwent an emergency appendectomy last week and missed the District 2 championship game.
CLASS 1A BOYS
Gregory the Great (13-3-1) vs. Millville (18-2)
• When: Tonight, 7
• Where: Balls Mills Soccer Complex, Hepburnville
• At stake: The winner advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals to face the winner of 11-1 Moravian Academy and 3-2 York Catholic.
• How they got there: Gregory the Great defeated Forest City, 3-2, in the District 2 championship match. The Quakers whipped Sullivan County, 6-1, in the District 4 final.
• Noteworthy: This will be the second trip to the state tournament for Gregory the Great, which was a District 2 champion in 2007 as St. Gregory’s Academy. Anthony Audino and Eli Ziglinski have 15 goals apiece, and Ziglinski as 10 assists. Declan O’Reilly has 14 goals.