WVC Boys Soccer Preview: New System, New Season Starts Tonight
Starting today, every game counts in Wyoming Valley Conference boys soccer.
A fresh classification cycle for the 2018 regular season, which kicks off today with six games, comes with a new power rating system in District 2 soccer. The system, which applies to most team sports in the district, involves calculating and combining a team’s and its opponents’ weighted winning percentages.
The system will determine seeding for the district tournament, and non-WVC games factor into the process, too. In D2 classifications with more than eight teams — Classes A through 3A for boys soccer — only the top eight teams will qualify for the district tournament later this fall, plus any other team with an overall winning percentage of .500 or better.
Put simply, each win is a step toward a district tournament berth, which must now be earned by most D2 boys soccer teams. The race to the top of the standings could be exciting as always, particularly in the WVC.
The WVC’s Division 1 race starts where it’s left off the past two seasons: with Crestwood and Dallas.
Crestwood, led by returning Citizens’ Voice Player of the Year Hubert Herrera, Max Gariano, Sean Murphy and other key returnees, is looking for a repeat league title as well as its third D2 title in four years. Dallas stopped the Comets in the 2016 district final, and familiar faces like Zach Holthaus and Kyle Greenwood will try to get the Mountaineers back on top after falling in 2017’s championship rematch.
In Division 2, league champion Meyers was a surprise state tournament qualifier a year ago but won’t fly under the radar again. The Mohawks hope Tanner Nilon and others keep the offense clicking in their final year as a program, while usual WVC contenders Wyoming Seminary and Lake-Lehman, plus division newcomer Wyoming Area, are among those chasing them for first place.
Before the new season unfolds, get to know some players to watch throughout the conference.
Coach: Kelly Calvert
How the 2017 season ended: 10-5-1, 4th in WVC Division 2; Lost in D2 Class 2A quarterfinals.
2018 outlook: The Bulldogs gain Class 3A status in the new classification cycle, but they lost star Ken Marshman to graduation. He found the net 36 times in 16 league games last season. All-conference selection Blake Girton returns to anchor Berwick’s defense, though, while Misael Hernandez should get a chance to build on his 8-goal, 10-assist season. Calvert said the team is working hard on team defense, and she hopes it’ll translate to quick offensive transitions when it gains possession.
Coach: Gerry Kashuda
How the 2017 season ended: 8-6, 4th in WVC; Lost in D2 first round.
2018 outlook: The Crusaders suit up for one more season with a younger team replacing six starters, including scoring leaders David Cortez and George Oko (19 goals apiece). As they look to learn from last year’s mistakes, Kashuda noted they’ve improved throughout the preseason and “should expect to contend” if they remain focused and work well together. Senior Carlos Contreras and junior Dante Vitali scored a goal last year and will be key forwards/midfielders; so will junior Logan Davidson. Junior Chad Regan and sophomore Jacob Cortez will man the back line in front of junior keeper David Sikora.
Coach: David McFarland
How the 2017 season ended: 13-1, WVC champions via tiebreaker; Won D2 tournament; Lost in PIAA first round.
2018 outlook: Last year’s District 2 Class 3A champions have a chance to send off their senior class with a third district title in four years. It’s certainly a possibility with the return of Citizens’ Voice Player of the Year Hubert Herrera, who scored 23 goals in league play as he led the Comets into the PIAA playoffs. He’s far from the only senior leader, though; Sean Murphy (15 goals), Max Gariano (14 goals) and Michael Ceklosky put Crestwood on the short list of D2 title hopefuls this fall. McFarland said he’s also excited to see how much a few of his freshmen can contribute at the varsity level.
Coach: Chris Scharff
How the 2017 season ended: 13-1, 2nd in WVC via tiebreaker; Lost in D2 championship.
2018 outlook: Like Crestwood, the Mountaineers are in position to return to a D2 final. They don’t have scoring leader Ricky Wooditch (54 points) and key contributor David Chopyak, but Zach Holthaus (15 goals) will lead their attack while Kyle Greenwood returns as one of the WVC’s toughest keepers to beat. Three returning defenders present an equally tough back line in John Betzko, Joey Nardone and Ryan Fisher. Alex Solano and Beaudyn Lewis should figure into the offense. Dallas is never short on players, and its 34-man roster provides plenty of depth yet again. Scharff said the expectation, as always, is to compete for a D2 title.
Coach: Ryan Scarcella
How the 2017 season ended: 2-11-1, T-6th in WVC; Lost in D2/4 subregional semifinals; Lost in D2 championship.
2018 outlook: The Cougars are still assured a postseason slot in Class 4A, where they, Scranton and Delaware Valley bring in Williamsport for a four-team District 2-4 subregional tournament. The subregional will still be seeded via the power rating system, so there’s plenty to play for regardless. Gabriel Fabian is a returning forward who led Hazleton Area in scoring last season. Luke Daveler, Mike Mehalshick, Joseph Rosero and Chris Wolk are midfielders who found the net last year and will try to help the offense click again. Jeremy Aquino is back in goal, while Hunter Nye is a newcomer who could also play an effective role between the posts.
Coach: Josh Olzinski
How the 2017 season ended: 6-10, 6th in WVC Division 2; Lost in D2 Class 2A quarterfinals.
2018 outlook: The Trojans are shaking things up a bit. They bump up to Division 1 and Class 3A this year while doing so with their second coach in program history, Josh Olzinski, a former Nanticoke Area player. Eight returning starters should help keep them competitive against the new set of big-school opponents. They include Adam Eckhart, who commanded the offense with 23 goals last league season. Eight freshmen also give the team something to look forward to; in the meantime, Olzinski said he hopes his “dedicated” team remains positive and improves each day.
Coach: James Bell
How the 2017 season ended: 2-11-1, T-6th in WVC; Lost in D2 quarterfinals.
2018 outlook: Goalkeeper Kyle Mlodzienski is one of six seniors leading the team, and he’ll challenge scorers as the Patriots look to move up in the division. Jake Black is another key returnee on the defensive side. Bell said Josh Noone, coming from Dallas, could likely “be the key to our midfield,” while Nick Lombardo combines tough defense with good vision on offense. Bell coached freshman Adam Musto at the junior high level and noted he could contribute up front, too. He’s just part of a young roster the third-year coach is looking forward to see develop over the coming seasons.
Coach: Mark Stroney
How the 2017 season ended: 8-5-1, 3rd in WVC; Lost in D2 quarterfinals.
2018 outlook: There could still be some tinkering with the Tigers’ lineup in the early stages of the season since they’re tasked with replacing a dozen seniors. It’s one of the larger classes Stroney said he’s had come through the program, but Tunkhannock still has close to 30 players on its roster. A junior- and sophomore-driven team figures to be led again on offense by Eddie Melan, who paced the team with 11 goals in league play a season ago. Alex Paduck will also help the offense click, while Jaxson Montross will play a defensive role on the field. Ethan Munely fills in at goalie and is an athletic player for the position, Stroney said. If team chemistry develops and a few leaders emerge, Tunkhannock could find itself vying for a district postseason appearance.
Coach: Charlie Whited
How the 2017 season ended: 7-6-1, 5th in WVC; Lost in D2 quarterfinals.
2018 outlook: With versatile Jake Gurtis and Nick Bazadona lost to graduation, Nate Naugle returns as the leading scorer of a younger team that could turn to a handful of sophomores to step into big roles this season. Naugle had 10 goals in league play and will be the top scoring threat for the Spartans entering the year. He’s one of three senior captains spread throughout the field; Kevin Grodski will direct traffic in the center midfield, and Chris Stoodley is back at goalie after missing the latter part of last season. Valley West could be a problem for opponents again if its underclassmen fill in well around them.
Coach: Len Witczak
How the 2017 season ended: 4-12, 7th in WVC; Lost in D2 first round.
2018 outlook: Eight players return from last year’s squad, making the Grenadiers’ final team a younger group. They’ll field more freshmen and sophomores (four apiece) combined than juniors (two) and seniors (five) together. Look for seniors like Rafael Amigon and Bryant Espinoza to play big roles in the offense. With leading scorer Charlie Witczak graduated, Espinoza is the leading returning scorer (6 goals), while Amigon tallied four goals and five assists. Classmate Daniel Perez will be a veteran to watch on defense, and fellow senior Joel Garza will suit up at keeper.
Coach: Matt Lukachinsky
How the 2017 season ended: 3-13, 8th in WVC; Lost in D2 first round.
2018 outlook: Though the Hawkeyes load their roster with seven sophomores, don’t let that fool you. Lukachinsky noted that most of them started games as freshmen, which could help spark quicker development as they enter Year 2 on varsity. Among them, Tristan Davies will be a key part of the midfield. Hanover Area’s coach also listed freshman Ashton Schiel as an underclassman stepping into a “vital” role on a team that hopes to stay “competitive and gritty.” With senior Hunter Ravert (6 goals in ’17) taking over the offense, the Hawkeyes have a chance to set up a promising future.
Coach: Mike Davitt
How the 2017 season ended: 9-5-2, 5th in WVC; Lost in D2 first round.
2018 outlook: Even with a younger roster in 2017, the Royals remained competitive throughout the WVC season. They’ll still play with only one senior this year, Lucas Barnak, along with five juniors and 14 sophomores. But an extra year of experience for the rest of the team could mean another solid year. Barnak will keep the team’s attack sharp after 13 goals and 11 assists in ‘17, and Davitt said the vet is also ready to help improve his younger teammates’ games. Behind him, sophomore Lance McGrane is shaping up to be one of the WVC’s most promising keepers. Junior midfielder Jimmy Dunleavy and sophomore defender Connor Kane are among others to keep an eye on.
Coach: Mike Kostrobala
How the 2017 season ended: 11-4-1, 3rd in WVC; Lost in D2 first round.
2018 outlook: With 11 seniors and a half-dozen juniors, the Black Knights aren’t short on experience. All of their expected starters have played starting roles before, Kostrobala pointed out. Mix in a close shot at a league title and an early exit to districts in ’17, and this group will likely be determined to avoid mistakes and end this year on a higher note. Senior Justin Timonte and Max Paczewski — who led the team in goals and assists as a freshman — return to the midfield, while Nate Salus is a junior who’ll make plays on the defensive end. Junior Kyle Sincavage added 13 goals last season while senior Abe Dabsheh had 12.
Coach: Jack Nolan
How the 2017 season ended: 14-2, WVC champions; Lost in D2 championship; Lost in PIAA first round.
2018 outlook: The Mohawks had one final year with Johnny Torres last year, and as he scored 22 goals in league play, they found a new scoring threat in then-freshman Tanner Nilon, who had 23 goals. Senior midfielder Michael Krasnavage, senior defender Anthony Macko and junior goalie Joel Vazquez join him as key returnees looking to build on one of the program’s best seasons, which included a league title and a trip to states. Losing six starters will make that a tough task, but there are certainly enough pieces remaining to support another promising season. Though Nolan noted a healthy roster is needed with just 20 players, eight seniors and four juniors can go a long way in trying to replicate last year’s success.
Coach: Jeremy Pease
How the 2017 season ended: 0-16, 9th in WVC; Lost in D2 quarterfinals.
2018 outlook: First-year coach Pease called his roster a “great group of hungry players.” Senior captains and defenders Libby Eckhart and Alex Sessock are two of eight 12th-graders on MMI’s coed team. At the front of the attack, classmate Ian Dewar found the net 15 times last season, and juniors Carter Frask and Grant Warren have a chance to help the Preppers’ scoring chances. Seniors Nick Carrato, Keefer Hoover and Kaity McGeehan along with juniors Josiah Pacchioli and Hugh Soltau will form a veteran midfield. Even with the returning experience, Pease said there will be competition for starting spots throughout the fall.
Coach: Rick Branco
How the 2017 season ended: 1-13, 8th in WVC Division 1; Lost in D2 Class 3A first round.
2018 outlook: As Branco enters his second year with the Warriors, he brings back nine starters. As a potential bonus, Wyoming Area is now in the Class 2A ranks and will get to challenge the smaller schools in the conference after taking on the likes of Crestwood, Dallas and others twice a season. Goalkeeper Adam Wisnewski returns for his sophomore year, and seniors Damien Bronsburg, a captain, and Mike Remley will hold down the defense in front of him. Fellow captains Brett Kostik, Luke Coolbaugh and Gavin Lahart are among key players on the offensive end. Coolbaugh was one of the team’s top scorers last season and could have a bigger season in store against new competition.
Coach: Aaron Littzi
How the 2017 season ended: 13-3, 2nd in WVC; Lost in D2 semifinals.
2018 outlook: Littzi, a former head coach at Valley West as well as an assistant at Misericordia and Marywood, takes over for Charles Carrick as head coach after a year of assisting him. His Blue Knights are a familiar bunch that feature seven returning starters, including Edge Miller, one of the division’s top scoring threats after a 26-goal season. Luke Johns (12 goals) and Reggie Grayek (10 goals) also give the offense plenty of punch, while Ryan Anderson returns as goalkeeper. Anderson and Miller are among 15 seniors who have a solid chance to put Sem back on top of the league before their varsity careers come to a close.