If it seems like the Wyoming Valley Conference girls soccer season just ended, that's because it did. It was just three months ago that the Wyoming Area and Pittston Area soccer teams lost playoff games putting an end not only to their seasons, but to girls spring soccer in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
This school year, as mandated by the PIAA, girls soccer is a fall sport state-wide.
The alignment of the conference has been radically altered, too. Last year there were four divisions and PA, D-3, and WA, D-4, were both division champions. Now there is one big 17-team league. PA and WA play each of the other teams once giving them 16-game schedules. They play each other on October 1 under the lights at Jake Sobeski Stadium.
PA coach Nicole Tieso welcomes the switch to fall. "We did lose some players with the move to fall, but we also gained some players. Fortunately for us, our numbers were not impacted as much as they were for some teams. The move to the fall is actually a nice change that I feel will improve the overall quality of play."
Another advantage is better weather
"The girls' soccer teams are no longer stuck in a gym trying to work on skills and game strategy. It was really nice to be able to condition outside and get on the field the first day of practice. Usually we would be lucky to get on the field the week before our first game due to the weather. So overall, the move to the fall did have some downfalls, but thankfully, it is not having a large negative impact on us."
WA coach Mike Sokolas said it move hasn't impacted his team a lot, either. "We lost Abby Schwerdtman a starter (field hockey) and we lost three others who didn't play much. We gained Nicole Cumbo from softball."
Both teams open on the road Friday, PA at Lake Lehman and WA at Hanover.
Key returning players from last season's 11-4 team are senior goal keeper, Jordan Cumbo; sophomore forward Allie Barber, who had a break out season as a goal-scorer last season; sophomore defenders Katelyn Pugliese and Megan Karuzie and sophomore midfielders Madison Cardinal and Carly Filipski.
While the Lady Patriots have as much returning varsity-experienced players as they've had in years, they are still a young team, with players who will have to adjust and mesh in new roles.
As to an overall outlook, Tieso said the new schedule will be a challenge. "We will be looking to build off of the season that we had last year. We are returning strong players on offense and defense. This season we will be looking to both the upperclassmen and the underclassmen to step into leadership roles since we will be a very young team overall.
"All of the players have been working hard during the preseason, and they have been working very well together. This season will be very competitive. All of the teams in the WVC will be playing each other once. If we can continue to work well as a team and mesh on and off the field, we should be competitive in all of our games and make it back to the district playoffs, which is ultimately our team goal for the season."
With eight starters returning Wyoming Area, 11-3-1, last season is an experienced team looking to get even better, even if that doesn't mean, given the new conference set up, a better record.
"We're looking to compete at a higher level than we did last season," coach Mike Sokolas said. "We had a good season last year, but we believe we have the talent and depth to be even better. We've improved our depth on defense, solidified our midfield, and should have a pretty good offense. We've added some key pieces this season like Alee Pettit, Claudia Waltz and Sara Flannelly and we return 8 full-time starters and a few part-time starters."
Key players are forwards Myiah Custer, Valerie Bott and Jenn Bone; mids Lizz Jones, Claudia Waltz, Sara Flannelly, Alee Pettit, defenders Sam Acacio and Amanda Gallagher, and goalie Jordan Chiavacci, who, Sokolas is improved.
"This will be second full season in goal, she has really developed nicely and she showed that in the Patriot Cup. Myiah Custer is set to have what could be a breakout year at forward, and Alee Pettit has the potential to be a 1st team all-star in the backfield in her freshman year.
"The girls are doing their job, they're working hard and really grasping my system. We've got a lot of moving parts, it becomes my job to make sure they're put together properly. My new staff this season has been great with helping me put the puzzle together.
The staff this season includes Carlos Fernandes (former Jr. High WA Coach), Sam Fuller (former WA Boys Varsity Coach), and Michelle Mezick ( a former player at Misericordia).
Wyoming Area Senior Night is October 1 vs. Pittston Area at Jake Sobeski Stadium. Senior Night Ceremonies are at 6:30 p.m. and the game starts at 7.
Aug. 31 at Hanover
Sept. 4 at Nanticoke
Sept. 6 at GAR
Sept. 8 vs. Wyoming Sem
Sept. 10 vs. Holy Redeemer
Sept 13 vs. Hazleton
Sept 17 vs. Berwick
Sept 19 vs. Coughlin
Sept. 25 at Meyers
Sept 28 vs. Crestwood
Oct 1 vs. PA (7 p.m.)
Oct. 4 vs. Lake Lehman
Oct 6 at Valley West
Oct. 8 at Dallas
Oct 12 at MMI
Oct 17 at Tunkhannock
Aug 31 PA at Lake Lehman
Sept. 4 vs. Holy Redeemer
Sept. 6 PA at Wyoming Sem
Sept. 8 PA at Dallas
Sept. 10 vs. MMI
Sept 13 vs. Hanover
Sept. 15 at Meyers
Sept 17 vs. Crestwood
Sept 19 vs. Berwick
Sept 24 at Coughlin
Sept 28 at Tunkhannock
Oct. 1 at WA
Oct 5 vs. Hazleton
Oct 9 at GAR
Oct. 12 vs. Nanticoke
Oct. 15 vs. Valley West