After finishing one spot out of the playoffs at third (behind Honesdale and North Pocono) in a tough Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2A, renamed Division 3 for this season, the Pittston Area Lady Patriots will look to bounce back and push for a playoff berth.
"Our goal is to improve on our .500 record from last year," said Coach Nicole Tieso.
The Lady Patriots are still very young but the underclassmen have varsity experience from 2011.
PA is returning experience on offense and defense as seniors Mallory Yozwiak and Sarah Kosik will anchor the defense in front of junior goal keeper Jordan Cumbo, who recorded 101 saves last year.
Senior Danielle Fereck and junior Liz Mikitish will look to control the ball in the midfield and distribute the ball to super sophomore Sara Ruby who will be providing the goals for the Lady Patriots.
Together, Ruby and Mikitish combined for 20 goals and six assists last season – Ruby 11goals 3 assists and Mikitish 9 goals 3assists – and the two, being a year more experienced, should terrorize defenses.
The loss of Kaylene Sutkowski and Sara Kielbasa will hurt the Lady Patriots but they have so much depth that they should be able to combine to fill the holes left by the two.
"We have a number of players who could play a few different positions," said Tieso. "So, we will be able to adjust and rotate depending on what we need for a particular game."
With not enough upperclassmen to field a team, it will be the underclassmen – 12 sophomores and six freshmen – who will be forced to step in and contribute heavily. PA boasts a roster that has five seniors Yozwiak, Kosik, Fereck, Nicolette Bradshaw and Emily Bogdan and only four juniors.
The Lady Patriots need solid performances from their underclassmen as well as smart play and strong senior leadership if they want to improve on last season and get into the playoffs.
They Lady Patriots open at Hanover on Tuesday, March 27.
The Lady Warriors missed out on the playoffs last year, finishing third in Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2B, renamed Division 4 this season, behind Meyers and Tunkhannock.
They will look to improve on their 6-6-1 mark and make a push for the division title but lost one of the top players in the division in Katie Scalzo to graduation.
However, the Lady Warriors will look to fill the hole left by Scalzo and the rest of last year's seniors with a lot of depth and experience as they have 15 juniors and six seniors returning.
One of those returnees is junior Valerie Bott. She will look to return in a big way for WA after she missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Bott was stellar in her freshman season, finding the back of the net 17 times.
The Lady Warriors also return two of their top three scorers in senior forward Jenna Skirnak and sophomore midfielder Sam Acacio. The two combined for 11 goals but will look to pair with Jenn Bone – who dished out a team leading six assists last season – and Bott to form an exciting offense.
Another thing to watch for is how junior Jordan Chiavacci and sophomore Felicia Turner handle taking over in the net for the graduated Kate Vitale. They will need to play up to the level of Vitale if WA is going to improve on their .500 mark from last year.
"We have a few holes in key positions from our seniors last season," said first year head coach Mike Sokolas. "But that depth and experience ultimately should balance it out."
Habibah Njijau, Nina Meighan, Liz Jones, Josie Matosky, Amanda Gallagher, Shannon Ritts and Abby Schwerdtman should also all contribute heavily to the success of the Lady Warriors this season.
"We have a lot of talent returning from last season, coupled with some new talent, it will surely create an interesting season," said Sokolas. "If we stay healthy and make the necessary adjustments as the season goes on we should compete for a division title."
Mike Sokolas is no stranger to Wyoming Area soccer. The 20 year old Coughlin graduate and Plains Township resident was the assistant coach for the WA junior high team last season. Under him, the team went 12-2-2. While at Coughlin, Sokolas played midfield and defense until his sophomore season when he was forced to retire from the field due to injuries. While he played, the lessons he learned from his coaches is the basis of his coaching style. "They were instrumental also in teaching me the game," said Sokolas. "What these girls are seeing from me is a combination of all of their coaching styles. I love the game of soccer and want to pass my love of the game on to these 33 girls."
The Lady Warriors open their season at home on Thursday, March 29 versus Meyers.