It was a difficult season to be a soccer writer in the area. Well, I guess I should say it was a difficult postseason to be a soccer writer.
The regular season was filled with surprises and turns, a few charity games and plenty of shocking results and runs.
I don't know how all the coaches and players feel, but I'm already thinking about 2013. But until soccer returns, let's revisit the 2012 season.
THE DEFENDERS PLUG
IN NEW TALENT AND KEEP ROLLING
"Taylor (Landis) started as a centerback as a freshman," Warrior Run Jen Allen said. "Her younger years she developed her ball skills. When I took over we needed someone to score goals. And she didn't just score goals against weaker opponents, she scored goals in state playoff games. She was good under pressure and works hard."
Landis, one of two area players to receive All-State honors, has averaged over 20 goals a season since moving into an attacking position.
Landis' story developed during Allen's first year as a head coach. The rookie head coach needed a goal-scoring striker. In her effort to find one, Allen had the team practice shooting on net. Landis was the one who consistently drove the ball to the net. A year later, Landis and Allen hoisted the first of the two state titles.
Allen has always been good at spotting talent in her younger players. The move of the year belonged to her when she pulled freshman keeper Olivia George, a second-team HAC-II goalie, midway through the second half of Warrior Run's game against Loyalsock. She then re-entered the game in the field and assisted on the game-winner.
"It was great for her to be in there as a freshman," Allen said. "She wasn't scared to tell seniors what to do on the field and that isn't something you find in a lot of freshmen. It was nice to see her work hard and develop throughout the season."
A COACH'S IMPACT
The measure of any great coach isn't defined by wins and losses.
The true measure, in my opinion, is impact. It was the great Ray Lewis that said "success in one thing, impact is another."
"It's easy to coach at Montoursville," said Bennett, who coached her last season with Montoursville this year. "There's just so much support from the school, parents and community."
Bennett worked hard enough to have both through her years as the Montoursville girls soccer coach. Her success can be measured in victories, multiple league and district titles and even a state championship. Her impact will be measured by the countless amount of lives she's touched and gave the confidence to excel at the next level in both sports and life.
"It's always nice to see players continue their careers," Bennett said. "It's an honor to participate in sports at Montoursville and we've always treated it like that."
I've dealt with Bennett after heartbreaking losses, like this year's early exit from the District 4 AA playoffs, and I've dealt with her after unbelievable triumphs. One thing remained a constant through my time covering her team, and that was her amazing ability to stay positive regardless of the situation. Every player that walked off the field for Montoursville always received positive words of encouragement.
"There was never a point when I had a thought of not coaching," Bennett said. "It's going to be tough and the thing I'll miss the most is the relationships with players."
Throughout the season, coaches and players talked about the marked improvement by the Williamsport's girls soccer program. In a display of that growth, the young Millionaires stayed with Loyalsock until two second-half goals pushed the Lancers to a win.
Williamsport shocked the area with a 3-2 win over Wyoming Valley West to open the District 2 Class AAA playoffs. The Millionaires nearly beat Abington Heights in the second round, but fell by a goal.
"I felt I needed to take the team to the district playoffs for a couple of reasons," McNeill said. "I wanted to let the seniors feel the atmosphere and let the younger kids experience the feeling of districts. I wanted them to see how the playoffs become a whole new exciting entity."
Don't think McNeill sat on the team's improvement. In less than a week from when this column hits the press, McNeill and the Williamsport girls will begin preparation for the 2013 season.
"We begin offseason workouts in a week," McNeill said. "I believe all players that are not involved in winter sports and that want to commit to the program will be involved."
HAC DROPS THE BALL
The HAC all-star list once again sent me reeling. Loyalsock senior Asia Ungard was nowhere to be found on the list.
Remember Loyalsock's dethroning of Warrior Run in the team's secondto-last game of the season? Remember the game-winning corner kick? If you don't, I'll help paint the picture. Ungard, kicking from the right side of the field, sent a ball into the box that would have made David Beckham envious. No one stood a chance of saving the attempt.
That kick sparked a run for Ungard in which she helped Loyalsock claim its sixth consecutive HAC-II title, earn its third straight District 4 Class A title and another PIAA berth.
"She's a playmaker and really stepped it up at the end of the season," Loyalsock coach Ben Comfort said. "She creates plays and is dangerous on free kicks and corners kicks. She's really going to be missed. She kept us in games and helped us wins games."
Lana Spitler, Montoursville
A long, galloping stride, pinpoint accuracy and her father is a Oakland A's fan, which is always a plus in my book. All joking aside, you'd be hard-pressed to find another forward with the ability to score like Spitler. And the best thing about Spitler is her ability to help. She isn't the most vocal player on the pitch, but her aggressiveness and drive on the field can't be matched.
Taylor Landis, Warrior Run
When you lead the area's most consistent team in goals and offense, you're at the top of most coaches' list. Landis, much like Spitler, isn't going to be a vocal leader who rants and raves on the pitch, but when her team needed her in big games she was there.
Morgan Chambers, Loyalsock
As the moments got bigger, so did Chambers' game. On her way to becoming an All-State selection, Chambers dominated the midfield for the Lancers.
"She's a good team leader. Good defensively. Good offensively. Sees the field very well, and when you have all that you have a good soccer player," Loyalsock coach Ben Comfort said. "She's good in the air and wins balls on corners. She's was double and tripled in the box and still got a head on the ball."
Asia Ungard, Loyalsock
If you needed a corner kicked, Ungard was the person to call. The Loyalsock senior played one of her best seasons with the team and was impressive throughout the postseason.
Emily Potter, Warrior Run
Potter, much like Chambers, knew how to use her size to create openings within defenses. She also was great at placing set pieces up for scoring attempts.
Alexis Avery, Hughesville
Avery was the heart and soul of Hughesville's team. A constant scoring threat, she helped the Spartans secure a district playoff bid.
Laura Bastian, Warrior Run
I remember watching Bastian as a freshman cover Cassaundra Soars and thinking this girls has some serious talent. Her work ethic has only added to her abilities and the fact she played all season with an injured thumb proves she has toughness, as well.
Kirsten O'Malley, Montoursville
Being a defender for Montoursville must at times get boring. The Warriors' offense is just so good at controlling possession. You'd never get that impression watching O'Malley, who stopped some of the area's top offensive players throughout the season.
Katy Burdett, Loyalsock
Burdett was a constant force throughout the season, but her best play was in the most crucial moments. In Loyalsock's third district final in as many seasons, Burdett played a stellar game on the backline and notched Loyalsock's game-winning goal in a 4-2 PK victory.
Trinda Wertman, Warrior Run
The Defenders have always relied on a strong defense to help facilitate the offense. Wertman played with an intensity that was only matched by her linemate Laura Bastian.
Amanda Daneker, Loyalsock
Another dominate season for Daneker, who kept a clean sheet throughout the district playoffs. Daneker had the presences of a four-year starter, leading both on and off the field.
"Daneker was just terrific on the PKs," Loyalsock coach Ben Comfort said.
RESERVES: Forwards: Allie Pagana, Loyalsock; Emily Cole, Lewisburg; Carly Mill, Montoursville; Taylor Eshbach, Montoursville; Jordyn Johnson, Warrior Run; Brittany Snyder, Hughesville. Midfielders: Miranda Young, South Williamsport; Chloe Eisenhuth, Warrior Run; Sarah Grow, Warrior Run. Backs: Melissa Flook, South Williamsport; Alyssa Hitesman, Muncy; Ally Kennedy, Loyalsock. Keepers: Allison Russell, Hughesville.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Ben Comfort, Loyalsock. Yes, his team survived the longest, but also consider the run Loyalsock went on to close out the season. Warrior Run rocked Loyalsock in a, 2-0, win on the Defenders' pitch. Loyalsock returned the favor a few weeks later when Ungard slid a corner kick past Olivia George in overtime. The Lancers then defeated Southern Columbia to claim a share of the league championship and cruised to a third district title game.
"It was great," Comfort said of the team's surge in the final weeks of the season. "The team peaked at the right time. We played well through districts and fought in the championship."
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Lana Spitler, Montoursville.
Elias George, Warrior Run
Not even a question when it comes to who was the best forward this year. George averaged a goal per contest and was the leader on an undefeated regular-season team.
Amar Sabanovic, Muncy.
Sabanovic posted two goals and two assists in Muncy's 6-0 win over Montgomery to push the team's record to 9-9. Sabanovic was a scoring machine throughout the season, but also had the ability to put teammates into the right position for goals.
Brett Powell, Warrior Run.
Powell was physical and determined. In Warrior Run's contest against Loyalsock at Warrior Run, Powell punched in the team's final goal in a, 5-0, win.
Devin Marriott, Montoursville
Marriort assisted on a Jacob Bair goal in Montoursville's 2-1 win over Hughesville. The assists was crucial as the win got Montoursville back to .500 at 8-8. Marriott, who also pulled double-duty as the football team's kicker, has set himself up with a quality season to build off of heading into his senior year.
Matt Hibbs, Loyalsock
Hibbs was exactly what Loyalsock needed down the stretch as it made a run to qualify for the postseason. Hibbs posted a natural hat trick in the team's 4-1 first-round win over Sullivan County.
Jake Bair, Montoursville
With so many quality forwards in the area, some are going to have to play a little midfield on my team. I'm thinking Bair wouldn't have any difficulties making the adjustment. The Montoursville senior scored goals on the regular and helped his team to the No. 11 seed in the District 4 Class AA tournament.
Rosenburg plays like the defensive version of his older brother, Hunter, a 50-plus goal-scorer from South Williamsport. Rosenburg, the back, was relentless on the defensive end, but has the skills to help out on the offensive end, as well.
Joe Titman, Muncy
Titman's defense was crucial down the stretch as Muncy fought to get into the postseason. And it wasn't just his defense that helped the Indians reach the playoffs. Titman was able to move up the field and assist on Sabanovic goals.
Troy Mosley, Williamsport
Mosley was a big part of Williamsport's rebuilding season. Often the last line of defense in front of Tanner Kreisher, Mosley played hard and brought a lot of energy to Williamsport's backline.
Louis Comfort, Loyalsock
It's a clean sweep for the Loyalsock keepers. The school must be doing something right when it comes to developing the last line of defense because Comfort, when not fighting off an injury, was sensational.
RESERVES: Forwards: Tyler Quigley, Loyalsock; Uodoka Eze, Lewisburg; Max Reed, Lewisburg; Midfield: Ben Hillman, Williamsport; Austin Bower, Warrior Run; Dawson Fox, Muncy; Backs: Troy Mosley, Williamsport; Alex Wehr, Warrior Run; Brett Morgan, Warrior Run. Keeper: Logan Cho, Lewisburg; Tanner Kreisher, Williamsport.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Skip Kratzer, Lewisburg. Talk about consistency. Lewisburg represented a mix bag of experienced talent and young players. Kratzer got his team to peak at the right time. The Green Dragons relied on their freshman keeper, Logan Cho, who was outstanding throughout the district and PIAA playoffs. Jacob Lightman and Udoka Eze helped back Cho's play up with goals. All in all, a year after replacing one of the most dominate keepers in the area, Lewisburg fell just two wins shy of a state championship.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Elias George, Warrior Run.