Southern Columbia has been looking forward to this season for quite some time.
The Tigers return 100 percent of their scoring from last year, have three Heartland Conference first team all-stars back and have the largest roster in the program's history.
To be frank, the Tigers are loaded. Loaded for Lancers.
Over the last two seasons, Southern Columbia has lost just 11 games. Ten of those losses were to either Loyalsock, usually by one goal, or Warrior Run. This is the year to right those wrongs.
While Southern's goals are lofty, the Tigers aren't the only area program looking to improve on last year's results.
Mount Carmel returns The News-Item's 2012 Player of the Year in Ali Varano. The Tornadoes lost to Southern in overtime in last year's District 4 playoffs and have a young team this year.
Shamokin, in Matt Witmer's second season, put in the work in the offseason to improve on last year's 5-13 year. Despite losing their top two goal scorers, the Indians
Lourdes has its two top scorers back and will try to improve on just two wins from last year.
And Line Mountain, with a brand new coaching staff, is trying to rebound from a down year.
Here's a division-by-division breakdown of our schools.
Heartland Conference Division II
Southern Columbia returns all of its starters from the team that finished 15-6 and within one game of playing for a District 4 Class A championship.
The Tigers lost to arch-rival Loyalsock 1-0
in that game and will have to get through those dreaded Lancers if the Tigers are going to make that deep push into the playoffs they're hoping for.
"As a team, we are extremely enthusiastic about our chances this coming season," Southern Columbia head coach Derek Stine. "Having returned all our starters and many key role players our expectations of ourselves are extremely high."
Among those players returning are all-area team members and four-year starters Bailey Bzdak, Mackenzie Clark and Jess Watkins.
Bzdak, last season's leading scorer for the Tigers with 17 goals, and Clark are both closing in on 50 career goals .
Also back are Teanna Shutt, who switched positions in the middle of last year, Haley Levan, who had 10 goals and nine assists, and Ally Stavinski.
Mount Carmel returns nine lettermen from last year's team.
The jewel of those returners is Varano. She scored 29 goals and had three assists. The Tornadoes are still looking for a complimentary second scoring threat.
Senior Paige Hornung will anchor the defense in front of Brianna Lutz, who returns from injury to go back in net for the Red Tornadoes.
Despite the nine returning lettermen and the trip to the district quarterfinals a year ago, head coach Rich Miller insists this is a young team.
"It's younger than last year," Miller said. "It might take them a little while, but we'll keep playing and getting experience."
The positive for the Tornadoes is that against most teams, Varano is still good enough to win games single handedly.
Shamokin's only all-area player from a year ago, goalkeeper Brianna Martin, returns after making 122 saves for a .722 save percentage.
The Indians put in the work in the offseason to better their 5-13 record from last season.
Shamokin has seven juniors that will form the core of this team and will be supplemented by six freshmen.
"The juniors are ready to take over and make this their team," Shamokin Area head coach Matt Witmer said.
"The team has great chemistry and great attitudes."
The summer work for the Indians included playing in the Line Mountain tournament and the Danville summer league. They lost just one game in each.
Still, the Indians need to find scorers after graduating their two top scorers from last year.
New Line Mountain coach Thad Swinehart knows this season is a rebuilding year for the Eagles. They lost three key players, but the players that return have blended well with the new staff.
"This team has formed a close-knit bond over the years and the community atmosphere will serve this team well during the season," Swinehart said.
The Eagles defense should be strong with defender Kylee Heintzelman and goalkeeper Corina Finlan returning.
Schuylkill League Division II
Lourdes should have substantial punch in the front end of its lineup with Rachel Schultz, a 15-goal scorer who added five assists, and Bailey Trell, who had eight goals and nine assists.
The Red Raiders first 11 should be able to run with anyone. Midfielders Alexis Wheary, Kelsey Williams, Gabby Long and Kendall Krebs are all agressive and athletic, while the defense is full of letterwinners. The only question mark is senior goalkeeper Angelique Pennypacker.
Head coach: Thad Swinehart
Last year: 2-16
Roster: Seniors - Shandi Lenker, midfield; Kylee Heintzelman, defense. Junior - Corina Finlan, goalkeeper.
Outlook: The Eagles return 19 players, six of whom are seniors. Lancaster Country Day is the favorite in the Tri-Valley League.
Head coach: Charlie Rebuck
Last year: 4-14
Roster: Seniors - Gabby Long, midfielder; Angelique Pennypacker, goalkeeper; Rachel Schultz, forward; Alexia Wheary, midfielder; Kelsey Williams, midfielder. Juniors - Jessica DeLong, defender; Claudia Rawa, defender; Grace Rompolski, midfielder; Bailey Trell, forward. Sophomores - Celine Jones, defender; Maya Khanna, forward; Krissy Komara, midfielder; Kendall Krebs, midfielder; Brittany Lahr, defender; Emily Troutman, midfielder. Freshmen - midfielder.
Outlook: The Red Raiders are hoping to be competitive in an always difficult Schuylkill League. The front-end of Rachel Schultz and Bailey Trell scored 23 goals between them last year. The key will be on defense, where new goalkeeper Angelique Pennypacker will be challenged.
Head coach: Rich Miller
Last year: 10-9
Roster: Seniors - Ali Varano, forward; Paige Hornung, defender; Brianna Lutz, defense/goalkeeper; Chelsea Matos, defense. Juniors - Jenn Bolick, defense; Isabella Stellar, defense; Jordan Winhofer, midfield. Sophomores - Natasha Nevis, forward; Leah Nicola, defense; Elizabeth Cooper, midfield. Freshmen - Amanda Arellano, midfield; Sami Zigarski, goalkeeper; Marissa Kleman, midfield; Olivia Lubinski, defense; Alyssa Menko, defense; Hannah Hornung, midfield; Anna Zeluskey, forward; Erin Smink, defense.
Outlook: The Red Tornadoes' hopes for a successful season and run into the playoffs center on forward Ali Varano. The senior scored 29 goals as the Tornadoes only real option in 2012, and after putting her on defense in the postseason nearly upset Southern Columbia in the playoffs. A second option to play off Varano will mean a lot for Mount Carmel.
Head coach: Matt Witmer
Last year: 5-13
Roster: Senior - Kylie Christiana, defense. Juniors - Michelle Bressi, forward; Megan Dimmick, forward; Devvon Gallie, defense; Megan Kerstetter, defense; Brianna Martin, goalkeeper; Rachel Poplaski, forward; Casey Wilson, midfield. Sophomores - Gabriann Lahr, forward; Danielle Reed, forward. Freshmen - Desserae Allen, defense; Amy Frasch, midfield; Mackenzie Koharski, midfield; Aubrey Persing, forward; Aubrey Snyder, midfield; Brittany Wondoloski, defense.
Outlook: The two leading goal scorers graduated for Shamokin, but the Indians are still very excited about the opportunities this season. The core of the team is a group of seven juniors that includes all-area goalkeeper Brianna Martin and three good options at forward - Michelle Bressi, Megan Dimmick and Rachel Poplaski.
Head coach: Derek Stine
Last year: 15-6
Roster: Seniors - Jess Watkins, goalkeeper; Mackenzie Clark, forward; Maddie Stabinski, midfield; Sammy Thomas, defense; Bailey Bzdak, forward; Avory Pantalone, defense; Lauren Kerstetter, defense; Jensen Kremser, defense; Erin Yoder, defense; Teanna Shutt, midfield; Anne Bryden, midfield. Juniors - Lauren Yeick, defense; Kayla Spotts, forward/midfield; Sam Schultz, defense; Aly Stavinski, midfield; Vanessa Thomas, defense; Julia Mudrock, defense; Kirstein Sharrow, midfield. Sophomores - Molly Shoup, midfield; Mackenzie Haladay, forward; Jess Adamski, forward; Blair Johnston, forward; Abbey Herr, goalkeeper; Gabby Delbo, forward; Kayla Broscious, midfield; Hannah Sage, defense; Natalia Oliveri, defense; Stephanie Haupt, goalkeeper; Haley Levan, midfield; Casey Bernhard, defense. Freshmen - Christina Podpora, midfield; Brianna Snyder, defense; Alexis Burd, midfield; Tricia Shufeldt, defense; Brooke Sudol, forward; Julia Moyle, goalkeeper; Raevin Rosenbaum, midfield; Frannie Forti, defense; Kyla Madara, defense; Samantha Jankowski, midfield; Kelsey Koharski, defense.
Outlook: The Tigers roster is loaded. Talent, depth and experience highlight what could easily be a banner year for Southern Columbia. Mackenzie Clark, Bailey Bzdak, Jensen Kremser and Jess Watkins are all four-year starters. Clark and Bzdak, who were all-league first-team selections, are nearing 50 goals each for their careers.comments powered by Disqus