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THE FINAL WORD: WAVERLY'S MOVE TO STAC, YOUNG TALENT DRIVING FALL STORYLINES (2023-09-14)

There’s a lot more going on this fall than football, and a great deal of it involves young — some very young — and talented underclassmen.

But it’s not all about the young talent either.

Perhaps the most interesting storyline of the fall is Waverly’s transition to the STAC.

Because Section IV controls football, Waverly has been playing teams its own size for years, so the switch in leagues has no impact on that program, but in every other sport, the effects have already been felt.

At the end of last soccer season, Waverly boys coach Eric Ryck believed, and rightfully so, the Wolverines would compete for its first-ever Large School title in the IAC. Now, they are 0-4 in STAC play.

It’s definitely not for lack of effort, or talent, or coaching, the STAC is just a much better soccer conference than the IAC. Every night is going to be a grind.

Tara Hogan’s girls soccer team is off to a better start at 2-1-1 in STAC play, including a 1-0 loss Wednesday night to Owego, widely considered to be the team to beat in the Central Division.

Waverly has a strong group of seniors, but also good youngsters as well, led by freshmen Makenzie Olmsted and Ryleigh Judson, and 8th-graders Maci Wheeler, Kendal Rockwell, Kaylin Twedt.

There will be some growing pains, but if the Lady Wolverines stay healthy, they could be dangerous come postseason.

The Waverly volleyball team is off to a 1-2 start, and was competitive in both losses. They are a veteran team, and should benefit from the nightly grind of STAC play.

Unlike the soccer programs, with Owego bumping up to Class A, there are no dominant programs in Class B in volleyball. The Lady Wolverines could be a team to watch once the postseason rolls around.

The girls swim team has a bright future.

Record-setting Mira Kittle is only a sophomore, and an influx of talented 7th-graders — Audrey Kellogg, Megan Atansoff, Natalie Steck, and Ayla Wheeler, to go along with 8th-grader Lauryn Welles, and sophomore Lizzy Robinson make the Lady Wolverines a very talented young team.

If sophomore Olivia Cheresnowsky, a transfer from Athens, is cleared to swim this year, Waverly could make even more waves at Sectionals. If not, she’ll make them even better last year.

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Speaking of newcomers making an impact, none have made a more immediate impact than Athens freshman Graham Wanck, who finished second at the Forbes Cross Country Invitational Saturday, then won his first dual meet Tuesday.

Wanck is running around 17:10 already. It will be interesting to see how quickly he breaks through into the 16-minute range.

Wanck is not alone either. Freshmen Jacob Shores and Matthew Rossettie have been 2-3 for the Wildcats in their first two events.

The Athens girls soccer team suffered a 2-1 setback against defending NTL champ Troy Wednesday, but will get another shot at the Lady Trojans on the turf at Alumni Stadium on Sept. 28.

The Lady Wildcats have a good core of upper classmen, but also have some strong freshmen class, led by Delanie Patton and Brinley Nichols.

They also have a solid group of sophomores, so the next few years could be pretty good ones for Rich Pitts’ crew.

The Athens boys also suffered a 2-1 setback, theirs in OT, to the defending NTL champion Wellsboro Hornets. The boys loss was a little harder to swallow, allowing a goal late to tie, then another in OT for the loss.

The Athens-Wellsboro boys soccer rivalry has grown into one of the best in the area. The Wildcats will get their shot at redemption on Oct. 11.

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The Tioga boys soccer team is 3-0-1, and the girls team is 5-1, and winners of five straight. This begs the question: Is Tioga a soccer school now?

Seriously, though, both these teams are much improved. The boys won just three games last year, and the girls did not win a game.

The Lady Tigers had sophomore Sophia Haney return to the fold after missing her 8th-grade season with a knee injury, and playing volleyball as a freshman.

Pair Haney’s return with the arrival of 7th-grader Grace Howey, and the Lady Tigers have a pair of formidable scorers on a team that has struggled to score in recent years. Haney has 12 goals and three assists this season, and Howey has five goals and four assists.

Tioga also returned a pair of strong players in senior Elyse Haney and junior Erica Bradley. The foursome forms a strong core, as the players around them continue to improve.

The Lady Tigers will have a measuring stick game tonight against defending Class C champ Watkins Glen. We’ll see where they stand in terms of the postseason.

On the boys side, senior Tyler Roe has scored 12 goals in Tioga’s hot start.

The Tigers have some good experienced players on the field, and Jake Browne has been good in net.

Tioga has won the games you would expect them to be competitive in. Next week, the Tigers begin a stretch against Trumansburg, Notre Dame, SVEC, and Susquehanna Valley. We’ll really see what they’re made of then.

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The Final Word will return next week.

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