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FROM THE PRESS BOX: A CRYSTAL BALL LOOK AHEAD TO THE 2024 GIRLS SOCCER SEASON (2023-11-30)

You know it’s a crazy soccer season when Tioga has the most successful girls and boys teams in the Valley.

No offense to Tioga, but the boys program was non-existent just four years ago, and the girls have struggled to field more than 11 or 12 players on its roster in recent years.

Yet this season, the Tioga boys won its first division title since 2015, and the girls registered a 9-6 record, and won the program’s first-ever postseason game.

The Athens boys and girls both had sub-par seasons by their standards, but qualified for the postseason, both bowing out in the opening round.

Waverly’s introduction to the STAC was a tough one on the pitch, with the boys finishing with a 2-14 record, while the Lady Wolverines were 6-7-1 in the regular season before dropping a heart-breaking 2-1 decision in overtime to Dryden in the Section IV, Class B playoffs.

So what does the crystal ball say lies in store for 2024? Well, the season is more than nine months away, so things are still a bit cloudy, but here goes:

BOYS
Athens Wildcats:
Coming off a 6-10-2 season, Athens will need to replace six or seven starters.

The Wildcats have struggled to score the last few seasons, and graduating seniors account for 17 of the team’s 35 goals this season, so finding someone to put the ball in the net is a priority.

Athens also gave up an uncharacteristically high 2.4 goals per game, but 25 of the 43 goals allowed came in six games (0-5-1) against a tough non-league schedule, and the postseason loss to Selinsgrove.

Prediction: I’d be very surprised if Athens loses to Galeton, Williamson, and NEB again next year in league play. There’s no reason to believe coach Jake Lezak won’t maintain his tough non-league slate in 2024, so it’s tough to envision a major improvement as far as the record goes. … 2024 record: 9-8-1.

Tioga Tigers: The Tigers are coming off one of the best seasons in program history, but will graduate the school’s all-time leading goal-scorer in Tyler Roe, and its leader on defense in Ethan Landmesser.

The cupboard is not bare for Tioga with James Miller returning as a potential go-to goal scorer, and Brady Landmesser and keeper Jake Brown to anchor the defense.

Prediction: Coach Adam Layman has done a nice job rebuilding the program, but the Tigers are likely to take a step backward from this year’s 7-7-2 record. … 2024 record: 5-9-1.

Waverly Wolverines:
The Wolverines won two games, and probably should have won a couple more with a break here or there, but the move to the STAC proved a very rough one.

Waverly graduates its top two scorers in Charlie Larrabee, who led the team in goals this year, and Griff Schillmoeller, who notched his 50th career goal in the season finale win over SVEC. They also lose their best defenders in Sam Knight and Nehemiah Anthony.

Prediction: The Wolverines return some talent, but coach Eric Ryck will have a pretty young team on his hands. … 2024 record: 2-14.

GIRLS
Athens Wildcats:
Athens is coming off an 8-11 season, and will graduate the majority of its defense.

Defense wasn’t the problem for the Wildcats in 2023, however. They went 0-6 against a tough non-league schedule, and did not score a goal in those losses. In four league losses it was shutout three times, and only scored 24 goals on the season.

Prediction: Coach Rich Pitts loves his freshmen and sophomore classes, and he’ll need them to step up next year. … 2024 record: 9-9-1.

Tioga Tigers:
Coming off the program’s best season since 2009, and the first-ever postseason win, Tioga will return a strong core of players, but will have to replace most of its defense.

Sophia Haney and Grace Howey, who combined to score 33 goals will return, so putting the ball in the net shouldn’t be a problem.

Prediction: Improving on its 9-6 record might be tough, but if the Tigers can fill in their losses on defense, there’s no reason to think they can’t make another trip to the postseason. … 2024 record: 7-7-1.

Waverly Wolverines:
Waverly could have easily been better than its 6-8-1 record, but struggled to find the net at times, and lost four one-goal games, and let a 3-1 lead slip away in a 3-3 tie with Oneonta.

The Wolverines lose a pair of key seniors in Paige Robinson and Lea VanAllen, but have a very strong core of young players, and a handful of talented upper classmen, including Addison Westbrook, who should return for her senior season after missing this season with a knee injury.

Prediction: At least half of Waverly’s starters next season will likely be sophomores or younger. Those youngsters are a talented bunch, but the STAC is a pretty good girls soccer conference. The Wolverines could be a year away. … 2024 record: 4-10-1.


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