Soccer is one of the few sports where every team from the Wyoming Valley Conference does not qualify for the District 2 tournament.
So when the nine WVC teams take the field today or Monday to participate in the District 2 tournament, they will already have secured one of several goals set out when the season began nine weeks ago.
“No matter what, you draw a good team because every team is good in the playoffs,” said Nanticoke veteran coach Mark Matusek, whose team opens the Class 2A tournament today against Abington Heights. “But in the playoffs, anybody can beat anybody.”
The Class 2A and 3A winners will host a first-round game in the PIAA Championships on Nov. 4. The Class A winner will play on the road, as will the No. 2 seed from 2A.
The two participants in the state tourney for 2A was changed back for the first time in a few years. Another adjustment made to the tournament involves the new yellow card rule. If a player gets hit with a yellow card with less than three minutes remaining in the second overtime, and the match goes to penalty kicks, the player will remain sidelined for at least the first round of the shootout.
The Favorite: Wyoming Valley West
The Dark Horse: Hazleton Area
Prediction: Wyoming Valley West over Delaware Valley
Coach: Aaron Littzi, 2nd season
First Opponent: Third-seeded Wallenpaupack (4-10), 7:30 p.m. Monday at Lake-Lehman
Key Players: Joseph Schmid, F, (26G, 7A, 59P); Bill McGuiness, MF, (11G, 21A, 43P); Brandon D’Angelo, MF (13G, 3A, 29P); Kris Moules, D, (4G, 5A, 13P); Kameron Keene, GK
The Skinny: All three of the Spartans’ losses have come to Class 2A teams, which should bode well for the team entering the 3A tournament. Last year, they beat Delaware Valley in the semifinals before losing to Abington Heights in the district title contest.
Coach: James Hearne, 4th season
First Opponent: Top-seeded Delaware Valley (12-1-1), 7:30 p.m. Monday at Wallenpaupack.
Key Players: Alex Chacinski, F (12G, 4A, 28P); Alex Yepez, F (4G, 5A, 13A); Cruz Finnecum, MF (4G, 8P); Keith Lutz, D; Sam Pozzessere, GK
The Skinny: The Cougars will make the long 134-mile round trip to Hawley with hopes of being the recipient of a huge upset. The Cougars have struggled on defense this season, but a strong effort will knock off the Warriors.
The Favorite: Coughlin
The Dark Horse: Nanticoke
Prediction: Coughlin over Abington Heights
Coach: Rob Havard, 3rd season
First Opponent: The Crusaders will host Lake-Lehman (13-2-1), 3:30 p.m. today at the Bog.
Key Players: Brian Suchoski, M/F (29G, 18A, 76P); Kevan Nagle, M/F (19G, 8A, 46P); Mike Turner, M (8G, 9A, 25P); Joe Rother, D (0G, 3A, 3P); Justin Coskey, GK
The Skinny: The Suchoski/Nagle combination has produced more goals (48) than any other duo in the WVC. Last year, the Crusaders defeated Valley View in the quarterfinals before dropping a 4-3 decision to Dallas in the semifinals. Three years in a row Coughlin has been ousted in the playoffs by the team that went on to win the title.
Coach: Chris Scharff, 11th season
First Opponent: The Mountaineers appeared to get the best draw in the tournament hosting 1-13 Honesdale, 3:30 p.m. today.
Key Players: Kevin Pierce, MF (29G, 11A, 69P); Erik Cannon, F (10G, 19A, 39P); Alex Slocum, MF (4G, 11A, 19P); Zach Dutter, D; Colin Grube, GK
The Skinny: The only two losses this season for the Mountaineers came at the hands of Coughlin. Last year, they claimed the district title with a 5-0 win over Scranton Prep. The Mountaineers then dropped a decision in the first round of the PIAA Championships.
Coach: Sal Leggio, 1st year
First Opponent: The Royals have one of the toughest draws in the tournament, as they will have to travel to Abington Heights (12-1-1) for a 3:30 p.m. contest today.
Key Players: Ian Pope, MF (9G, 1A, 19P); Jim Finkernagel, F (6G, 6A, 18P); Vince Sperduto, MF (5G, 1A, 11P); Gary Verazin, GK
The Skinny: The Royals are making their first appearance in the tournament in school history, but they are on a roll of late only allowing five in their last six matches. They got this far by defeating Crestwood in a playoff game for the final spot on Monday.
Coach: Mike Kostrobala, 3rd season
First Opponent: The Black Knights will have a tough match against top-seeded Coughlin (13-1) 3:30 p.m. today at the Bog.
Key Players: Jimmy Dalkiewicz, F (21G, 7A, 49P); Danny Precone, M (8G, 12A, 28P); Jay Dawsey, M (6G, 7A, 19P); Kevin Cope, D; John Butchko, GK
The Skinny: Despite being shut out for the first time all season in their last regular season contest to hand Nanticoke the Division II title, the Black Knights scored 58 goals this season as Dalkiewicz won the division’s scoring title. Going against the Crusaders in the first round can be an advantage, especially on the small field in Plains Township.
Last year, they advanced to the tournament after beating Tunkhannock in the play-in game but lost to Dallas in the quarterfinals.
Coach: Mark Matusek, 20th season
First Opponent: The Trojans, who got the third seed from the WVC, will travel to Valley View (11-1), the No. 2 seed from the Lackawanna League for a 6 p.m. match today.
Key Players: Josh Olzinski, F (18G, 5A, 41P), Keith Moran, MF (12G, 3A, 27P); Josh Lukaszewski, F (6G, 1A, 13P); Robert Bertoni, D; Mike Yalch, GK
The Skinny: The Trojans are on a roll. After losing their second game of the season, 2-1 to Meyers, they have gone 14 games without losing to claim the Division II championship. The last time they won a division championship, they advanced to the PIAA Championships.
In the district tournament last year, Nanticoke held a 2-0 lead over Scranton Prep late in a quarterfinal game before losing a heartbreaker 3-2 to the eventual district runner-up.
The Favorite: St. Gregory’s
The Dark Horse: Wyoming Seminary
Prediction: St. Gregory’s over Meyers
Coach: Jack Nolan, 3rd season
First Opponent: The Mohawks will host the No. 5 seed from the Lackawanna League, Dunmore (7-5) in a 3:30 p.m. game today.
Key Players: Jon Montalvo, F (17G, 12A, 46P); Felix Ngolo, M (15G, 12A, 42P); Joe DiMaggio, MF (4G, 4A, 12P); Steven Knooren, D; John Nargoski, GK
The Skinny: The Mohawks are limping going into the tournament losing two of their last four matches. But they have a lethal scoring combination with Montalvo and Ngolo, who were second and third in the division, respectively, in scoring.
Playing in the tournament last year, Meyers defeated Dunmore in the quarterfinals before falling to Cinderella St. Gregory’s in the semifinals. The Mohawks will be out for revenge on the Highlanders if they get a chance to play them again this year.
Coach: Charles Carrick, 2nd season
First Opponent: The Blue Knights will host a 3 p.m. contest against Montrose (4-7-1) in today’s first round.
Key Players: Oliver Xia, F (3G, 2A, 8P), Jordan Akun, MF (4G, 1A, 9P); Mason Astaneh, GK
The Skinny: The Blue Knights struggled this season to a winless record in the ever-so-tough Division I. They can salvage their season by picking up a few wins in the next few days.
Last year, they advanced to the district championship game after beating Forest City and Mountain View in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. But the Blue Knights lost to St. Gregory’s in the finals. If the Blue Knights get past the Meteors, they will have a shot to get revenge on the Highlanders in the next round.
Monday, Oct. 27
Hazleton Area (4-10) vs. Delaware Valley (12-1-1), 7:30 p.m. at Wallenpaupack H.S.
Wallenpaupack (4-10) vs. Wyoming Valley West (11-3), 7:30 p.m. at Lake-Lehman H.S.
Wednesday, Oct. 29
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. at TBA
Lake-Lehman (13-2-1) at Coughlin (13-1), 3:30 p.m.
Nanticoke (13-1-2) at Valley View (11-1), 6 p.m.
Honesdale (1-13) at Dallas (12-2), 3:30 p.m.
Holy Redeemer (7-7) at Abington Heights, 3:30 p.m.
(all sites and times are TBA)
Lake-Lehman-Coughlin winner vs. Nanticoke-Valley View winner
Honesdale-Dallas winner vs. Holy Redeemer-Abington Heights winner
Thursday, Oct. 30
Semifinal winners, site and time TBA
Elk Lake (3-9) at St. Gregory’s (8-3-1), 3:30 p.m.
Montrose (4-7-1) at Wyoming Seminary (0-14), 3 p.m.
Forest City (12-0) at Mountain View (8-6), 3:30 p.m.
Dunmore (7-5) at Meyers (10-5-1), 3:30 p.m.
(all sites and times are TBA)
Elk Lake-St. Gregory’s winner vs. Montrose-Wyoming Seminary winner
Forest City-Mountain View winner vs. Dunmore-Meyers winner
Wednesday, Oct. 29
Semifinal winners, site and time TBA