2014 SEASON: Welcome


Thursday, October 23
KEYS TO THE BERWICK GAME

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Mariah Hawley in action earlier this season ( Photo: E. Black)

It is district tournament time, so let us do, what we have done every year at this time and post a "keys to the game" article. What I share below represents, of course, just one perspective--and there are too many keys to list in a single analysis (unless we wish to bore people)--but if the Lady Comets hope to move on to the semi-finals next week, here are some keys: 

FOR THE LADY COMETS:

DEFEND, DEFEND, DEFEND - one thing that is true about this year's Berwick team is something that has been true of almost every Berwick team in recorded history: they can score! They feature several athletic players in their attack, and they have kids with great one-v-one skills; we should point out that the Bulldogs field a player named Gabby Kishbaugh--she wears #6 and she has scored 29 goals this year; she is a singular talent that one needs to keep track of at all times--Kishbaugh is supported by Brianna Floryshak who wears # 22 and who has logged 21 goals; Berwick has played a few more games than the Lady Comets, but the output of these two players is nevertheless impressive; in essence, the Lady Comets will need to play meticulous team defense, which means they will need to play with patience, with a good recovery sensibility, with a strong sense of communication, and a good "across the back line" defense--by that I mean play with a good "pressure/cover/balance" integrity that is articulated in a good design.  

FOR BOTH TEAMS:

MINIMIZE UNFORCED ERRORS - good teams will, of course,  lose the ball to other good teams--such is the nature of soccer and one should expect that; but, in important games, one cannot simply give the ball away; recognition of passing lanes and sharp, crisp execution is requisite.

AVOID FOULS IN THE DEFENSIVE THIRD - fouling the opposition in one's own defensive third, while sometimes necessary, is dangerous when it becomes a habit; any team is always twice as potent if given a lot of set piece opportunities; eliminate as many of these as possible and try to make the opponent beat you from the run of play.

OFF-THE-BALL RUNS - in the end, it may come down to this: who wants to sprint her tail off making hard weak-side runs? 

Berwick enters this game with an impressive 13-2-2 record; they have lost to #3 Coughlin, and--like the Lady Comets--they have lost to Dallas.

Tomorrow's game should be very interesting! You might not be able to live with yourself if you miss it!  So make sure you find your way to the field to support the Lady Comets in this match.  Make sure that home field advantage really counts! The forecast claims that the weather will be much warmer and drier than either today or yesterday.



Wednesday, October 22
LADY COMETS REACH QUARTERFINAL: SHUTOUT WIN KEEPS AHHS IN DISTRICT TITLE HUNT

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Michaelina Holmes scored the initial goal against Wyoming Area (Photo: E. Black)

Earlier today, while taking a back road detour, this reporter actually spotted a bear roaming the streets of Clarks Summit. Such is not an everyday sight, even for those of us who live in this relatively rural if not bucolic setting. However, little did I know that my chance encounter with the bruin would actually foreshadow today's first-round district soccer match at AHHS.

Indeed, the Wyoming Area Warriors came to Clarks Summit "loaded for bear" and proceeded to unpack a 40-minute effort that impressed everyone, even though the Lady Comets would in the end post a decisive 3-0 victory. This game was played at the AHHS practice field, but the Warriors were not in a practice mode. Performing with a jacked-up work rate, the kids from Exeter threw everything they had into the game; and it would have been difficult for anyone to not admire the example the visitors so capably set. For example, the Warriors clearly won their share of 50/50 balls and generally played with a sagacious poise. To place all of this in a proverbial nutshell, one is forced to say that Wyoming Valley performed much better than anyone would expect a 3-11 team to perform.

The feisty Warriors were determined to make Abington win this game; they were not going to give anything away. And the Lady Comets had to put their engines in high gear to vanquish this courageous group of guests. Wyoming Area was especially uproarious on the defensive end, where its workaholic marking visibly frustrated a talented Abington offense. Although the Lady Comets would often penetrate the Warriors' midfield with ease, Wyoming Valley's back-line hustle--together with a couple of exceptional goalkeeper saves--kept Abington off the scoreboard early on in the match. The opposition defense would eventually wear itself down, and the Lady Comets' superior talent would ultimately assert itself; but the Wyoming Area stalwarts put in an fine day at the office.

The first goal of the game, apart from all sports' metaphors, was not only welcome but plainly pretty! Michaelina Holmes would finish off a precision cross from Ally Christman and Abington would finally get on the scoreboard at 18 minutes into the contest. The goal would be the 25th of Holmes's stellar career. However, despite generating a sizable share of quality attack, the Lady Comets were unable to put anything else in the net in the first half and were forced to settle for the slim one goal lead at intermission.

In the second half, the Lady Comets played with more purpose. The back line--in particular, Hannah Kowalski, Emily Bonsick, Mariah Hawley, Jasmin Patel, Adrianna Green, and Abby Brown--toughened up and played more meaningful balls forward. In fact, the entire speed of play seemed to pick up for Abington in the first part of the second stanza. Emily Clauss started the second half--and would play for the remaining 40 minutes. She was one of several substitutes--including Emily Mahoney and Carina Salerno--who seemed to add some energy. Starting forward Ally Christman enjoyed a good second half as well, before she was taken out of the game with 23 minutes remaining.

In fact, at the 56 minute mark, it was Christman who supplied the capstone goal in the contest, just two minutes after Tiana Yarns had supplied the team's second goal. Yarns drilled home a well-placed, cross-frame shot, utilizing a big-league assist from Emma Henzes.

With about 12 minutes remaining in the contest, the game was delayed because of threatening weather conditions; however, the lightening had already struck for the Lady Comets, and when action resumed 30 minutes later, there was nothing more left to the day's soccer narrative than the predictable denouement.

It is fair to say that it was more than the Wyoming Area defense that slowed down the Lady Comets today;  in fact, it is almost obligatory to mention that the hometown favorites slowed themselves down with 10 offside violations, many of which erased genuine goal-scoring opportunities. As the team moves on into the final eight, it will need to correct this "shoot-yourself-in your-own-striker's-foot" tendency. It is true that attackers from some previous Abington teams also had difficulty managing their relationship with the opposition's restraining line, but ths year's squad has had particular difficulty timing runs up top. These are organizational projects that the Lady Comets need to tackle.

Abington will play in another winable game at home this Friday. Yes, winable. However,  everyone knows that the opposition only gets better from here on out, and the Lady Comets know that they will have to continue to get better along with it. Consequently, there will be higher hurdles to clear on Friday.



Saturday, October 18
LATE GOAL SECURES PREP'S PERFECT RECORD: LADY COMETS FALL 2-1

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Forward Ally Christman scored the team's lone goal (Photo E. Black)

In soccer, if you have a good goalkeeper on your team, you usually have a chance to stay in any game. This adage certainly expressed itself in yesterday's 2-1 loss at the Scranton Preparatory School. For at least the fourth time this year, the industrious efforts of goalkeeper Johanna Show were able to counterbalance a strong opposition attack and keep the Lady Comets close in a game which might not have been as close as it looked on the scoreboard. Both teams certainly battled hard; and the match, which hung in the balance up until the end, was entertaining. But Abington players and their fans experienced a lot more of those tense "oh, no" moments than did the Classics. 

In a game where the Lady Comets struggled to generate offense--indeed, a game in which they recorded a season-low 3 shots--Show turned away 11 of 13 on-frame attempts. In the process, she was able to stretch out most of her muscles as well, as she saved some high, she saved some low, and she saved some wide. There were other Abington players who contributed as well. Jasmin Patel, for example, came off the bench and turned in 42 sterling minutes, displaying poise and good touch in what was arguably her best performance of the year. Hannah Kowalski, who is simply a rock solid athlete, pushed herself hard for an entire 80 minutes of action and was still pursuing the ball at the end with most of the freshness she had exhibited in the first half. Emma Henzes, Perrine Wasser, Emily Bonsick, and Adriana Green also played for the entire game, and Michaelina Holmes worked nearly that long. However, the Classics are remarkably comfortable on their nice new turf field, and they move the ball around the pitch quite effectively.  

The Lady Comets played for almost 20 minutes before they registered their first shot of the match. Felicitously, this initial shot was also the game's opening goal. Ally Christman, returning from injury, pushed the ball into the box and deposited the 12th tally of her impressive 2014 season, giving the Lady Comets an early 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, this stellar scoring effort would prove to be the apex, the zenith, the pinnacle, the game's soccer apotheosis for Lady Comet fans--in other words, it would prove to be the biggest Abington thrill of the game; the rest of the highlight reel would belong to the Classics. 

Acting as if the Lady Comets goal was a slap in the face, Prep responded almost immediately with an equalizer. Senior star Jess Genco--who contributed the "exclamation mark" goal in Prep's victory over Abington earlier this year--would take the ball one v. one and knot the score at the 20:07 mark. 

Despite the Genco heroics, the two teams battled to a standoff for the remainder of the half, although Prep would own a little more of the possession. However, in the second stanza, the Classics amped up the attack, and Show went into action turning away shots. But, then, just when it was starting to look like the game would make it to overtime, Genco would get another goal with just over five minutes left on the clock--this time the tally was more of a "tap-in" effort and was, in effect, the result of confusion in front of the goal; Genco was able to hit the shot only after the ball had ricocheted around the six-yard box for what seemed to be several minutes, bouncing off of numerous players as the Lady Comets were trying furiously, but unsuccessfully, to execute a clearance kick.

So, the Classics of Prep will now take their 13-0 record and number 2 seed into the district playoffs.  Meanwhile, this writer projects the Lady Comets as the fourth seed, which would give Abington home field advantage through the quarterfinals. The official seedings will come out late tomorrow. However, we will try to post later this afternoon our own predictions of how all 17 AA teams would break down in a seeding.



Saturday, October 18
PROJECTED DISTRICT PLAYOFF SEEDINGS

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Do you want predictions? Do you want a projection of potential matchups in the District 2 AA tournament?  We offer below what is our best estimate of how things might shakedown heading into this Wednesday, when the playoffs commence. Hopefully, I am pretty close with this attempt to project the seedings for all 17 AA teams that would be eligible to participate in the competition.

FIRST TWO SEEDS: will enjoy home field advantage through the semi-finals

TOP FOUR SEEDS: will earn home field advantage through the quarterfinals

TOP EIGHT SEEDS: will get to host first-round games

 

Our Projected Seeds

1.    Dallas

2.    Scranton Prep

3.    Coughlin

4.    AHHS

5.    Berwick

6.    Holy Redeemer

7.    Valley View

8.    Crestwood

9.    Lake Lehman

10.  North Pocono

11.  Nanticoke

12.  Honesdale

13.  Tunkhannock

14.  Wyoming Area

15.  Western Wayne

16.  Hanover Area

17.  GAR

The actual bracket will be released tommorow (Sunday). However, if the above scenario pans out, it seems that the Lady Comets would host Tunkhannock on Wednesday in a first-round game. If the Lady Comets were to win in the first round, then they would host the Berwick-Honesdale winner in the quarterfinal on Friday; if the Clark Summit legion wins this game, that would put them on track to travel to Dallas for a semi-final match, assuming Dallas wins its quarterfinal.

The final will be held at a neutral location. We will talk more next week about the potential matchups, as post-season soccer gears up.

 



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    2014 LADY COMETS