2014 SEASON: Welcome


Tuesday, September 30

Ally Christman recorded a hat trick against Hornets (Photo: E. Black)

The Lady Comets completed some difficult tasks in yesterday's 10-1 dismissal of Honesdale.  After all, scoring 10 goals in a game is difficult; putting 16 shots on frame is difficult, maintaining one's focus during a blowout is difficult; but the most difficult thing that Abington did yesterday was accumulate 15 offside violations--now that is something that is genuinely difficult to do!  And despite the fact that Honesdale was trying to invoke the offside trap, yesterday's level of offside productivity was absolutely stunning.  Even in this 2014 season where offside has been a problem for the Lady Comets,  up until yesterday the number of single-contest offside calls against Abington had reached no higher than 6-- and six, by the way,  is a sizable number in itself. Abington also struggled with offside against both Valley View and Delaware Valley, logging 4 violations in each match.

My unending love for the Lady Comets may have gotten the best of me last week, when this reporter was quick to congratulate the Lady Comets on the "zero-offside" performance against North Pocono. How ironic that the team should, in its very next game, gravitate to the opposite extreme. Perhaps there was divine intervention by the soccer gods here, because if all of the offside calls had not been made, the Lady Comets would have totally decimated the visiting Hornets, and the hometown girls whacked around their guests pretty brutishly as it was. Nevertheless, the spirited and talented Abington attackers need to practice bending their runs, or practice developing cross-over runs, or practice making more diagonal and fewer vertical runs, or practice all of the above.

Setting aside the offside, the Lady Comets were solid around the opposition net, and many times Abington attackers were able to dribble through seams and beat defenders one-v-one. Veteran players led the offensive charge. Junior Ally Christman came away with a hat trick. Senior co-captain Michaelina Holmes added a brace of goals and salted her contributions with an assist on the initial Christman tally. However, other players, many other players, would participate in Abington's explosive attack--in fact, seven different Lady Comets scored goals yesterday. Midway through the second half, Emma Henzes delivered a world-class cross to help Kelly Seechock increase her season goal-scoring total to seven--the goal puts Seechock just one behind team-leader Christman who now has eight. The relentless Abington offensive surge rattled the Hornets and caused Honesdale to commit two DFK fouls in the box. Nora Caputo and Ashley Mulherin put away the ensuing penalty kicks. Allyson Derry added an unassisted goal at the 67:23 mark. And sophomore Mackenzie Machell capped the Abington scoring when she drove home a goal with less than a minute left to play. The goals by Mulherin and Machell were their first varsity tallies.

In spite of this game's most salient feature--that is, the record number of offside calls--the Lady Comets (7-2) played well in most other respects; particular intensity seemed to emanate from the play of Perrine Wasser, Emily Clauss, Tiana Yarns, and Hannah Kowalski. And Jasmin Patel may have turned in her most tenacious defensive performance of the season, as she gave plenty of trouble to the stray-flying Hornets out on the flank.

In one final observation, the 13 fouls whistled against Abington may indicate some problems with fundamentals or with Lady Comet concentration. However, on the other hand, maybe the objective was to generate a lot of opposition free kicks so that the Lady Comets could practice set-piece defense. 

SENIOR DAY IS NEXT:  At the halftime of Wednesday's home contest with West Scranton, the Lady Comets will honor their four senior players. Perrine Wasser, Michaelina Holmes, Nora Caputo, and Mariah Hawley will be recognized for their four-year contributions to team success. Kickoff for the game is 4:15.

HERE COME THE LADY BUCKHORNS:  After a relatively quiet start to the season, Wallenpaupack flexed its mighty muscles and rifled off 45 shots in an 11-0 thrashing of West Scranton. This result should remind everyone that despite a couple of tough losses this season, it is still the case that Wallenpaupacks a punch.


Wednesday, September 24

Emily Clauss slips past North Pocono's Madi Augustine (Photo: E. Black)

After a slow and shaky start, the Lady Comets were able to warm to the occasion about midway through the first half at North Pole--I mean, North Pocono--High School and claim victory over the host Lady Trojans by a 3-0 score. It was certainly a brisk and chilly day on the hilltop pitch--and there might have even been a little frost forming on the trees lining beautiful Bochicchio Boulevard--but Abington's out-of-the-gate performance was even colder than the weather as the Clark Summit kids had trouble warming up the engine. Quite uncharacteristicallly, the Lady Comets had difficulty in establishing field position during the early minutes; indeed, the Lady Trojans--who collected most of their shots early on in this game--held field position advantage for the first 5-6 minutes, before Abington was able to tilt the scales in the other direction. Even then the Lady Comets experienced a couple  of "pourous" moments defensively.

Eventuallly, long about the 10 minute mark, the Lady Comets would begin to take control of the proceedings; this threshold may have been crossed when Tiana Yarns scored off of a beautiful cross from Ally Christman with 29:34 left to go in the first period. The crowd witnessed some solid back and forth action for a few minutes before the momentum gathered on the Abington side of the ball. For example, after some furious attacking, Emma Henzes put her head down and drove toward the net, scoring a goal with just over 15 minutes left in half. Although only one more goal would be scored on the day, there seemed to be little question about who was in command following the Henzes tally. Abington held a significant advantage in shots and was looking more confident in the possession game.

In the second half, the Lady Comets would batter the North Pocono fortress with 12 shots--and, if one is perfectly honest, the Lady Trojans were lucky that only one second-half goal was scored against them; it was not exactly great defense that kept the Lady Comets off the scoreboard. It was more a matter of Lady Trojan defenders "getting in the way" of some powerful Abington shots. Even though the Lady Comets scored more goals in the first than in the second half, Abington looked to be in charge during the second stanza in a way that it was not in the early portions of the contest. With just under 7 minutes remaining, a determined Kelly Seechock would provide the final goal of this game, using a dribble drive to set up a 15-yard, cross-frame blast. If there has been any flaw in Seechock's performance this season it would be that she has expressed too much affinity for the near-post finish on her shots; this time, she angled the shot into the far side netting, taking the keeper out of the play and putting a smile on this reporter's face.

The Abington goalkeeping was essentially flawless, as Johanna Show collected the couple of saves that were necessary; she is also improving as far as "coming off her line" is concerned. There was determined flank play from Yarns and Ashley Mulherin in this game; and, in other good news, senior co-captain Perrine Wasser--although clearly not 100 percent fit--is showing signs of improvement coming back from injury; she was able to play over 30 minutes today. 

Division 2 leader North Pocono now drops to 4-3-1 on the year. Meanwhile, the Lady Comets improve to 6-2 on the season and to 6-1 in league play. The super-crucial games left on the Abington schedule will be the rematches with Valley View and Scranton Prep. Both of those are must-win games if the girls want to secure the league championship.

NO OFFSIDE TODAY -   Our more attentive fans have certianly noticed that the Lady Comets have been experiencing a little trouble with offside calls. This was not a big problem today. Of course, the Lady Comets owe a debt of gratitude to the North Pocono sweeper who helped keep everyone onside by playing deep enough to need scuba gear.

MS."EFFICIENCY" - I hesitate to add this statistical note given the praise already accorded this player in the article above, but facts are facts, and these facts are impressive. We will in future weeks be talking about several of the Lady Comets who have been racking up stats this year, but the best per-minutes-played offensive production on the team right now is coming from Kelly Seechock, who averages approximately 40 minutes of playing time per game, but has maximized those minutes in several eye-poppping ways, especially when we consider her rank among players with 15 or more shots. Although only 7th on the team in total minutes played, Seechock (among these high-end shooters) ranks first in goals scored, first in shot percentage, second in shot production, second in total points, and second in shot-on-goal percentage. From the statistician's desk, these figures display maximization of opportunity. By the way, one has to page back to 2009 and 2010 to find the last time a freshman was leading the team in goal scoring at this juncture of the season.

NO GOALKEEPER LEFT BEHIND - I might be crazy but it seems to me that the spacing in our up-the-field attacking formations is leaving too much room, too much wide open pasture, between the back line and the goalkeeper. The danger in having a keeper play well back while your string of fullbacks pushes up to the half line is, of course, the 40-plus yards of open space you create for an opposition through ball and quick counterattack; it is fine to push up with the back four (or three) but do not leave the goalkeeper back at home; she needs to get up higher in such cases, and act as a sweeper-keeper, to discourage or dismiss through balls and not get caught in awkward one-v-one scenarios with the opposition forwards.

Tuesday, September 23

Michaelina Holmes helped lead attack against Delaware Valley (Photo: E. Black)

On a day when the soccer genies were granting the Lady Comets no favors--especially when it came to the shots that the home-standing girls were pumping square on frame--all of sudden, as if to compensate for this Abington frustration, the dieities of the beautiful game proclaimed that an exuberant Delaware Valley defender shall re-direct into her own goal a shot attempt from Ally Christman. Thus it was decreed that, in this roundabout manner, an otherwise scorelesss game would mutate into a 1-0 victory for the Lady Comets. This was not a great way for Abington to win; it was an even more difficult way for Delaware Valley to lose. But justice was probably served, in the final instance, since the Lady Comets had been the more dominant team in the general run of play. One can see the statistical domination by reading the box score located elsewhere on this site.

The Lady Comets put most of the pieces into the puzzle, but could not get that last crucial component in place.To be specific, the Abington contingent (1) controlled field position, (2) won time of possession battle, (3) got numbers forward much of the time, (4) created some good scoring chances, (5)  put NINE shots on frame, but they could not get the final piece into the puzzle, i.e., they could not "beat the guard at the gate." In other words, some timely saves by the Warriors' goalkeeper were keeping the Lady Comets off the scoreboard, and one could feel from the parking lot Abington's communal exasperation. 

These are the kind of games that challenge a soccer player's soul; after all, you feel you are outplaying your opponent and getting shot opportunities, but the ball does not find its way into the breadbox.  In such situations, your hair bristles, your brow furrows, and your toenails burn. You castigate soccer as a "cruel" game; you condemn the sport as a malicious enterprise that is riddled with heartache and unfairness. However, the key is not to let "bad luck"---along with perhaps a few poor decisions--lead you into the nearly always fruitless act of "pressing" to score a goal. There might have been some vestage of "pressing" going on yesterday.

One issue that continues to present itself for the Lady Comets is "speed of play." The difference between a "save" and a  "goal" is often measured by that one superfluous second used to get off a shot. Recognizing windows of opportunity--as well as keeping track of where one's teammates are making their runs--often means an increase in the number of higher-percentage shots. Nine shots on goal should be enough, on average, to create two goals. The ratio may rectify itself in the next game. Such is the nature of soccer. 

The other harsh truth that needs to be digested is that quality teams react well when the game tests their character. How well did the Lady Comets react?  Each girl will have to measure this for herself; however, a team must learn to keep its poise during stretches of bad luck. Yesterday, the visiting Warriors were assisted by luck. But some Abington  "good luck" balanced the Lady Comets' stretch of bad luck. Indeed, what goes around maybe does in the end come around. Maybe.

NEXT UP: The Lady Comets head down to North Pocono tomorrow (Wednesday) for a 4:15 game.  North Pocono beat Delaware Valley earlier this season---and held a 1-0 halftime lead on Scranton Prep yesterday afternooon before losing in the second half. North Pocono currently sits atop the Lackawanna League Division Two Standings.

Tuesday, September 16

Carina Salerno moves ball along the flank (Photo: E.Black)

About five years ago, Western Wayne was putting some potent soccer teams on the pitch and playing competitve games against all comers. Although they are still an effective team when pitted against mid-level soccer squads, the Wildcats have dropped off considerably in their recent performances against the league's higher echelon. This decline continued yesterday when the girls from Varden visited Clarks Summit and limped away on the vacant end of a 7-0 score.

If one adds to the seven-goal Abington output the fact that Western Wayne's Catherine Tuman came up with 15 diligent saves in this match, one gets an idea of how much gunfire hit the shed.  At times, the bombardment was unbearable. The Lady Comets were not only corking copious shots but were graciously sharing the launching pad. Six different players scored for Abington, with two of these six players recording their first career goals. Some of the largest Abington shot totals were registered by girls who came off the bench. All in all, a gaudy total of 25 stalwarts appeared for the blue and white; and, given the list of the Lady Comets' injured personnel, this group of twenty-five basically included every able-bodied woman in game-day attire.

Defensively, the Abington back line stymied whatever attack Western Wayne tried to develop. The fullback corps--which over the course of the day was composed variously of Jasmin Patel, Emily Bonsick, Abby Brown, Adrianna Green, and Mariah Hawley--frustrated the few attackers who stumbled through the dense Abington midfield. For the most part, there was simply no space for the Wildcats to set up shop. There was little for goalkeepers Johanna Show and Trish Caucci to do, mostly because Abington's controlled possession approach would not relinquish the ball. Indeed, the Lady Comets used some tantalizing one-touch passing to wind their way through a somewhat harried Western Wayne defense.

The first tally of the game occured just 3 minutes and 42 seconds after the kickoff, when a ready-to-run Ally Christman crushed home an unassisted goal following a majestic dribble drive. Before another ten minutes had passed, the team was huddled in communion again, this time celebrating the first career goal for freshman Emily Clauss who, utilizing a sweet assist from junior Emma Henzes, punched in a gem of a shot. From this point on, the only speculation circulating in the stands concerned how soon everyone would be home for dinner, because even at this early juncture there was no more doubt about who was going to win this game.

The Lady Comets went on to score five more goals, while the opposition barely threatened the Abington penalty area. Before the first half ended, senior Michaelina Holmes would get hold of a loose ball in the box and lace it into the net, giving the Lady Comets a 3-0 halftime lead. The two sides settled in for halftime discussions with decidedly different demeanors.

The festivities only turned darker for the Wildcats in the second period. Just three minutes into the final stanza, Christman would--like she did in the first half--open the scoring again, this time putting the ball in off of a fine cross from Tiana Yarns. Next on the agenda was a sparkling goal from freshman Hannah Kowalski, who allowed Christman to take a turn as the provider; the goal was the second of Kowalski's young yet already promising career.

At the 51:46 mark, Emma Henzes would extend the Abington lead when she pierced the back netting with a solidly struck and precisely placed free kick from the top of the box. Shortly thereafter, sophomore Nicole Getz would cap the scoring, when she jumped on a ball in the box and sent it past the keeper. It was Getz first varsity tally, and it would serve as the closing act of this one-sided goal fest.

In many ways, one could see this punishing result coming. One could see that the home-standing girls were smarting from their tough loss last Thursday to Scranton Prep. The Lady Comets rarely lose. So, woe unto any team that faces them in the first game following an Abington loss. Indeed, the Wildcats suffered yesterday the same fate that Scranton did in a game played immediately after the Lady Comets lost to Dallas; in that contest, the Knights tried in vain to hang close with a fired-up Lady Comets' side that was looking to make a statement and was aiming to reclaim any dignity that the soccer pundits might have tried to strip from them after the loss to the Mountaineers. With yesterday's victory, the Lady Comets have reminded the world that they are a very good soccer team, a team that plays in the inspiring shadows of its past and strives to reach the high standards established by the long line of former players who always kept excellence alive; in other words, the Lady Comets' program is infused with unimpeachable tradition--it is indeed a program worthy of a prominent ranking near the top of any list of the ten best girls soccer programs in NEPA.

NEXT UP: The schedule-makers send the Lady Comets out to Hawley this Wednesday for a 4:15 clash with Wallenpaupack, a program I placed in the number nine spot in my recently published list of the top ten NEPA girls soccer programs. The last time these two sides met was in last year's District Championship game, a match in which the Lady Buckhorns logged a 1-0 victory over Abington; it was a win that might have been considered a mild upset, even though Wallenpaupack was an extraordinarily polished team last year--the game marked the first time Wallenpaupack had beaten the Lady Comets; so there might be a revenge factor in Wednesday's game; in other words, it might well be worth the trip out to the lake. The Lady Buckhorns have a solid team again this year; however, after graduating a boatload of players last spring, they will not be fielding this season a team of the same calibre as last year's side.  Paupack does return its talented head coach Alicia Sodano, who will have her players ready for the game. The Lady Buckhorns lost 4-2 to Prep yesterday; so, as a side note, one can say that Wallenpaupack scored more goals against the Classics than the Lady Comets did..

WHERE DO THE ANTIQUATED ARTICLES GO?  For those who have asked, the old articles and game stories posted on this site are sent to the netherworld after they have served their purpose.  I have been able to archive many of the articles, and I will soon post under the NEWS page as many of these older pieces as I can.  So look for older posts there.  Due to the editing process I use, the NEWS icon might not always appear on the homepage menu --but if this icon is taken down temporarily, have faith that it will reappear. 

NOTES:  .  .  . special thanks to assistant statistician Will Misiura, who among other things, manages the substitution traffic during our games; he did a grown man's job yesterday handling with aplomb the huge quantity and frequency of subs in the Western Wayne contest .  .  . after opening up with tough games against Prep and the Lady Comets,  the Cougars of Valley View showed yesterday why they are a top program, expressing themselves with a 8-1 rout of Honesdale. 



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