Tuesday, October 22
This weekend the Lady Comets will begin defense of their district title

There is much beauty in this world, especially in the verdant woodlands surrounding Kingsley, PA. The panoramic view from the high school sports fields up there is truly spectacular; and the soccer pitch at Mountain View is certainly one of the prettiest and best-maintained natural grass surfaces in the region. Yesterday, there was still a pastel tint present in some of the trees; and, late in the game, a struggling sun shown through a steamy autumn mist, embuing the soccer field with a spooky Halloween appearance. The only bit of tarnish on this generally silver day came from the inconsistent performance of the two competing teams.

Throughout the course of the game, both the Lady Comets and the Lady Eagles showed moments of elegance that were betrayed by stretches of disorganization. Nevertheless, each side put palpable pressure on the other--and each team's tactical scheme seemed to test the character of the opposing defense. However, for the first several minutes of this match, both teams found ways to resist their opponent's offensive runs.

Abington won the game 3-0; but in all fairness, the Lady Comets were pretty lucky to escape this match with a "clean sheet." Mountain View's star striker, Jenny Molenko, used her speed and finesse on more than one occasion to test the defensive moxie of the Abington back line. She produced 4 solid on-frame shots in the first half alone, and Blair Cacciamani had to come up with 8 saves on the afternoon to post the shutout. We should note, by the way, that most teams have no answer for the 100-goal scorer Molenko. One can try to contain her, but she will have her moments--and she did!  And let us point out that nobody keeps her completely off the scoreboard--well, after today, we should say almost nobody.

The first half of this game was a competitive affair, and both sides felt frustration around the net.  However, eventually, with just over five minutes left in the first stanza, the Lady Comets would finally put an end to the scoreless deadlock. Isabelle Clauss, playing again out of the central midfield, recorded her 6th assist on the season, when she sent a nice pass into space that set up Michaelina Holmes's 5th goal of the 2013 campaign. The first half finished with the score set at 1-0, and the Lady Comets at least had something in the books that was worthy of their significant expenditure of energy.

From a statistical standpoint, the second half of this contest belonged to Abington, who outshot the Lady Eagles 14-6 after intermission, placing 8 of their shots on goal and two in the net. The Lady Comets were also awarded an eye-popping 8 corner kicks in the half, and several of the Abbey Burke serves from these kicks nearly resulted in goals. 

Abington wasted little time getting started after the break, and scored a goal just over one minute into the half. Tiana Yarns was able to finish from close range, when she jumped on a loose ball that had been pinging around inside the box. Later, with just 7:23 to go, Holmes would put a cap on the day's scoring by powering home her second goal on the day. This time, Holmes's goal came from a juiced-up offensive outburst that began with an authoritative dribble drive into the penalty area and ended with a whistling shot into the net. 

By the end of the day, many different faces appeared on the pitch for Abington; first of all, the team began the day without the services of leading goal-scorer Emma Henzes; and, then, the Lady Comets lost Isabelle Clauss to injury after just 35 minutes of play. Nevertheless, the reserves performed well and with determination.

Mountain View suffered its first loss of the season, but will likely dance its way to the single A district championship. The Lady Eagles are not quite a match for the stronger AAA teams yet, but there is no doubt that they are serious about their soccer. And with players like Molenko and Hannah Richner, they could make some noise in the state single A playoffs. Keep an eye on them. 


Post-season play begins, for the Lady Comets, this Saturday, October 26th at CSE Field, when the girls take on the Hazleton Area Cougars in a first-round PIAA District Playoff game. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. THE WEATHER SHOULD BE COLD FOR THIS ONE!  Pull the winter parka out of the closet, because we may not see 50 degrees during this game.

Although no one can effectively anticipate the outcome of a high school soccer game--and many fools have tried--there will not be many pundits hyper-ventilating if Saturday's match turns out to be uncompetitive. The fact is that Hazleton has suffered through a tough season record-wise and has come out on the short end of several one-sided scores. Certainly, one needs to respect the possibility that the Lady Cougars could give the Lady Comets a good game. In fact, when the sport is girls' soccer, and we start thinking about counting our chickens, it is best to wait not only until they are hatched but until they reach adolesence. Yet despite such precautionary truisms, and in all legitmate honesty, objective statistics suggest that this matchup could be less like a first-round game and more like an appetizer--which reminds me, by the way, of what may be the best reason for playing this game: we get to reopen the concession stand.

The only wins for Hazleton this year have come at the expense of teams which are carrying win-loss records that are equal to, or even worse than, the 2-13 mark posted by the Lady Cougars. Indeed, one of Hazleton's two wins came against the generally-beatable MMI (arguably one of the region's best academic schools, but a small-sized instiitution that struggles mightily on the athletic field.)

If the Lady Comets get past Hazleton, they will likely face Wyoming Valley West in the semi-final, unless Scranton pulls off a big upset. The last time the Lady Comets faced Wyoming Valley West was two days prior to the last time Abington faced Hazleton.  Back in the spring of 2010, Abington beat Hazleton 4-0 in the district championship game, after polishing off Wyoming Valley West in the semi-final by the identical score. So, there is a bit of deja vu flavoring the scenario this year.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, a ready-to-run Wallenpaupack side will be waiting to face the winner of the Delaware Valley and Williamsport game. There are seven teams in the bracket. Therefore, as the number one seed, the Lady Buckhorns receive a bye in the first round. Both Wallenpaupack and Williamsport have, coincidentally, played Hazleton this year, pounding the Lady Cougars 8-1 and 6-0 respectively. Thus, even if Hazleton does not provide a strong challenge--and that definitely remains to be seen--the Lady Comets may still have much to be concerned about in the semi-final. 

Final Note: After much reflection, I have decided that I will continue the tradition of posting my self-indulgent perceptions about the "keys" to Lady Comet success in the playoffs. However, I will wait until just before the Halloween championship match to do so--that is, if  the Lady Comets are fortunate enough to get to the championship match. Wallenpaupack Coach Alicia Sodano is among the many regular readers of this website; so, maybe she will, in a foolish moment, take my pre-game reflections to be in some vague measure commensurate with the thinking of Coach Hunter--she will then prepare her team incorrectly for any possible encounter our two sides might have. And that will be the last time anyone will try to scout the Lady Comets by studying the reckless ruminations posted here.