Wallenpaupack Area's girls soccer team kicked off its '08 season with a dominating performance on the shores of The Big Lake.
When Wallenpaupack Area’s girls varsity soccer team graduated a pair of perennial Wyoming Valley Conference all-stars in Joanie French and Kelsi Horan, many on the local scholastic scene figured the Lady Bucks would be in for a long spring.
On Thursday, those fears appeared justified when Paupack suffered a season-opening 6-1 loss at the hands of East Stroudsburg South.
“We got thumped,” Coach Mike Soskil told TWI Sports with a chuckle. “They caught us a little off guard and kept us back on our heels all game long. But, we definitely learned something from the experience: with the kind of team we have this year, we can’t afford to play passively. For us to win games, we have to be aggressive. We need to show grit, determination and heart.”
Coach Soskil went on to say that this lopsided loss left a bad taste in his girls’ mouths. The Lady Bucks were anxious to get back out on the field and cleanse that bad taste... something they took care of just three days later.
On Monday, Paupack welcomed North Pocono to the shores of The Big Lake for another pre-season contest. The Lady Bucks came out on fire in this one, taking a big early lead and rolling to an eventual 8-0 victory.
Jill Alderfer led Paupack’s offensive attack, posting a hat trick in just her second game of the season. Lauren Cassel chipped in with a pair of goals, while Rosy Tamam, Gina Boccia and Sara Olson tallied one apiece.
Heather Michael was called upon to make just a single save in goal for the Lady Bucks, while North Pocono keeper Nancy Dunn carded an even dozen.
“I’m very pleased with how we played,” said Coach Soskil. “The girls turned in a solid all-round effort. If we play like that, I think we can compete with just about anybody.”
Paupack’s 2008 regular season schedule kicks-off this evening. The Lady Bucks will host Wyoming Area in a WVC Division ‘B’ battle. This match is slated for a 6:00 p.m. start at the school’s state-of-the-art, multi-purpose field.
Onward & Upward
Last season, Wallenpaupack Area rolled to an 8-5-1 record in WVC action. The Lady Bucks qualified for the District Two play-offs with an overall mark of 11-8-1.
Paupack met archrival Delaware Valley in the opening round and held on for an electrifying 1-0 victory. Unfortunately for local soccer fans, the Lady Bucks ran into Abington Heights in the Class AAA semifinals and ended their season on the short end of a 5-0 score.
The Comets went on to win the district title via a 3-1 decision over Berwick.
With French and Horan lost to graduation, Paupack found itself in desperate need of new leaders. Coach Soskil is convinced he’s found those leaders in the triumvirate of Brie Zeiler, Sara Olson and Jillian Jansco. These three young ladies will serve as captains for the 2008 season.
“All three of them have excellent leadership qualities,” said Coach Soskil. “They aren’t the most vocal kids in the world, but they lead by example. Brie, Sara and Jillian have been around the program for a long time. I have high hopes that they’ll be very good captains.”
Zeiler is a fascinating story. A senior who lost her entire junior season to a devastating knee injury, Brie continues along the road to a remarkable recovery. She contributed solid minutes on the basketball court this winter despite a big, bulky knee brace. Now, she appears to be nearing 100% as the soccer season looms.
Brie has earned a starting spot in Paupack’s midfield and will play a key role in whatever offense the Lady Bucks manage to generate in ‘08. Zeiler played all 80 minutes in Monday’s victory over North Pocono, a sure sign that her comeback is nearly complete.
“We’re obviously very excited to have Brie back out there,” Coach Soskil said. “She brings a lot to the table. Brie’s been able to go full-throttle in a straight line for quite awhile. But, now she’s got her agility back. She’s cutting on a dime and playing with a great deal of confidence. It’s really good to see.”
Olson also plays a crucial role in Paupack’s midfield. Most of the Lady Bucks’ offense will run through Sara, a senior who banged home her first goal of the season Monday off a corner kick from teammate Kyla Wentz.
Jansco is the lone underclassman among the captains. A junior defender who Coach Soskil calls “our best all-round player,” Jillian is slated to play sweeper this spring.
“Honestly, we could put Jillian anywhere on the field and she’d excel,” he said. “She has terrific skills and a nose for the ball. Jillian is an outstanding player.”
Offensively, Paupack will start Lauren Cassel and Gina Boccia at the forwards. Both of these girls are juniors and they form an exciting 1-2 punch at the heart of the Paupack attack.
Cassell possesses outstanding ball skills. She can take most defenders off the dribble and is one of the division’s top finishers. Boccia’s game is predicated on pure speed and the ability to get behind opposition defenses.
Joanie French left Paupack as the best keeper in school history. She recorded 38 wins in her varsity tenure and posted an eye-popping 25 shutouts. French’s shoes will be difficult to fill, but Coach Soskil believes he has three possible candidates in Heather Michael, Kay Sennefelder and Kaysey Beury.
Just a sophomore, Michael earned the win Monday against North Pocono. Sennefelder is also in 10th grade, while Beury is a senior. All three have seen action in the pre-season, but Coach Soskil anticipates that one will eventually win the job outright, possibly as early as the end of the week.
“I’m a former keeper myself and I know how important it is to have a steady, dependable presence at that position,” he said. “I think the girls have confidence in all three, but we need someone to step up and take charge.”
Justine Olsommer, Kyla Wentz and Margit Deppert will hold down the back line. Olsommer is a junior stopper, while Wentz is a sophomore who recorded a team-high three assists in the win over North Pocono. Deppert is also a 10th grader, but she’s already building a reputation as one of the circuit’s best young players.
“Margit is a lights-out defender,” said Coach Soskil. “She doesn’t make many mistakes, but when she does, she has the speed to recover quickly. Margit’s going to give people a lot of headaches this season.”
The WVC’s Division ‘B’ should once again be ruled by Wyoming Seminary. The Blue Knights rolled to the title in 2007 and are odds-on favorites to repeat in ‘08. According to Coach Soskil, Sem is “the class of the division.” Paupack, DV and Wilkes Barre GAR should fight it out for second place and a berth in the district play-offs.
“DV is obviously our biggest rival,” he said. “But, this is a pretty tough division this year. Aside from Sem, I think anyone could knock off an anyone else on a given day. It should be very competitive and a lot of fun this season.”