Western Wayne boys varsity soccer team is deep and experienced
Western Wayne is coming off an up and down season in boys varsity soccer action.
The Wildcats showed flashes of brilliance during the 2017 Lackawanna League campaign, but managed just four wins and a disappointing fifth place finish in Division II.
Despite these somewhat discouraging numbers, Coach Matt Fitzsimmons thinks his team is poised for a breakout season in 2018.
League officials have once again re-structured the divisions, allowing Western Wayne to play a schedule featuring schools of similar size and make-up.
“I definitely have high expectations,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “We're very talented skill-wise and I think we're ready to take this to the next level.”
Western Wayne's overall numbers are excellent at this early point in the season. There are more than 30 boys out for the varsity team, up from 20 last fall.
This is also a veteran squad, led by a battle-tested group of 12 seniors.
“I'm anxious to get out there and see what we have,” Coach Fitzsimmons said. “We look great in practice, but now it's time to go up against some live competition.”
Western Wayne will open up its pre-season slate with a road trip to Berwick this weekend. Action begins on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Matt Fitzsimmons is entering his 20th year at the helm of Western Wayne's boys varsity program.
Over the course of those two decades, he's coached championship teams, cellar dwellers and just about everything in between.
This season, Matt has a problem he hasn't encountered all that often: Too many talented kids and not enough positions on the pitch.
“It's kind of a nice problem to have,” he said with a laugh. “All the pieces are there. Now, it's just a matter of figuring out how they fit together.”
Leading the way are Cameron and Leonard Johnson. This dynamic soccer duo will be at the forefront of the Wildcats' offensive attack this fall.
Both play in the midfield and each brings a different skill set to bear. Cameron is the team's leading scorer, while Leonard is adept at setting his brother up with opportunities.
“They definitely have that special 'twins' thing going,” Coach Fitzsimmons said. “Some of the passes they make back and forth are just amazing. It's like a sixth sense.”
Alex Amorine and Jamie Ashby are also back in the fold and seem ready to enjoy breakout seasons.
Amorine is a junior who'll open up the season at sweeper. He is the team's lone returning Lackawanna League All-Star.
“Alex is a great kid,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “He's so versatile. I can plug him in anywhere and he'll excel. Alex isn't the biggest kid on the field, but he's fearless and relentless.”
Ashby is a senior striker who was on pace to be one of the league's top scorers last fall. Unfortunately, he lost a huge chunk of the season to a knee injury.
“Jamie looks great,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “It's wonderful to have him healthy and back out there again. Jamie just has a knack for finding the goal.”
Gary Geinitz and Connor Laity also received rave reviews from their mentor.
Geinitz is Western Wayne's goal keeper. He trains year-round and plays travel ball during the off-season. Geinitz is a multi-sport standout who also excels in track & field.
“Gary has developed into one of the best keepers in the region,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “He's big, fast and athletic. Best of all, he's become a very vocal leader. He really takes charge of things out there.”
Laity moved into the district several years ago from the state of Delaware. He's a junior who brings some serious pop to the Wildcats' front line.
“I'm really expecting big things from Connor this year,” Coach Fitzsimmons said. “He has a ton of power and excellent skills. Connor has been playing on travel teams since he was little and is very knowledgeable.”
Ready to Roll
Saturday will be a key juncture in Western Wayne's preparation for the regular season.
The Wildcats face a Berwick team that's looking to make some noise in the Wyoming Valley Conference in 2018.
“We've had some very good practices the last week or so,” Coach Fitzsimmons said. “The kids are excited to see some real action and so am I.”
Matt's first stated goal of the season is to compete for a division title. The 'Cats will battle the likes of Holy Cross, Dunmore, Lakeland, Montrose, Mountain View and Blue Ridge in a re-vamped Division II.
After that, who knows?
“I definitely think we have the talent to compete with just about anybody,” he said. “We had some problems scoring goals last year, but if everyone stays healthy that shouldn't be an issue this year.”
Western Wayne begins its gold medal quest over Labor Day weekend with a berth in the Jamie Kotula Tournament in Scranton.