Wildcats Should Be Right in the Thick of the Title Hunt

There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air right now as Western Wayne’s boys varsity soccer team prepares for the 2019 campaign.

The Wildcats are coming of a stellar season in which they hammered out 12 wins in Lackawanna League competition.

In addition, Coach Matt Fitzsimmons’ squad finished second in Division II and received a berth in the district tournament.

“I think we can definitely compete for the division title again,” the veteran skipper said Thursday afternoon. “We lost several really good players to graduation, but we also have some very talented kids coming back.”

Western Wayne fans will get their first chance to see this year’s team on the pitch next week.

The ‘Cats will host Wyoming Area on Monday morning. Action gets underway at 11 a.m. on the turf at Sharkey Rosetti Memorial Stadium.

Solid Nucleus

Upon closer examination, Western Wayne was actually hit pretty hard by graduation.

A total of 13 seniors played their final match in 2018, including an eye-popping six Lackawanna League all stars.

Nevertheless, Wildcat fans will see an exciting team this fall ... one comprised of battle-tested veterans and talented youngsters.

The core of this squad is a quartet of seniors who will be counted upon to provide leadership in and off the field: Gary Geinitz, Connor Laity, Brendan Fitzsimmons and Alex Amorine.

“They’re good kids,” Coach Fitzsimmons said. “And they’re already stepping up and taking on responsibility. This first week of practice has been great. It’s been very organized and focused.”

Geinitz anchors the defensive backfield at keeper.

A three-year varsity starter, Gary was named a First Team Division II All Star last fall. He’s looking to have a dominant senior season and parlay that success into a collegiate career.

“Gary is a very intelligent kid and a very smart player,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “I’ve known Gary since kindergarten and he’s always been a goalie. It’s in his blood. He loves the sport, but he loves the position even more.”

Amorine is a former league All Star who missed a big chunk of his junior season due to injury. Alex has excelled both as a sweeper and in the midfield, though his position for 2019 is still up in the air.

“Alex is a really good player and he’s very versatile,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “He has the skills to play up front or on defense. Alex is a difference-maker and going to expect a lot from him.”

Fitzsimmons also missed the majority of his junior campaign with an injury.

Brendan is a talented multi-sport athlete who also plays basketball. He’s a big, strong kid with an imposing physical presence who should give enemy defenders fits up front.

“That’s something I’m noticing” said Coach Fitzsimmons of his son.

“Brendan is starting to use his size to his advantage. He’s a dangerous weapon because, not only is he big, but he’s also got some really good soccer skills.”

Laity was one of Western Wayne’s top scorers a year ago. Connor is a natural scorer with a nose for the net and a powerful shot that has Lackawanna League keepers shaking in their shoes.

“I’m expecting huge things from Connor this season,” said Coach Fitzsimmons. “He’s a very polished player with tons of travel team experience. Connor has a phenomenal shot. It’s hard and fast and he can make the ball move all over the place.”

Expectations

Western Wayne lost to just three teams all of last year. Unfortunately, two of those came at the hands of Lakeland and cost the ‘Cats a division title.

This year, though, the local lads appear poised possibly to overtake the Chiefs.

“We did lose quite a few kids to graduation, but we’re also bringing back some who got a ton of experience in big games,” said Coach Fitzsimmons.

Add to that mix the two injured players (Amorine and Fitzsimmons) who are now healthy and you have the recipe for another playoff run.

The Wildcats return to Division II this fall and will compete against the likes of St. Gregory’s, Blue Ridge, Mountain View, Forest City and Montrose.

“I don’t think there’s one team head and shoulders above everybody else,” said Coach Fitzsimmons.

“Our division is pretty balanced. We can’t take anything for granted, but if we play the way we’re capable, we should be right in the thick of things.”