Abington Heights’ boys and girls soccer teams saw their seasons swing in parallel paths a year ago.
Both finished third in the Lackawanna League Division I standings. Both were soundly beaten in their first District 2 playoff game.
And both are hoping the trajectory of this season takes them in a different direction.
“Last year wasn’t as successful as we thought it would be,” said David Paramo, a junior midfielder who head coach Frank Dyska said is one of his team’s players to watch. “We didn’t play as a team. This year we will be.
“We built trust in each other. If it’s a hard game, that can win it or lose it.”
That wasn’t the problem on the girls team. Inexprience was, as the team tried to regroup after losing its core from an undefeated regular season in 2017.
“Expectations are so high, but we basically lost all our starters and so we started from scratch,” senior co-captain Anna Marchetta said. “By the end of the season I think we came together but we still had some missing pieces that we have to make sure we have fixed for this season.”
One of those pieces is better chemistry, especially with nine starters back.
”I think last year was a year all about growing pains. and we really didn’t know each other,” co-captain Morghan Stiles said. “A lot of girls, it was their first time playing in a varsity game. Now that they have some experience, I really think it’s going to be a lot better for us.
“We’re trying to add some mental toughness to our game as well. I think that’s going to be a key factor this year.”
It’s one of the growing pains that head coach Errol Mannick is hoping will lead to a more successful campaign.
“I think a lot of it is also that game toughness, that experience, because the majority of our starters last year we’re sophomores,” Mannick said. “I think we started six or seven sophomores and one freshman last year.
“Sometimes you don’t have that maturity, they are not quite tough enough for those harder games. I think they are getting there. The outlook is very strong for us. But we also have a very competitive division.”
Mannick sees a Division I race with Scranton Prep as the favorite and his Lady Comets, Valley View, Honesdale, Wallenpaupack and Delaware Valley all capable of challenging.
It’s exactly the same scenario that boys head coach Frank Dyska sees playing out with six teams, including Scranton Prep and Honesdale, capable of being at the top of the standings.
“The division title is a wide-open race this year,” Dyska said. “I think a lot of teams have a new look this season. I expect it to be wide open and I do expect us to be able to be competitive with teams.
“We lost scoring, but we do return a lot of the midfield and defense. Our team is good at maintaining possession. A lot of those players are returning. They’re great at finding passes, moving into space, and that’s kind of the MO of returning scoring. It’s great to have a scorer like that. Don’t get me wrong. I think in soccer you can find ways to create goals As a team. It’s not necessarily relying on one guy to bail you out game after game. it’s not a bad thing. I think we will find a way to be a team that creates goals and see a lot of different scorers.”
This year’s team returns six starters from a year ago, and defender Seth Blakiewicz sees the relationship between starters and newcomers as a key to the team’s success.
“We just need to build team chemistry,” Blakiewicz said. “We were traveling throughout the summer and travel building it. It’s even more relevant now.”
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