The 2016 boys soccer season was one characterized by standout seniors.
Those players have all graduated however, and their respective teams are now left to find ways to replace the impact they created on the pitch. Whether it was goals, textbook defending, big saves or the numerous tackles, passes and plays that add up in 80 minutes of play, it’s a lot of filling to do.
That’s the thing about the Reporter/Times-Herald/Montgomery area, no matter how much talent leaves, there always seems to be more ready to step into the void.
La Salle had a stellar 2016, winning a treble in taking the Philadelphia Catholic regular season and tournament titles and District 12-4A championship. The Explorers did it behind a very strong and determined senior class that included Spencer Patton (Virginia), Mike D’Angelo and Zach Hogan among others. The PCL is tough, especially with Roman Catholic, Father Judge and Archbishop Wood waiting, but La Salle coach Tom McCaffery has a solid core back including keeper Brett Werner, defenders Joseph Brigidi and Nicholas Hammel and forward Chris Metzler.
North Penn had itself quite a season last year as well, as the Knights won the rugged SOL Continental conference, placed third in District I and advanced to the second round of the state tournament, knocking out La Salle to do so. Coach Paul Duddy also had a senior-heavy lineup that included Reporter Player of the Year Mike Kohler, forward Nate Baxter, defender Noah Kwortnik and keeper Bobby Dean.
Duddy, who seems to face the yearly task of replacing a big class of quality seniors, also has some excellent underclassmen back, including defender/midfielder Carter Houlihan, junior winger Aiden Jerome, senior midfielder Jack Johnston and junior striker Luke McMahon.
The last area team standing in 2016, PIAA Class AA semifinalist Lansdale Catholic will also have a very new look this fall. Bill James takes over as head coach of a side trying to replace Noah Saba (Widener), Josh Yurastis (George Washington), Will Rex and keeper Jack Kane. LC, which always hangs tough in the PCL, returns a few starters including junior Kyle Kane, senior Matt Edling and junior Matt McDonald.
Life at the top of the table in the SOL American was tenuous in 2016, with Wissahickon, Hatboro-Horsham and Upper Dublin scrapping down to the final matchdays of the regular season before the Flying Cardinals eked out the title. UD, now under the guidance of Andy Meehan, lost eight seniors among them Anthony Wisdo (Roanoke), Jose Palomeque (PSU-Abington) and keeper Jason Stone.
Fending off the Hatters, who return Danny Bateman, Danny Harmon and Nick Hatzenbeller, and the Trojans, who recall the services of Blake Geisler, Jacob Kaffey, Jake Cohen and Eddie Fortescue, will not be an easy task for UD’s returnees like Jerry Bardol, Dan Ness and Tom Hiltwine.
For reigning District 1-A champion Faith Christian, replacing 30-goal scorer Kazuya Hirano, plus a handful of other impact seniors, is a tall order for coach Ryan Clymer.
Archbishop Wood comes in off a PCL semifinal finish and District 12-3A title but does lose high quantity scorer Mike Smith and midfield engine RJ Liszewski. Abington returns junior Sean Touey, who bagged more than 20 goals in a breakout sophomore season and senior keeper Nick Brownholtz as the Ghosts try to navigate a loaded SOL National. Lower Moreland, coming off a run to the PIAA AA quarterfinals, likewise loses a number of seniors but has impact players back like junior Bryce Horn, senior Zach Firko and keeper Fred Shub.
2016 Record: 12-7-0 (7-5-0 SOL National).
Head Coach: Randy Garber.
Players to Watch: GK Nick Brownholtz (Sr), F Sean Touey (Jr).
Outlook: The Ghosts return a host of players from last year’s district playoff team and have plenty of experience in each third of the field. Touey erupted on the scene with a 20-goal campaign last year.
2016 Record: 8-7-1.
Head Coach: Hugh Kelly.
Returning Players: Cody Taylor,Shawn Clark,Jake Nubbemeyer,Hugh Lynch,Bob Hennessy.
Players to Watch: GK Connor Ford.
Outlook: “The Vikings have a very challenging non-league schedule as well as a tough league schedule. The team is young but very hard working.”
2016 Record: 4-13 (4-10 SOL American).
Head Coach: Bill Tonkin.
Outlook: “Our goals for the season are to be competitive and build on what we have started in the preseason and getting better each day. While we want to win, we are also focused on developing the players into better soccer players.”
2016 Record: 12-5-1 (9-4-1 BAL).
Head Coach: Matt Moyer.
Players to Watch: Austin Kratz, Lincoln Bergey, Hayden Phillips, Jeremy Yoder, Praise Zoegar, Braden Landis, Micah Kratz, Jacob Shreiner.
Outlook: “We are returning a majority of the starting lineup after graduating only three starters. There is healthy competition for positions this year and lots of depth on the bench.
2016 Record: 8-11-2.
Head Coach: Brendan Sullivan.
Notable Players Lost: Jackson Sternberg (goalkeeper, graduated); Frank Koons (defender, graduated); Brendan Hasson (defender, playing with Union Academy).
Key Returning Players: M Mike Roman, M/F Ian Lugossy, Harrison Combs.
Other Players to Watch: D Joey Battisto, M Oliver Buck, D Will Noe, M Mike Capone, M Drew Budinsky.
Team Outlook: “With seven senior starters returning, plus several talented underclassmen, we look to challenge for the Inter-Ac title. A tough schedule of non-league games in September will help us prepare for the highly competitive Inter-Ac schedule in October, culminating in our annual contest for bragging rights with Penn Charter in early November. We intend to advance further into the PAISAA playoffs as well this year.”
2016 Record: 12-4-3 (9-2-3 SOL American).
Head Coach: Kyle McGrath (9th season).
Notable Losses: Joe Larouche, Chandler Ryan, Danny Bateman (PDA academy), Colin Davis (Union academy).
Key Returners: Colin Bateman (Sr.), Danny Harmon (Sr.), Will Kemp (Sr.), Nick Hatzenbeller (Sr.), Josh Hagerty (Sr.), JD Mallinder (Soph).
Other Players to Watch: Ryan Cole (Jr.), Andrew Hurrell (Jr.), Zack Kim (Jr.), Matty Harmon (Soph), Tyler McElrath (Soph).
Team Outlook/Goals: “We return a core group from last year’s team that has played together for the last two years and look to continue to build off of last year’s success. We are excited for our second year in the SOL American Conference. Our goal is to build off of last year’s success and sustain that level of performance on a consistent basis.”
2016 Record: 17-2-3 (9-0-2 PCL).
Head Coach: Tom McCaffrey.
Notable Losses: Spencer Patton (Virginia), Mike D’Angelo, Zach Hogan.
Players to Watch: GK Brett Werner, D Nicolas Hammel, D Joseph Brigidi, F Chris Metzler, M Max Mocharnuk, M Dave Steinbach.
Outlook: The Explorers enter after a dream season that saw them win PCL regular season and tournament titles, plus a District 12 championship. With the league looking loaded again, La Salle will have to reload quickly after graduating a very talented and driven senior class. Werner is one of the top keepers not only in the league, but the whole area and La Salle returns a solid foundation on defense and Metzler, who showed a knack for scoring goals in big moments last year.
2016 Record: 13-10-1.
Head Coach: Bill James.
Notable Players Lost: Joshua Yurasits (George Washington), Noah Saba (Widener), Jack Kane, and Matt Noti.
Key Returners/Players to Watch: Chris Edling, Dominic Melchiorre, Kyle Kane, Matt McDonald, and Stephen Esterle.
Outlook: “We are looking to improve as a program and be contenders in the PCL. Hoping to repeat as District 12 Champs and contend for a State Championship.”
2016 record: 11-5-2.
Key Returning Players: GK Fred Shub, M Zach Firko, M Mike McLaughlin, D Brett Sudell, D Devon Asplundh.
Other Players to Watch: Andrew Buss, David Skiendzielewski, Bryce Horn, Noah Dias.
Outlook: “Last season the team made it to the district championship and to the quarter finals of the state playoffs. The team is looking to return to the state playoffs. We have a strong nucleus of seniors and good supporting cast of juniors that complement them.”
2016 Record: 18-5 (10-2-0 SOL Continental).
Head Coach: Paul Duddy.
Notable Players Lost: Mike Kohler, Noah Kwortnick, Nick Terchek, Nate Baxter, Bobby Dean.
Key Returners: Carter Houlihan, Aidan Jerome, Luke McMahon, Jack Johnston, Matt Murphy.
Other Players to Watch: Rick Brophy, Ryan Staab.
Outlook: The Knights will have several key holes to plug coming off an SOL Continental title and state playoff appearance. Houlihan had an outstanding freshman season and can play in the back or midfield while McMahon will look to increase his scoring output at the top of the formation. It’s a tough schedule again, but this team has shown it can retool quickly.
2016 Record: 6-11-1 (1-10-1 SOL Continental).
Head Coach: Pete Valimont.
Players Lost: Kenny Estep, Josh Jarrett.
Key Returning Players: F Matt Stevenson (Jr), F Marco Grenda (Jr), D Evan Freed (Sr).
Others to Watch: M Jack Taplett (Jr), D Aidan Link (Jr), F Sebastian Perkowski (Sr), D Dillan Natitus (So).
Outlook: “Athletic group of players of varying ages. Can we come together as a ‘team’ and work towards a common goal for 10 weeks? If everyone ‘does their job’ it will be a great season for all.
“Matt Stevenson is going to be in the talks for ‘Player of the Year’. This summer he led his club team to a Regional Championship with a tournament-best six goals and then competed in Texas for Nationals.”
2016 Record: 10-8 (5-7 SOL Continental).
Notable Losses: Cameron Hart, Nick Marculo (Cedarville University), Dylan Molyneaux (Misericordia University), Luis Orellana.
Key Returners: Ethan Bell, Ben Campman, Abbel Carranza, Tommy Sonn.
Others to Watch: Luke Atiyeh, David Hafler, Mitchell Race, Robert Shea.
Outlook: “The Indians will rely on an experienced group of seniors to lead the team in the ever competitive SOL Continental conference and push for a place in the District I playoffs.”
2016 Record: 6-10-2 (5-8-1 SOL American).
Head Coach: Dan Meder.
Players Lost: Zach Harley, Mike Bonacci, Ben Zimmerman.
Key Returning Players: Trevor McCaffrey, Tenzin Lekshey.
Outlook: To improve upon last season’s record and qualify for District playoffs.
2016 Record: 15-3-2 (11-1-2 SOL American).
Head Coach: Andy Meehan.
Notable Losses: Anthony Wisdo, Jose Palomeque, Jake Chinn, Jason Stone.
Key Returning Players: Kevin Devlin, Jerry Bardol, Quinn Middleton, Max Adams.
Other Players to Watch: Colin Asper, Jordan Kahny, John Visher.
Outlook: “We are an experienced team this year with 15 seniors on the roster. We have excellent leadership and should be able to compete for another conference championship. Our goal is to build on the successes of last year and go on a deep playoff run in districts.”
Head Coach: Thomas Dodds.
2016 Record: 6-9-3 (6-6-2 PAC).
Players Lost: Alan Castillo, Josue Perez, Matt Bailey, Mike Kirk.
Players to Watch: Junior Trevor Looby, Sophomore Sam Tepe, GK Dylan Castillo.
Outlook: Looby comes in off a great summer as part of the 2017 EPYSA ODP National Championship team. The Vikings are looking at a bit of a rebuilding year, but plan to remain competitive and have many played see time on the pitch.
2016 Record: 7-11-1 (3-10-1 SOL American).
Head Coach: Matthew Duffey.
Players to Watch: D Kevin Walder, M Justin Mull, M Christian O’Donnell, F Connor Kristol, GK Matt Sheldon, F Ryan Cannon.
Outlook: “Cautiously optimistic. We are looking forward to building a program that can be competitive consistently. I am enjoying watching the players buy into our system and hopefully that will lead to success.”
2016 Record: 6-10-2 (3-8-1 SOL Continental).
Head Coach: Nick DiAndrea.
Players to Watch: Jared Sebzda (GK,) Brandon Hefele (GK), Billy Hanratty, Matt D’Ambra, D Dennis Grabert, D Brandon Layer, D Zach DiRenzi, D Jon Lotrean.
Outlook: “As a first year coach, I’m excited with the level of excitement and enthusiasm that our program has currently. We are excited to get going and look forward to the challenge which lies ahead.”
Head Coach: Stuart Malcolm.
2016 Record: 13-5-2 (10-3-1 SOL American).
Players Lost: Tom McHale, Joe Maiale, Brad Schwartz, Pat McCarry.
Key Returning layers: Jacob Cohen, Blake Geisler, Jacob Kaffey.
Other Players to Watch: Eddie Fortescue, David Goldstein, Matthew Om, Trey Schwartz.
Outlook: “With a veteran group returning, the Trojans look to challenge Upper Dublin and Hatboro-Horsham for the SOL American title and have eyes on a long playoff run.”