Lady Bucks prepare for another championship chase in soccer action

If there is one girls team in the whole of the Lackawanna Soccer League that will be an enigma this autumn, at least until the season commences that is, it is undoubtedly Wallenpaupack Area.

For the past four years the Lady Buckhorns have largely operated under the same plan: A) Maintain a strong defensive unit, and B) Feed the ball to Rachael Tirjan.

The first part of the Paupack plan is an annual staple. Head Coach Alicia Sodano is ever mindful of whom she appoints to stifle the attacks of opposing squads. As for the second part of the strategy? Well, that’s the $64,000 question.

“It’s a rebuilding year,” Coach Sodano said, “We’re still going to be successful but we’re going to have to work harder. It’s not going to be as easy as it was in the past.”

Big Shift

“We have to shift and get used to being without Rachael,” said senior Liz Desmet, Paupack's veteran midfielder. “The offense will be something new but we’re bringing back a strong defense and a strong midfield.”

Just to recap last season, The Lady Bucks scored 70 goals. Tirjan accounted for 38 of them. Along with other recent graduates Mackenzie Turner and Madison Nakileny, that number jumps to 50.

They posted a 16-4 overall record with three of the losses coming by the hand of Scranton Prep, and one from Delaware Valley.

By and large, most victories were by margins greater than two points, but 20 goals wouldn’t have been enough to squeeze by last year, as 23 slipped into the Buckhorns net.

Defensively, there’s been a shuffle.

Junior Makenna Peet returns in net. She had 63 saves last fall and gave up 22 goals. Of her 14 wins, 10 were clean sheets.

Also, back in the back is her classmate, Katie Mancino. Senior Emily Peet drops back to defense and sophomore Gabby Passenti joins the fullbacks.

Sophomore Devon Kiesendahl will be making the transition to stopper.

Moving up from defense to a center mid position to join with Liz Desmet is junior Aliah Balch. Junior Emily Langan and sophomore Ana Ioppolo will occupy the middle wing positions.

The attack is the riddle.

Out of the returning players, sophomore Megan Desment led the scoring by sending five in between the pipes, however, she’s out temporarily with an injury.

The middies can shoot too. Langan and Ioppolo each had three, while the elder Desmet had a pair.

Senior Sydney Colwell scored four times last year and will be one of the strikers this season. She will be joined by a promising, but untested freshman, Jacqui Weber.

“Everyone brings skills to the team and we’re all really close,” said Colwell.

“The underclassmen make it fun but when it’s time to be serious, everyone one is. I’m excited to see the season to start.”

On the Card

The Lady Bucks, start league operations on Saturday, August 31 when they face Valley View at 9 a.m. as they attempt to capture their fourth consecutive Jamie Kotula Kick-Off Classic title.

Also, in the mix as potential foes in the tourney are Holy Cross, Lakeland, North Pocono, and Western Wayne.

“Valley View is very good this year,” said Coach Sodano. “The first game of the Kotula will be a good test for us.”

How the Lady Bucks do the first week of divisional play will say a lot about the squad. They host Scranton Prep on Sept. 4. The Classics knocked them out of the playoffs last fall and like Paupack, Prep is bringing back a lot of the same players, so expect that to be a more than heated match.

Two days later the Purple & White visit Abington Heights. Delaware Valley comes to town on Sept. 9, the Buckhorns are away at Valley View on Sept. 11; and then come home to face Honesdale on Sept. 16.

Sept. 18 is a road trip to North Pocono with second stop at Scranton on Sept. 20 to close the first half of the season.

The journey continues at Prep on Sept. 23 then it’s home to duke it out with Abington on Sept. 25. They are at DV on Sept. 30, then back home to welcome Valley View on Oct. 3 and Mountain View on Oct. 5.

They venture to the Maple City on Oct. 8 to deal with Honesdale, and then wrap up at home against North Pocono on Oct. 10 and Scranton, for Senior Night, on Oct. 15.

“All I want out of our girls this year is to give it their 100 percent, work hard, and leave everything on the field,” Coach Sodano said.

“There’s a lot of strong teams in the league this year and we can be competitive and finish well but we’re only going to do that if we put everything we’ve got into the season.”