Aiming for a Title
While the schedule changed a bit, there was a constant that remained the same in the Lackawanna League in boys soccer - Abington Heights captured a division title.
Since the Comets joined the league, the program has found itself atop its division each year except for one.
"I don't think the divisional change affected our team at all on the mental side, as we did have some good matches in the league," head coach Steve Klingman said. "Teams are tougher on the road and we never seem to have a home schedule at the end of the season due to our field conditions or lack of field for games or practices."
While it sounds routine, this year's Division I title was anything but. Every opponent wants to beat the Comets, because of the program's past history, but they were prepared.
"Going 12-1 in the league was great [with the] one loss being 2-1 to Delaware Valley," Klingman said. "I tell our kids that every team gets up for us, probably more than other opponents, so I feel we are challenged in almost every match. The league championship, a 1-0 overtime loss to DV, could have gone either way. I am sure it was disappointing to the players, but they had a senior-dominated team and were very good this year."
A couple of seniors led the way for the Comets up front, giving the team two solid options in Kevin Elwell and Ryan Patrick.
"Kevin scored 22 goals this season and 18 as a junior, [with] 14 match winners. He scored in 27 out of 39 [games] played in those two seasons," Klingman said. "Ryan played up front in the last part of the season and chipped in 13 goals."
The midfield wasn't as prolific in terms of scoring as in the past, but was effective nonetheless. Jeremy Cummings and Tyler Julian, a pair of juniors, were the outside mids while senior Matt Hoyt and junior Chris Ferrario patrolled the middle. Freshman Colin Klingman got a few starts and the team didn't miss a beat.
In defense, the Comets remained steady even when Patrick switched to forward in the middle of the season, led by junior goalie Justin Porpiglia.
"I knew Porpiglia had the talent in the nets to play well, but he did not get much varsity playing time as a sophomore so he was a bit untested," Klingman said. "He played very well throughout the season, and has the potential to play at the collegiate level."
Justin Levy, a junior, and Patrick started in the middle at the start of the season with junior Sante Romaldini and senior Caleb Overholser outside. Junior Ian Schobel missed the early part of the season with a broken wrist until mid season, but returned to start at outside back. When Patrick moved forward, junior Mike Thiel started outside and Overholser switched to join Levy in the center.
"Thiel came on a great deal during the season. He played entirely JV as a sophomore," Klingman said. "A sub outside back in the beginning for the season, to a starting outside back and finally to center back in our distinct playoffs, and played very well."
Injuries tested the Comets depth, but a typically strong bench paved the way to the crown.
"We have four returning backs, the starting goalie, three starting midfielders and Colin also in the midfield, who basically played at least half of each match at center midfield," coach Klingman said. "[Ricky] Guditus and [Sam] Brock are juniors that saw a good bit of time. We have 19 returning juniors, so have a good bit of experience returning."
With the junior varsity team going undefeated in 2012, there will be several athletes looking to make their mark at the varsity level next year, leaving Klingman with a variety of options.
"The biggest issue will be replacing the 35 goals scored by Kevin and Ryan, two-thirds of the 2012 team total, and where that will come from," Klingman said. "But we should have a strong team in 2013."
"Ferrario, who was selected by the coaches as first-team midfielder on the all-star team, suffered a fractured arm practicing indoor just prior to districts," Klingman said. "Overholser, another all-star selection and our center back once Patrick moved up front, suffered an ACL injury in our last regular-season match, so that really hurt us also. Players that filled in played well, but it does take a bit away from our depth and just missing two central players has a negative affect on the team."
The injuries that felled some of the Comets enabled the team to show off its depth.
Up front, juniors Tarek Khalil and Steve Peleaz provided support off the bench while the midfield had plenty of depth in the way of Klingman, juniors Ricky Guditus and Sam Brock, and senior Spencer Coleman. The top defenders off the bench were junior Matt Domenico and sophomore Jonathan Galaydick.
It all means plenty of experienced Comets will be back, and they should make a strong challenge for yet another division crown and vie for the league's big school title and district championship.