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Hannah Kowalski, Abington Heights

When the Abington Heights girls soccer head coaching position opened, Errol Mannick knew what was at stake. With the program considered to be among the very best in the Lackawanna League, whomever the head coach would be, that person would be under the pressure of living up to high expectations.

Mannick knew what he needed to do, and the rest has turned out very well, with the team storming to the Lackawanna League Division II title and reaching the semifinals in District 2.

Being a coach at Abington Heights Middle School last year, Mannick took advantage of seeing the program up close and knew what he would do if he got the chance.

First up, was to remember what he saw from the sidelines.

“I really didn’t know 100 percent what to expect,” Mannick said, “I knew we had a lot of talent. I had seen them a few times the year before. But even though we lost a few players, we still had a lot of talent there.

“The division was pretty tough, with some really good teams and some really good coaches. I thought we that we would have a good season, but I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, especially with how brutal our exhibition schedule was.”

Secondly, he had a clear idea what he wanted to change.

“Lack of scoring, that was really a big issue for them the last few years. Even in some of the games they won, they had trouble scoring,” Mannick said.

“Even when we got together, just doing some conditioning and informal play in the summertime, it was like nobody was playing into the goal. I was like, ‘Oh boy, we have a lot of work to do here.’ That was the biggest thing I wanted to fix more than anything else.”

“I was very excited for all these girls. They’re all hard workers and take soccer pretty seriously. Their attitude is great,” Mannick said. “For them to win a second straight division title I knew was very important to them, made me feel happy for them.”

“We had three first-team players picked for all-stars,” Mannick said, referring to forward Hannah Kowalski, midfielder Emily Mahoney and defender Megan Noone.

“Hannah has a lot of God-given athletic ability,” he said. “She has a never-ending desire to do as well as she possibly can. And, not just for herself, but for her teammates. She’s a rather team-oriented and team-driven person. But she realizes that her individual play and success has an impact on that team. That drives her and she never stops. She’s a really good listener and learner. She does really good job at trying new things and getting better.”

Mahoney was a question mark because of injury.

“Emily had a huge impact,” he recalled. “We really didn’t know if she was going to make it. She had lot of bad shin splints that took her out of a lot of play last year. She tried to do track but she really wasn’t able to do that. She did a lot of work with NEPA Fit Club. We tailored our conditioning to make sure she had a slow and steady progress so it didn’t overwhelm her in the beginning. She did that work and was able to complete the whole season. She started a lot of our scoring opportunities. She’s great with the ball. She’s able to get around people and make moves across the field to give us a chance to score. She has a great attitude, too.”

Noone is heading to Mansfield.

“Megan is really tough to get around,” Mannick said. “She was the stopper in our diamond defense. She’s going on to play in college at Mansfield. She is just great with the ball. She’s very intelligent and composed. It was even tough to get to the next line with her there. We had a 0.4 goal average and she’s a big part of that.”