Wrapping Up the Season
Missing out on the end of her junior cross country season last year gave standout runner Tessa Barrett an extra boost this year.
The Abington Heights senior made sure to make the most of this season, setting records every time she ran - up to and including the PIAA Class AAA individual title in Hershey.
But none of that was on her mind at the start of the season, she was too busy concentrating on maintaining her health and deciding on a college, which she did by choosing Penn State over Cornell, Georgetown and Villanova.
"Just getting through the season healthy was the goal," Barrett said. "It was great to come back and run comfortably; it was nice to get a full season under my belt."
Her junior season ended with a leg injury in the District 2 meet, and got her thinking about getting back to districts and running for a state title.
"It was nerve-racking. I wanted to get back, and didn't want to get sick or hurt," Barrett said. "I was relieved when it came up, after all the anticipation and anxiety."
The anxiety led her to go out quickly in the state meet, but Barrett adjusted like the champion she was.
"I wanted to go out and just run. I tried to settle into a pace," Barrett said. "It [starting fast] wasn't the goal, but I just rolled with it."
She rolled to a 36-second win, cementing her status as one of the great distance runners in Lackawanna League history.
But for all her individual accomplishments, Barrett said one other scene in Hershey stuck out in her mind. Because her district-title run led Abington Heights to the team title, she was able to share her feeling of exultation with her teammates, which gave her a nice moment at the starting line of the state meet.
"It was such a cool experience. I wasn't used to having people I know next to me in such a big meet," Barrett said. "I was glad we were able to pull off the district title to end the season."
Barrett's state championship, the team's district title and league record of 15-3 and all-star berths for senior Jen Burke and Barrett (first-team) and sophomore Claire Traweek (second) were among the many highlights for Abington Heights female athletes during the fall sports season.
Bruce Steele had been out of volleyball for 20 years when he accepted the head coaching job at Abington Heights, so he bided his time as the season began, waiting to catch up a little bit as he watched the Lady Comets work in practices.
When the time was right he added his input, changing the team's formation. Seeing the team compile a 16-2 record in the Lackawanna League - good enough for second place - showed he pushed the right buttons at the right time.
"I spent a half-season seeing how things operated here," Steele said. "I saw practices weren't tough enough, but I also saw that confidence was the main problem. We had some excellent players, but they didn't believe it."
Senior Francesca Toth and junior Morgan Reiner were first-team all-stars, junior Michelle Pacyna and sophomore Melissa Lewis were second-team picks and senior Jenn Page and Abby McMinn gained honorable mention, proving the talent was there.
"I was happy with it," Steele said. "Second place in the league is nothing to be ashamed of."
The Lady Comets were a bit of a high-wire act, falling behind early before getting their act solidified and pulling out dramatic victories.
"We played four or five matches that went to five games after we had lost the first two and won the last three" Steele said. "The same thing happened in Hazleton [in the District 2 playoffs], but we lost the fifth game, 15-13, to Hazleton.
That left the Lady Comets without a title to show for their successful season, but with Reiner, Pacyna, Lewis and McMinn back, the team should be extra motivated to make sure that doesn't happen again.
Like the volleyball team, the Lady Comets manufactured a pair of second-place finishes, behind Scranton Prep in the Lackawanna League Division 2 and lost to Wallenpaupack in the District 2 Class AAA final.
"We drew the first time we played Prep and, in the second game, we didn't play too great and they deserved it," Abington Heights girls soccer team head coach E.T. Hunter said. "When it came to Wallenpaupack for the district title, we were short-handed."
Junior forward Michaelina Holmes missed the game with an injury, and fellow junior defender Perrine Wasser and sophomore defender Emily Bonsick both got hurt during the 1-0 loss, according to Hunter. All three of those players received honorable mention on the division all-star team, so that's a hefty amount of talent lost that even a deep program like Abington Heights can't always overcome.
"We were down three key players - and that's not to blame for the loss - but it would have been nice to have them," Hunter said.
Led by senior all-stars Isabelle Clauss, a defender who is headed to Penn State, and midfielder Abbey Burke, the Lady Comets went 10-1-2 in the division.
"We had a good start and a better finish with the way we played," Hunter said. "We played very nice, very clean, and over the last four or five games, we really clicked.It's always a pleasure to coach the girls. But it's always a surprise to see how much better the end of the year is than you expected."
With sophomore midfielder Emma Henzes also back next year, the Lady Comets will return four honorable mention all-stars, giving Hunter a solid foundation to build on.
The Lady Comets had both of its singles players reach the quarterfinals of the subregional that encompasses both District 2 and District 4, as did both of the doubles teams that represented Abington Heights in the subregional event.
Despite seeing the end of a 48-meet league winning streak, the Lady Comets delivered a 14-1 record in the Lackawanna League to capture the Class AAA division title. The team also secured its fourth straight District 2 Class AAA team title as well as defeated District 3 runner-up Exeter in the opening round of the state team championships.
Abington Heights dominated the divisional all-star team as junior Tyra Abdalla, who won the District 2 Class AAA singles crown again, senior Cierra Beck and sophomore Caroline Mattisse nabbed first-team berths.
Of the primary doubles players, juniors Rachel Smertz and Jessica Rickwood and freshman Catherine Pusateri will join Abdalla and Matisse as returning players for Abington Heights.