WYOMING – Last year, Nanticoke's boys soccer team was the laughing stock of the Wyoming Valley Conference finishing 0-16 and being outscored by nearly 100 goals.
What a difference a year makes.
This year, the Trojans are completely different, playing stellar defense and becoming a contender in Division III. The team's improvements were evident Saturday morning in a 4-0 win over up-and-coming Wyoming Area for its fourth straight win to improve to 4-1 on the season.
"It's a combination of a lot of things … and they're tired of losing," said Nanticoke coach Mark Matusek, who led his team to a division title in 2008 with 13 wins, but won a total of just seven matches the next three seasons.
Some of the big reasons for the Trojans turnaround this season were on display against the Warriors (2-5). Freshman Eddie Lukowski, who is becoming a top player in the division, scored twice just four minutes apart in the first half for a quick 2-0 lead 13 minutes into the game.
Lukowski's father, Ed, who is Nanticoke's all-time leading scorer, joined Matusek's coaching staff since girls soccer moved to the fall. Former assistant Ryan Amos is the girls coach.
Then there's the defense, which netted its second shutout of the season and only allowed more than two goals in a match once so far.
Freshman keeper Carmelo Pioquinto has been a bright spot all season and made 11 saves against the Warriors. Senior defender Andrew Blank has been marking opponents' key players all season and doing a stellar job, while fellow senior defender Adam Lutz has been a key defender. Senior forward Tyler Robaczewski, who missed last season due to health reasons, has also been helping the team on both sides of the ball and junior forward Mike Mihneski added a goal in the first half against Wyoming Area for a 3-0 lead.
He found the back of the net again four minutes into the second half to cap the scoring.
"The freshmen players have come in contributing right off the bat and the older players have worked to get better," Matusek said. "There isn't one player on this team that doesn't want to learn and get better."
The Warriors meanwhile are in a similar situation as the Trojans, with many players returning from last year's squad that finished 6-10. After an off first half, they got their game working in the second half, outshooting Nanticoke during the contest 15-12 but it was a little too late. Wyoming Area's aggressive defense was stingy, but Lukowski managed to work a pair of run-throughs to exploit the unit.
Nanticoke 4, Wyoming Area 0
First half: 1. NAN, Eddie Lukowski 31:55; 2. NAN, Lukowski 27:54; 3. NAN, Mike Mihneski
Second half: 1. NAN, Mihneski 35:54
Shots: NAN 12, WA 15; Saves: NAN 11 (Carmelo Pioquinto), WA 2 (Aaron Carter); Corners: NAN 4, WA 2.
Dean Mirabelli scored two goals and Aidan Cronin had two assists in the Tunkhannock shutout.
Caleb Ancharski recorded 16 saves in goal for Hazleton Area.
First half: 1. TUNK Dean Mirabelli (Aidan Cronin), 1:00; 2. Mirabelli (Pat Casey), 18:00
Second half: 3. TUNK Colton Brown (Cronin), 74:00
Shots: HAZ 8, TUNK 21; Saves: HAZ 16 (Caleb Ancharski), TUNK 7 (Zac Daniels); Corners: HAZ 2, TUNK 6
Henry Cornell got a goal from an assist by Andriy Molchanov in the Wyoming Seminary victory.
|Wyoming Valley West||0||0||—||0|
First half: 1. SEM Henry Cornell (Andriy Molchanov), 7:27
Second half: No scoring
Shots: WVW 3, SEM 7; Saves: WVW 6 (Zavada), SEM 3 (Riku Kaizaki); Corners: WVW 6, SEM 3.
Travis Keil and Pat Malone both had a goal and an assist in the Coughlin victory.
Ian McGreane recorded 12 saves in net for Holy Redeemer.
First half: 1. COU, Travis Keil (Pat Malone), 39:10;
Second half: 2. COU, Malone, 33:59; 3. COU, Justin Okun (Keil), 24:23
Shots: COU 19, HR 5; Saves: COU 3 (Josh Featherman), HR 12 (Ian McGreane); Corners: COU 11, HR 2.
Danny Saba recorded four goals in the Dallas shutout.
Zack McKitish had 19 saves in net for Pittston Area.
First half: 1. DAL, Brandon Scharff (Blake Pertl), 8:45; 2. DAL, Danny Saba (Nate Wood), 13:00; 3. DAL, Scharff (Wood), 18:50; 4. DAL, Saba (John Murray), 31:36; 5. DAL, AJ Nardone (Scharff), 34:30; 6. DAL, Zach Goodwin (Nardone), 37:00
Second half: 7. DAL, Saba (Murray), 2:30; 8. DAL, Saba (Nardone), 7:25; 9. DAL, Eric Pinkofski (Brian Goyne), 27:00; 10. DAL, Blake Williams (Eric Yurko), 37:30
Shots: DAL 39, PIT 1; Saves: DAL 1 (Casey Barrett), PIT 19 (Zack McKitish); Corners: DAL 4, PIT 1.