One of the best measures of success for a team, regardless of the number of wins, is if the season is extended beyond the regular season, if there is a district title and a chance to play the best in the state.
The Philipsburg-Osceola and State College boys’ soccer teams, by those metrics, definitely had successful seasons in 2013.
The Mounties had a losing record for most of the season, but caught fire at the end and rode it all the way to the District 6 Class AA crown — their second straight.
The Little Lions, on the other hand, did as expected and repeated as district AAA champions.
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Both teams are focused on defending their titles again this fall, although P-O will have plenty of other area teams angling to deny the Mounties a third straight win.
Philipsburg-Osceola (10-9-1) used a late-season run to surprise everyone with a second-straight District 6 Class AA title.
Graduation had taken much of the starting lineup from the 2012 district title team, and early struggles were expected. But the Mounties slipped into the district playoffs, knocked off the three top seeds and made the state tournament for a second straight year.
With most of that roster filled with underclassmen, the group is ready to chase district title No. 3.
“We can be nothing but stronger in 2014 and look to build on our consistent tradition,” said coach Shawn Inlow, who has set goals for the season to win both the Mountain League and district and to “go as far in the PIAA Tournament as luck allows.”
Inlow said he plans to have a defensive-minded team this fall, and among the returning players are first-team Mountain League all-star Wyatt Inlow and second-team all-star Austin Krise. They will be joined by a growing roster of young talent.
“What might be most interesting about this year's team is a very strong freshman class that should be ready to start by their sophomore years, ensuring our strength and continuity for years to come.”
Bald Eagle Area (2-14-2) is one of the teams hoping to chase the Mounties.
The Eagles had a rough fall last season, but most of the team returns, including 13 letterwinners and a number of promising freshmen are joining the group.
“We have a lot of good senior leadership and tons of players with experience,” coach Jason Bair said. “We are going to work hard and strive to be the best we can be here at BEA. The players are enjoyable to coach and work together as a team.”
Bellefonte (12-6-1) was a high seed for the district tournament but was bounced by P-O in the semifinals.
Now, the Red Raiders have a lot of rebuilding to do, with the graduation taking 90 percent of the team’s scoring and three-quarters of the defensive backs also departed. The team does return goalkeeper Matt Feldman, who had a solid junior season.
Expected to step up on the offensive end are Tyler Rudloff, Nate Shippee, Dion Furfaro, Chauncy Blakeslee and Noah Gaus. Matt Modricker is lone returning starter on defense. The team will focus on its experienced strength up the middle with Andrew Kaschalk, Blakeslee, Mark Coll and Gaus.
“A lot of younger players will have to step up this year,” coach Scott Martz said. “Replacing scoring is our main focus. … Our team goal is to improve every game and make district play for the third year in a row.”
State College (12-7-1) grabbed its third straight district triumph last fall, but for the second straight season was bounced in the opening round by Mid Penn Conference rival Cumberland Valley.
The Little Lions lost quite a few starters from last season, but there are still plenty of experienced seniors and juniors on the roster of 60 itching to contribute.
“In the previous two years we’ve worked a lot with the underclassmen and their development and chemistry,” coach Danny Orton said. “From ninth and 10th graders in 2012, they’re now 11th and 12th and the hope is our approach will pay off at the highest end this year. The players are close, and already in preseason there’s a buzz about training.”
Penns Valley (7-12) may not have had the best of records, but like P-O the team caught fire at the right time.
The Rams bounced back from a rocky start to last season, sporting a 1-7 record in mid-September, to win six of their last 10 in the regular season.
Graduation took several key players, but Penns Valley has a large crop of returning players, including junior Tiger Welch, who began the season as the third-string keeper but injuries elevated him to starter by season’s end. Senior keeper Ben Kupp also is back with the Rams..
“We have an interesting mix of a group of older skill players with a group of very young, very athletic freshmen and sophomores,” coach Scott Case said. “If we can blend the two together we will have a recipe for success.”