OLYPHANT – Everything seems to be falling into place for the Montrose girls' soccer team entering the 2018 season.
"We are excited for the year," Lady Meteors coach Jenton Esworthy said. "The stars are lining up a little bit.
"Now, it's just on us to perform and play."
Montrose was the last Susquehanna County girls' soccer team standing at the end of the 2018 season after taking a powerful Lake-Lehman team into a penalty kick shootout in the District 2 Class 2A championship game and earning a state play-in game berth.
Montrose is highly regarded going into the girls' soccer season. From left, Gabby Davis, coach Jenton Esworthy and Maddy Gilhool (Tom Robinson photo)
The Lady Meteors return all but one starter, including top scorer Maddy Gilhool and Carnegie Mellon recruit Gabby Davis, and have added a standout club soccer player in freshman C.C. Adams. All that talent comes together at a time when Montrose is dropping from Class 2A to Class A in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's new two-year enrollment cycle.
Gilhool has 104 goals and more than 50 assists in the first three years of her high school career.
Davis, fresh off a national tournament appearance with the B.C. United club team out of Binghamton, returns at center back.
The Meteors have pumped up their non-league schedule to be better prepared for a potential postseason run.
"I wanted to get us some bigger school competition," Esworthy said. "I tried to pack our schedules so that we have to play some back-to-back stuff."
The team missed out on the first two scheduled days of official practice because of flooding within the school district.
Lackawanna League soccer coaches gathered for their second annual Media Day Wednesday at the Regal Room in Olyphant. Blue Ridge and Montrose players and coaches are in the foreground as former Abington Heights girls coach E.J. Hunter serves as the main speaker (Tom Robinson photo)
Every school in the Lackawanna League was represented, most by both their boys and girls team, when the league held its second annual Media Day Wednesday at the Regal Room.
Along with the new enrollment classifications on the district and state level, the Lackawanna League has also realigned divisions.
The girls have switched from three divisions to two, with a change for Dunmore being the biggest development.
Dunmore moves from the old Division 4, joining what had been last year's Division 3 teams in the new Division 2. The Lady Bucks will play with Lakeland, Montrose, Mountain View, Western Wayne and Holy Cross.
Montrose and Mountain View were second and third behind unbeaten Lakeland in the division last year.
Division 3 features the other teams that had been in Division 4 a year ago – Elk Lake, Carbondale, Forest City and Mid Valley – and West Scranton, a struggling big school program that is being placed in a lower division. Elk Lake had the best record among those teams last season, finishing second to Dunmore.
The boys have changed from three divisions to two.
Scranton Prep has left the group that formerly made up Divisions 2 and 3. St. Gregory's Academy returns to the league and West Scranton drops down to join what is now a 15-team Division 2, including Mountain View, Forest City, Blue Ridge, Montrose and Elk Lake.
The Mountain View girls return half their starting lineup from the District 2 Class A finalists.
Seniors Lily Virbitsky, Lexie DeWolfe and Devin Burney return to the forward/midfield combination, senior Sydney Newhart is back as goalie and junior Abby Neri is back on defense. Senior Makenzie Belli has returned from an injury to add to the forward/midfield group.
Brooke Arnold, Jacqueline Decker, Zoe Deckle, Madison Gustin, Lucy Ives and Kylie Smith are the returning seniors at Elk Lake.
Chloe Calabro and Maggie Kowalewski represented Forest City at Media Day where teams brought top returning players.
Most of the county boys' teams did well a year ago.
Mountain View is the defending District 2 Class A champion after finishing second to unbeaten Scranton Prep in the old Division 2.
Forest City won the Division 3 title in a playoff over Blue Ridge after both teams finished 10-2.
Montrose had a .500 record in Division 2 while Elk Lake struggled through a winless season.
Mountain View brings back Jason Seamans and Jake Andzulis as senior starters on defense. Tyler Striefsky, another senior, is a returning starter in the midfield.
Sophomores Mike Polovitch and Mike DeWolfe, both midfielders, and Connor Richmond, a goalie, all also started last season.
Matthew Giles and Thomas Piotrowski were the returnees representing Forest City's defending division champions at the event.
Blue Ridge coach Eric Stallings will need to replace a strong graduated senior group, but the Raiders program has been growing off its recent success.
"We have a lot more participation, a lot more kids are coming out who are very athletic and very skillful," Stallings said.
Stallings is hopeful the addition gives the team better depth than when injuries helped contribute to derailing last season's title hopes.
Axel Mejia, an all-star striker two years ago, is back after being slowed by injury last season.
"The injuries really started to pile up on us at the end of the season," Stallings said.
Dan Cherney is back coaching the Montrose boys after a year away while finishing his master's degree.
The Meteors are led by four seniors who are returning starters – back Brennan Gilhool, midfielder/defender Tyler Andre, forward Steven Vetri and midfielder Tracy Kerr.
Gilhool was a first-team division all-star as a freshman and sophomore and a second-team choice last season.
Joseph McAleer and Kevin Valvano represented Elk Lake at the preseason event.
Elk Lake's Jason Mowry won the low junior award and finished sixth overall Thursday when the Jackman Memorial Boys' Golf Tournament at Scranton Municipal got the sports season started for the 2018-19 school year.
Mowry shot 3-over-par, 75, including even-par, 36 on the front nine, then beat Daniel Flickinger from Abington Heights in a playoff for the low junior award.
Alex Pillar from Wallenpaupack shot 5-under-par, 67 to defeat Troy Kelleher from Abington Heights by one stroke for the overall title.
Abington Heights shot 291 to win the team title. Tony Kelleher from the Comets tied Billy Pabst from North Pocono for third place by shooting even-par, 72.
Blue Ridge was the only Susquehanna County school to enter a full team. The Raiders finished 14th out of 15 teams with a 443.
Montrose's Riley Brown shot an 89, making him the only other county player to break 90.
In youth softball, Tunkhannock finished second in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore.
Tunkhannock defeated Bacolold City West from the Philippines, 2-1, in seven innings in the quarterfinals; rallied past Lake Oswego, Ore., 6-4, in the semifinals, then lost, 3-0, to Wheelersburg, Ohio in the championship game.
The teams were scoreless through six innings of the quarterfinal, forcing an extra inning. Ella McNeff drove in the run that broke the tie, then scored what proved to be the winning run.
Sydney Huff went 3-for-3 and Paige Marabell drove in the winning run when Tunkhannock recovered from a three-run deficit in the semifinal.
In youth baseball, the Little League Baseball World Series got started in South Williamsport. After four games each day from Thursday through Sunday, the field of 16 teams had been trimmed to four unbeatens and eight others trying to fight their way through the losers' bracket.
Mid-Island from Staten Island, N.Y.; Honolulu, Hawaii; South Seoul, South Korea; and Kawaguchi, Japan were the teams to reach 2-0.
Montrose and Susquehanna both are at home for non-league games when the high school football season pens this weekend.
Defending District 4 Class 2A champion Wyalusing (5-8 last season) is at Montrose (1-9) Friday night.
Wilkes-Barre GAR begins what is planned to be its final season before consolidation of the city's schools. The Grenadiers (1-9) are at Susquehanna (4-6) Saturday afternoon.
Once again this season, we will predict the outcome of all games involving Lackawanna Football Conference games.
This week's predictions, with home teams in CAPS: Wyalusing 26, MONTROSE 20 … SUSQUEHANNA 30, Wilkes-Barre GAR 23 … BERWICK 36, Abington Heights 10 … PENNRIDGE 27, Delaware Valley 23 … North Pocono 24, WEST SCRANTON 23 … Scranton 39, WYOMING VALLEY WEST 38 … VALLEY VIEW 28, Wallenpaupack 14 … Lakeland 27, HONESDALE 23 … Scranton Prep 24, DUNMORE 10 … LAKE-LEHMAN 31, Western Wayne 22 … OLD FORGE 40, Carbondale 10 … Wyoming Area 34, MID VALLEY 14 … Meyers 28, RIVERSIDE 27 … LACKAWANNA TRAIL 24, Northwest 14 … HOLY REDEEMER 35, Holy Cross 20.
Last year's predictions record was 105-24 (81.4 percent), including 22-3 (88.0) in the playoffs.
In youth baseball, the Little League World Series will conclude in South Williamsport.
The winners' bracket finals – Mid-Island vs. Honolulu and South Korea vs. Japan – are set for Wednesday. The elimination bracket finals are Thursday, the U.S. and international finals Saturday and the world championship Sunday.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @tomjrobinson.
BRISTOL, Tenn.--Kurt Busch wasn't much of a challenger during the early stages of Saturday's 500-lap Cup Series race, but he turned up the speed as the laps wound down. Busch gained the lead from his teammate Clint Bowyer on a restart with 24 laps remaining and held off Kyle Larson for his first season win.
"Old guys rule," shouted the 40-year-old Busch in Victory Lane.
Busch survived another restart on Lap 488, when Kyle Larson rushed into second place on 30-lap newer tires. But even with fresher rubber, Larson couldn't catch Busch, who crossed the finish line .367 seconds ahead of him.
"It's awesome to do it at Bristol," Busch continued. "I love this place. We now have won six times here, and I have great teams that have always helped me win. This group of guys, Billy Scott, my crew chief, this is his first win. It's executing as a team, and we had good restarts when we had to, and then you've got to get clever and start throwing everything at it."
Kyle Larson, who finished second led the first 13 laps, but was unable to gain the lead for the remainder of the race.
"This was just a really frustrating day," Larson said. "Our car was not very good from lap 1 to lap 500, but we fought and got a second-place finish out of it."
Chase Elliott led 112 laps, but had to settle for third. Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick were the remaining top-10 drivers.
The first major wreck came during lap 3 and involved 15 cars. While everyone was racing hard, Kyle Busch triggered it.
Busch lost two laps, then came back to race Martin Truex Jr. for second. He attempted to move Truex out of the way late in the race, spinning both cars out.
"We probably finished where we should have anyways, as torn up as our race car is," said Kyle Busch, who also accepted fault for the contact with Truex. "I feel terrible about that. Obviously I just misjudged it by a little bit - four inches, six inches, whatever — I didn't think I was next to him yet and I clipped him and sent him for a whale of a ride."
Kyle Busch wound up 20th, while Truex was 30th.
The victory was the 30th of Kurt Busch's career. He and Kyle Busch became the only brothers in Cup history with 30 wins each. It was Kurt Busch's first Bristol victory since 2006. Kyle Busch ranks fifth on Bristol's career list, while Kurt Busch broke a tie with Jeff Gordon for sixth.
With just two races left before the 10-race Chase for this year's championship begins, the field is starting to shape up. The following nine drivers are automatically locked in by virtue of at least one win: 1. Harvick, 2. Kyle Busch, 3. Truex Jr., 4. Bowyer, 5. Elliott, 6. Logano, 7. Jones, 8. Kurt Busch, 9. Austin Dillon. The remaining seven drivers are eligible based on points: 10. Keselowski, 11. Blaney, 12. Hamlin, 13. Larson, 14. Almirola, 15. Johnson, 16. Bowman. The first stage is limited to 16 drivers.
LARSON GETS FOURTH XFINITY WIN
Kyle Larson, a Cup Series regular led 202 laps of the 310-lap Bristol Xfinity Series race for his fourth win of the season.
The remaining top-10 finishers were: 2. Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer, Joey Logano, Elliott Sadler, Michael Annett, Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick, and Matt Tifft.
Top-10 Xfinity Series leaders after 22 of 33: 1. Bell-810, 2. Allgaier-797, 3. Sadler-793, 4. Custer-791, 5. Hemric-768, 6. Reddick-643, 7. B. Jones-634, 8. R. Truex-618, 9. Cindric-582, 10. Tifft-580.
Top-10 NASCAR Truck Series leaders after 16 of 23: 1. Sauter-683, 2. Gragson-599, 3. Enfinger-587, 4. Friesen-582, 5. Moffitt-560, 6. Rhodes-532, 7. Haley-529, 8. Crafton-526, 9. Snider-411, 10. Sargeant-404.
Two veteran drivers, Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne announced last week that 2018 would be their last year as a full time driver.
"It's time for me, as a Dad, to help my kids pursue their dreams," the 43-year-old Sadler said. "Wyatt is 8 and Austyn is 6 and both of them are very active at school and in extracurricular activities.
"I want to be with them for all their special moments. ... It's time for me to be the full-time Dad that I want to be."
Sadler spent 12 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series for Wood Brothers Racing, Robert Yates Racing, Evernham Motorsports and Richard Petty Motorsports. He has three wins in 438 career starts.
He moved up to the Cup Series full-time in 1999, driving the No. 21 Ford Taurus for Wood Brothers Racing.
After seven Top 10's and a fall to 23rd in points in 2002, Sadler left for Robert Yates Racing to drive the No. 38 Ford, replacing Ricky Rudd.
In 2017, Sadler returned to the Cup Series part-time with Tommy Baldwin Racing, driving the No. 7 in the Daytona 500. His last start in the Cup series was 2013.
Sadler is second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings; he has finished second in the Xfinity standings four times in the last seven years. He has 13 series wins in 383 career starts. He has also been named the most popular driver in Xfinity three times.
His primary sponsor, OneMain Financial, already had said it would not return in the same capacity next season, meaning if Sadler wanted to continue racing, he would have to land new sponsorship while in the twilight of his career.
While the Emporia, Virginia native hasn't been a NASCAR headliner, he has been in the sport long enough to retire without any financial worries. Forbes lists his net worth at $25-million.
Fifteen-year Cup Series regular Kasey Kahne revealed that 2018 will also be his last full time season in the series. Kahne, 38, currently drives the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing.
"I've thought about this decision for many months, if not longer," Kahne wrote on his Twitter account. "It's time for me to step away from racing in NASCAR full time."
Kasey shouldn't have to worry about retirement either. He owns two Sprint Car teams and has assets of over $50-million.
Racing Joke: One day David was driving with his five-year-old daughter in the family SUV and honked his car horn by mistake.
His daughter immediately turned and looked at him with an expectant look on her face.
Seeing her look at him he said, "I did that by accident."
She replied, "Oh, yes, I know that, daddy."
David asked, "How did you know?"
The little girl said, "Because you didn't say any ugly words afterwards."
Weekend Racing: The Cup teams have the weekend off. The Xfinity teams are at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Truck teams make their annual trek to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, Canada.
Sat., Aug. 25; Xfinity Series race 23 of 33; Starting time: 3 pm ET; TV: NBCSN.
Sun., Aug. 26; Truck Series race 17 of 23; Starting time: 2:30 pm ET; TV: Fox Sports1.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is Kasey Kahne's hometown?
Last Week's Question. Who was the 2017 Xfinity Series champion? Answer. William Byron.
Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR photojournalist and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR photojournalist and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: email@example.com.