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Scranton - Tony Pagnotti and Nicholas Cicco were constantly making the type of plays that create scoring opportunities during Thursday night's UNICO Scranton Soccer Cup.
Those efforts again paid off for Pagnotti, an Abington Heights player who has family in Susquehanna, and Cicco, one of Mountain View's leaders.
Both players were part of district championship teams last fall before closing their high school careers Thursday night as the standouts in the all-star game for graduating players.
Pagnotti, who was selected as the game's Most Valuable Player, scored the first goal and assisted on the clincher with 1:45 remaining to lead the Southern Tier to a 3-1 victory over the Northern Tier.
Cicco scored the Northern Tier's only goal with 5:32 remaining to add suspense until a direct kick by Pagnotti led to a rebound and goal for Bishop Hannan's Kesthion Silva.
Andrea Irizarry of Valley View scored two goals and Christine Acker of Abington Heights was named the Most Valuable Player while leading the Southern Tier to a 6-1 romp over the Northern Tier in the girls' game, which opened the doubleheader at Scranton Memorial Stadium.
In the nightcap, Pagnotti was clearly the game's most dominant player early.
Pagnotti blocked a pass at midfield, outran three defenders and got off a left-footed shot that Montrose goalie Brandon Pipher had to reach high to stop about 11 minutes into the game.
Pipher, who finished a strong effort with eight saves, had to come running out to smother an attempt by Silva after Pagnotti's pass sent the Bishop Hannan player down the middle with 15 minutes left in the half.
The best save by Pipher came about 45 seconds before Pagnotti broke the scoreless tie. Pagnotti spun and got off a shot that appeared to be headed into the low right corner of the goal before Pipher made a diving save.
Pagnotti eventually rattled a shot in off the post with 11:20 left for the only goal of the first half.
Valley View's Connor McLaughlin converted a pass from Abington Heights' Jesse Novatski 7:30 into the second half for a 2-0 lead.
Cicco led the Northern Tier in creating pressure until Wallenpaupack's Mark Faubel set him up for the goal.
Faubel carried the ball deep down the right side and sent a pass from near the corner over the head of goalie Andy Snell of Abington Heights.
After using his speed to get past a defender and behind Snell, Cicco was able to get his foot on the pass and redirect it into the net.
Mountain View coach Darin Bain and his assistant, Joseph Kulyeshie, guided the Northern Tier team in the game, which is for players from schools that are Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association members.
Pipher played the whole game in goal and players from Susquehanna County made up more than half the starting lineup.
Montrose's Jeff Snyder, Forest City's Matt Lautenschlager and Cicco were the starting midfielders. Blue Ridge's Justin Herbert was the sweeper and Elk Lake's Dave Bell started on defense.
Mountain View's Spenser Stoud, Blue Ridge's Logan Goff, Elk Lake's Kyle Hanjaras and Forest City's Matt Pisarcik were also part of the Northern Tier team.
The Southern had slight edges in shots (18-14) and corner kicks (7-6).
Four county girls were in the starting lineup for the Northern Tier in the first game.
Mountain View's Amanda Drum started at forward while teammate Denise Congdon was in goal. Montrose's Kate LaBarbera started at stopper and Forest City's Ashley Zuidema started at sweeper.
Forest City's Sara Heller came off the bench as a midfielder while Montrose's Tara Mullin played forward.
Blue Ridge's Heather Franks was selected for the game, but did not play.
Congdon finished with nine saves.
The Southern Tier took a 2-0 lead by scoring twice 5:20 apart midway through the first half.
Alex Kaminski of Mid Valley knocked in a rebound of a shot by Jessica Knight of North Pocono to open the scoring.
Irizarry scored from 12 yards out when she fired a hard shot that went off the hand of Congdon.
The Northern Tier cut the lead early in the second half.
Molly Douglass of Honesdale was about 30 yards out near the right sideline when she angled a pass to Katie McConville about 15 yards out in the middle. Western Wayne's McConville trapped the pass and got off a quick shot to score just 2:45 into the second half.
Irizarry and Acker made sure the Southern Tier quickly regained control.
Acker tapped a pass to Irizarry, who ripped a shot from 30 yards out and sent it just under the crossbar with 29:30 remaining.
Acker then scored on a quick shot in traffic off a Kaminski pass with 25:17 remaining.
The last goal was an own goal that Acker set up. Her corner kick was placed dangerously in front of the Northern Tier goal and Zuidema inadvertently knocked it into the net.
The Southern Tier controlled play throughout and built a 23-8 advantage in shots and a 2-1 lead in corner kicks.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Montrose graduate Rich Thompson continues an impressive turnaround of what had been a disappointing season.
A year after making his major-league debut with the Kansas City Royals, Thompson was demoted from Class AAA to Class AA by the Pittsburgh Pirates because of his continued struggles at the plate.
Thompson appears to have cured those problems while playing left field and right field and batting second in the Altoona Curve lineup. He raised his batting average by more than 100 points in the last two weeks and took a .288 average into the weekend.
After putting together a six-game hitting streak in which he was 8-for-18 (.444) with five runs and three stolen bases, Thompson went 0-for-1 in a pinch hitting assignment and 0-for-3 in his next start.
Beginning June 11, Thompson built a more impressive streak.
Thompson hit in six straight games again and scored runs in seven straight. In the latest six-game hitting streak, he went 13-for-23 (.565) with back-to-back, three-hit games and five games of at least two hits.
The speed, which is Thompson's best asset, was put to better use because of all the times he was on base. During the six-game hitting streak, he scored eight runs and stole eight bases.
Despite spending the first six weeks of the season with Indianapolis in the International League, Thompson is up to a tie for third in the Eastern League in stolen bases with 19. His 32 games played are 14 fewer than anyone in the top 10 and the least of any player among the top 29 base stealers in the league.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BIFFLE Leads A Roush Blow Out At Michigan
Brooklyn, MI – Greg Biffle got his fifth victory of the season Sunday in the Batman Begins 400 at Michigan, as he led a Roush Racing blow-out in which four of the top five finishers were Roush cars.
Tony Stewart, who led the most laps, finished second and was the only non-Roush car to be in the top-five.
The last caution of the 200-lap race came on lap 171 after Sterling Marlin spun in Turn 3. Stewart, Mark Martin and several others pitted for four fresh tires.
Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler did not pit, and remained on the track.
Green flag racing resumed with 24-laps to go, and neither Stewart nor Martin was able to overtake Biffle, who gained his fifth Cup win of 2005.
“It was my decision not to take four tires,” said Biffle. “I just stayed out. It’s just so hard to pass here. Track position means so much.
“I was hoping that six or eight guys would stay with us and Tony (Stewart) would have to burn his tires up to get to us.”
This is the third time Stewart has led the most laps in a race, and not won.
“I don’t know if we burned up our tires or not,” said Stewart. “I couldn’t imagine that we couldn’t get back to the front with 12-lap fresher tires. It just didn’t happen today.”
Mark Martin was third, followed by his teammates, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, winner of Saturday night’s Busch race.
Finishing order: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Tony Stewart, 3. Mark Martin, 4. Matt Kenseth, 5. Carl Edwards, 6. Joe Nemechek, 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. Elliott Sadler, 9. Kyle Busch, 10. Rusty Wallace.
Chase For The Nextel Cup Contenders – 1, Johnson-2173, 2. Biffle-2124, 3. Sadler-1923, 4. Edwards-1914, 5. Martin-1904, 6. Stewart-1862, 7. Newman-1856, 8. R. Wallace-1848, 9. Busch-1813, 10. Harvick-1803, 11. McMurray-1799.
NOTE: All of these drivers are within 400 points of the leader.
JUNIOR Is Down, But Optimistic – Junior and his team are bogged down worse than a Jeep Cherokee in axle deep mud, with no cell phone available.
Believe me; I know how it feels. I’ve been there.
And it’s happened to you.
Several times during our life, we all get behind the 8-ball. Quite often, it’s our own doing, and sometimes life’s events just sneak up on us without our awareness.
I suspect something like that is what has happened to the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. team.
The difference between them and us is they operate as such a high-profile organization and are exposed to public scrutiny, as well as Corporate Sponsors.
Through it all Junior has tried to be upbeat and confident. He said interim crew chief Steve Hmiel has addressed several problem areas and he sees progress.
What no one at DEI saw when the No. 8 team and Michael Waltrip’s No. 15 team switched crew members and crew chiefs was the impact the changes would have on each separate team.
While Waltrip’s team has improved over last season, Junior’s has gone backwards.
And time is becoming a factor.
Last year at this time Junior was leading the Nextel Cup points with three victories. This season he faces the reality of not even making the Chase.
However the season ends, Junior appears optimistic and believes he and DEI will be stronger after the struggles come to an end.
“You have to be careful not to make things worse than they are,” he said. “There’s a big difference between understanding what you need to improve and beating yourself up trying to improve just for the sake of change.
“I see the steep mountain, but I’m in it to win.”
Road Courses Are Being Accepted – It used to be that Nextel Cup drivers had as much fun on the road courses as a trip to the dentist’s office.
It certainly wasn’t one of their favorite events on the NASCAR schedule each season, but that has all changed in recent years. In fact, road racing has become the latest rage on the NASCAR circuit; with some drivers even saying Infineon Raceway should be included in the Chase.
Jeff Gordon (four-time winner at Infineon Raceway), Rusty Wallace (two-time winner) and Robby Gordon (2003) have always enjoyed the serpentine circuit at Infineon Raceway, but that has now extended to most of the young drivers on the circuit, as well as some of the veterans. Dale Earnhardt Jr. even called the road course race one of his favorites when he appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
“I’ve always liked road courses, probably because that’s what I grew up on,” said Casey Mears, driver of the No. 41 Target Dodge. “Heck, I wish we had even more of them on the schedule. We build cars specific for road courses; I think we should use them more.”
The tight corners and drastic elevation changes make Infineon Raceway one of the most technically challenging road courses in the country. Those conditions make the driver much more important in the equation, in terms of handling and shifting.
“You have to take the road courses seriously and I do that,” said Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge. “We’re looking forward to coming out there and having a good car. We’ve had some good finishes out there.”
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Sorenson-2186, 2. Truex-2150, 3. Bowyer-2145, 4. Edwards-2120, 5. K. Wallace-1991, 6. Hamlin-1882, 7. Lewis-1874, 8. Stremme-1809, 9. Biffle-1764, 10. Keller-1753.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Hamilton-1429, 2. Setzer-1424, 3. Musgrave-1405, 4. Craven-1373, 5. Hornaday-1328, 6. Spencer-1310, 7. Cook-1282, 8. Crafton-1275, 9. Sprague-1253, 10. Starr-1242.
The Craftsman Trucks and Busch Series will be at the Milwaukee Mile, while the Cup teams are at Sonoma, CA.
Friday, June 24, Craftsman Trucks GNC 200, race 11 of 25, : 200 laps/200 miles, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, June 25, Busch Series Milwaukee 250, race 17 of 35, 250 laps/250 miles, 8:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, June 26, Nextel Cup Dodge SaveMart 350, race 16 of 36, 110 laps/224 miles, 2:30 p.m. EST); TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Which racing family originated the Victory Junction Camp for children?
Last Week’s Question: How many Cup races has Ryan Newman won this season? Answer. Newman’s win total this season stands at zero.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. You may write him at P. O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
On Friday, June 17, NASCAR came to Susquehanna, courtesy of Jeanne Roe (T.J.’s Auto Parts). Michael Waltrip’s No. 15 car (pictured) was on display in the Shops Plaza, giving visitors a chance to get a close-up look at an actual NASCAR race car, and to have a photograph taken with the car.
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