2009 Fall Sport Special: PAHS cross country

Lori Chase
Potter Leader-Enterprise / Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 9, 2009

Last year, Port Allegany’s cross country runners stepped to the line for the first time as a team, with both the boys and girls picking up their first wins in the program’s short history. Individually, Jessica French, Justin Lewis, and Desi Tanner all medaled at the North Tier League meet, and French finished 15th at districts to qualify for the PIAA state championships.

All three have graduated, though, leaving a young squad behind for head coach Fran Reilly. But while she acknowledges those athletes will be difficult to replace, she’s looking forward to the team she has.

“I enjoy working with them; they’re really a nice bunch of kids,” she said. “We go out there, and they’re willing to work. And they’re eager to learn, so I’m really happy with them.”

With no upperclassmen on the roster, Reilly is depending on the leaders from last year’s junior high squad to step up to the varsity level.

“Aaron Majot uses his head when he runs; he’s very consistent. Jameson Haskins; he and Aaron are going to be the co-captains. He has the ability and also the willingness to push himself. Young – they’re only ninth-graders – but I see them improving,” she said.

Sophomore Bryan Pritt and freshmen Jacob Undercofler and Lucas Manning round out the varsity squad, while eighth-graders Stephen Blankenship, Logan Hutton, and Dallas Taylor and seventh-graders Jason Huss, Adam Koehler, and Jefferson Stehle will compete for the junior high. Port Allegany will not field a girls’ team this season.

While Reilly is realistic about the Gators’ postseason prospects this year, she sees a positive future for the program.

“The last thing I say to them when they get on the line is, ‘Who is your major opponent? Yourself.’ When they can see improvement in themselves, that’s what’s important, and especially with a team like this that’s so young.

“Am I looking to see anybody go to states this year? Probably not,” she admitted. “But am I looking at athletes that are going to be growing? Yeah. I see a lot of potential in a lot of these kids. I’m not going to say this group of kids is the fastest, but they’re dedicated and they’re willing to work. That, to me, means more than worrying about whether we’re the best team out there.”

SCHEDULE:

September

8 – Coudersport, 4 p.m.

12 – Franklinville Invitational, 9 a.m.

15 – at Kane/Smethport, 4 p.m.

19 – Bradford Invitational, 9:30 a.m.

22 – Oswayo Valley, 4 p.m.

26 – McQuaid Invitational, 9 a.m.

29 – at Otto-Eldred, 4 p.m.

October

7 – at Northern Potter, 4 p.m.

13 – at Couderport, 4 p.m.

20 – North Tier League meet, 4 p.m.

2009 Fall Sport Special: PAHS boys’ soccer

Was it really only three years ago that the Port Allegany boys soccer team managed just a single win in its first attempt at playing a varsity schedule? Seems like a lot longer than that, after last year’s squad finished 9-4-1 in the Upper Allegheny Valley Soccer League’s North division – good for second place behind Elk County Catholic – before falling to eventual district champion Brookville in a second-round playoff match and completing the season with an 11-7-1 overall record.

“Overall, it was a very positive experience in the playoffs,” head coach Aaron Clark said. “The kids did well even in our loss. It was a good learning experience for the kids coming back this year; they got to see what it takes to win in the playoffs. This year, we’re hoping for a minimum of 10 wins and the playoffs, and then just go as far as we can. Those are the goals we told the kids; that’s what we want to focus on.”

Judging by their performance at last weekend’s Galeton tournament, the Gators appear to be off to a good start. They knocked off perennial District 4 playoff contender Sullivan County – a team that dominated Port 5-0 in last year’s final – by a 4-2 score, before falling 3-1 to Northeast Bradford in the championship game.

Seven starters graduated from last year’s team, including tri-captains Derek Brookens (sweeper), Tyler Payne (midfielder), and Ryan Sabolcik (goalkeeper). Seniors Denzel Middleton, Max Parana, Jon Binder, and Kirby Elliott will step into those roles, but according to Clark, he has a team full of leaders.

“They’re all good kids. I don’t think they need a lot of ‘leadership,’ because they’ve got one another,” he said. “I know that sounds corny, but I think that they can kind of watch out for themselves. They don’t need me screaming at them, trying to get them to want to win games. There are a lot of kids on the team that want to do well every single game, every practice. That’s a plus.”

Willie Postlewait and Frank Austin spent the summer competing for the right to replace Sabolcik in goal, with Postlewait in the lead heading into the season. “Right now, it’s Willie’s job to lose,” Clark said.

Whoever eventually claims the job will have the experienced Middleton and Parana in front of him at center back. Senior Josh Fox and junior Max Morris are the outside fullbacks, with sophomores Elliott Binder and James Coxen subbing in.

Last year, Elliott became the second Gator to earn Big 30 All-Star honors, notching two hat tricks on his way to a team-leading 12 goals. Barring injury, he and junior Ken Kysor should anchor the midfield, along with Binder, senior Kyle Conway, and junior Sam Shaffer. Junior Ben Osani and freshman Sam Kysor are the probable starters at forward; Osani came on strong late last season, scoring both of Port’s goals in the playoff loss at Brookville.

Last year, the Gators came up just short of catching ECC for the division title, and Clark, who will be assisted by Matt Lawton again this season, expects more of the same in 2009.

“I think it’s going to be tight again,” he said. “I see ECC being good, I see Kane, Smethport, us being pretty good, Coudersport – I think they’re going to surprise people. I think Coudersport’s going to be a good team. I honestly see five teams that can make a push to win the league title. There’s no way of knowing who’s going to get it.”

He continued, “I think we’re in the mix. I’m not going to make any predictions at all, but I think any one of those five teams can win it – which is good, because a couple of years ago it was basically ECC and Kane. Those were the only two teams with a chance at it. Now, it’s wide open.”

Asked for one word to define his team, Clark replied, “Optimistic. We’ve got a good young team. I think that depending on how certain positions shake out, we could have a better year than last year, but … maybe I should say cautiously optimistic.”

2009 Fall Sport Special: PAHS girls’ soccer

Coming off a one-win season two years ago, few observers could have guessed that the Port Allegany girls’ soccer team would explode onto the scene the way it did in 2008, finishing with a .500 record in the Upper Allegheny Valley Soccer League’s North division and taking defending District 9 champion Elk County Catholic into overtime before falling 1-0 in a playoff quarterfinal.

“Last year was a dream season for us,” head coach Travis Cowburn said of his 8-11 Lady Gators. “We set a goal to win eight games, which we did. This year, we’re going to try to step up on that. Double digits is our aim, and we want to get to 12. Is it realistic? We don’t really know yet; we’re untried in a couple of areas that we were really good in last year. We’re going to give it a shot, though. The heart is there now. We’ve been preaching ‘grit’ for the last two years, and this time we’ve got a group of seniors building on last year that really can get the job done, so we’re looking at doing some positive things this year.”

As the varsity program continues to build momentum with the help of the community leagues, the fourth-year coach has noticed the difference in his players’ grasp of the fundamentals. “It’s a lot easier for me just to tweak what it is they’re trying to do, instead of teaching them how to pass correctly and all these other things,” he said.

Port lost several multi-year starters to graduation, including goalkeeper Cortney Barnett, an UAVSL All-Star. “She was a special player for us,” Cowburn said. But while he originally anticipated a dropoff at the position, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the progression of sophomore Jordan Edgell’s work in the net. “She’s come out and worked hard in the offseason, went to camps, and she’s really stepped up. She hasn’t shown any weakness… I don’t think that’s going to be a weak point at all.”

Co-captains Barnett and Jenn Anderson may have moved on, but Cowburn thinks he has a strong group to replace them, beginning with senior midfielder Kaitlyn Kio.

“She’s the inspirational leader of this team, and she was, really, last year,” he said. “She’s the one that’s got the talent, she’s the one people look up to, her teammates are rallying around her, and she’s just a positive influence no matter where she is on the field. She’ll be our speaking captain this year, along with Amanda Kelly, who’s the all-time leading scorer at Port Allegany, and Bryanna Evans, the underclassman captain, who has also won district honors in years past. So we’ve got a great core of leaders in every facet, whether it’s playing the game, inspirational leadership, giving the pep talks, or whatever it is, and they’re really doing a fantastic job.”

The Lady Gator attack will be led by Kelly – “we’re looking for her to do some really good things in our new formation” – along with juniors Nicole Lovell and Carli Johnston. Kio and Evans will anchor the midfield, along with freshman Kaylee Kio. Another senior, Amarae Reinard, will be playing a little of both midfield and defense. “She’s basically going to be running the show in the midfield, and she’s got tremendous talent,” Cowburn said.

Brittany Drabert inherits Anderson’s spot in the middle of the defense, flanked by fellow senior Shanel Halle and sophomore Hannah Wise. Junior Julia Cullver, sophomores Lindsey Delacour and Megan Bishel, and freshmen Mary Rosenswie and Cheyenne Helo complete the roster.

Considering that it took the team almost two full seasons to win its first game, Cowburn is pleased with their progress, but he and assistant coach Tony Edgell are continuing to set their sights on loftier goals.

“We’re coming along,” he said. “We’re ahead of schedule only four years into it, and we’re starting to make some noise. We’re looking to capitalize on last season, and try to go deep into districts. We really think we can get a higher seed this year, and we’d like to win a game in districts … or maybe even two. Only time will tell what’s going to happen, but I think we’ve got the talent to do it. With the heart and soul that we have, I think we’re going to be able to make some noise in the league this year. ECC is still the team to beat, but we took them to overtime in districts, and we’re going to see if we can rattle their cage a little bit.”

2009 Fall Sport Special: PAHS volleyball

As a new North Tier League volleyball season gets under way, Port Allegany is determined to put last year’s uncharacteristic 2-15 record behind them and focus on the campaign ahead. The Lady Gators took the first step on that road last week, topping Allegany-Limestone 3-1 (25-16, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19) in Friday night’s home opener.

Although Port returns just two seniors, head coach Sharon Daniels sees an enthusiastic, “highly motivated” crop of underclassmen meshing well with the older players. Daniels, who will be assisted again by Kaci Daniels and junior high coach Laurie Lathrop, also feels that area club-level programs have had a positive effect on her squad.

“Normally, having such a young team would present a problem with the experience factor,” she said. “But I feel very fortunate that of the kids that are playing, 11 of those 18 have at least two years of club experience. That’s going to help. The experience they gained by playing over the winter will carry over to the court here.”

Daniels expects the Lady Gator offense to revolve around three returning front-line starters. “Seniors Alyssa Bowser (a second-team NTL All-Star) and Kelsey Pistner both swing well, make very good offensive choices and bring the most experience to the floor. Add junior Renee Edgell and we have three powerful hitters with excellent blocking ability,” she said.

The other starter back for 2009 is junior setter Kyley Mickle, who will be joined in the lineup by freshman setter Jenny Shelley, “a very talented player with tons of energy.”

Continuing down the roster, Daniels added, “Sophomore Becky Andrus saw a lot of time at the varsity level last year and has quickly filled the void left by graduating first-team NTL All-Star Emily Schena in the libero position. She adds much to the team’s chemistry with her quickness and court savvy. Ashley Bernardi adds depth to our back row, Nikki Andrus will see time in the outside hitting position and the duo of sophomore Becca Culver and freshman Rachel Taylor will definitely aid our defensive efforts at the net.”

Coudersport dominated North Tier League play last season, racing through the league schedule with a perfect 14-0 record, but Daniels doesn’t see that happening again.

“I think it’s going to be a little tighter race this year,” she said. “I think Coudy’s going to be tough, I think Oswayo’s tough, Eldred’s tough, Smethport’s going to be in the mix, NoPo … I don’t think there’s any team that’s going to be at the bottom every night, I really don’t. Just looking at the different players coming back, I think it’s going to be a race every single night to see who’s going to win.”

Where does Daniels hope to see her Port High team finish in that race?

“It would be easy to say ‘better than last year,’ but I would like to see us make the playoffs, which means we’d have to finish .500,” she said. “I would really like to see this team finish .500 and at least make the first round of the playoffs. That’s our long-term goal.”