Growing up playing soccer, Lily Saul had a knack for being able to score and get past defenses. Ever since she was 8 years old, it seemed easy for her.
But that’s when people started telling her that she wouldn’t always be able to put up big numbers. It’d be different when she got to U10. Or U12. Or U14. Or high school.
Every time someone told Saul she couldn’t keep scoring like she had been at the previous level, she just went out and proved them wrong.
It carried through high school. If anyone told Saul she wouldn’t be able to put up big numbers entering her senior year, she definitely showed them up.
Saul had an unbelievable senior season for Montoursville and because of that, was named the Sun-Gazette Girls Soccer Player of the Year. She becomes the first Montoursville player to earn the award since Kiersten O’Malley did so in 2014.
“To be named Player of the Year means I have been surrounded by great players and coaches who gave me the opportunities to use my skill sets to help the team succeed,” Saul said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. It means a lot to me. All my hard work has paid off. I look at all of the players that have been selected for this honor before me and they have all been people I have looked up to and strived to be like. It’s truly an honor.”
Others considered for the award were South Williamsport forward Piper Minier, Muncy forward Emilie Nagel, Lewisburg defender Elena Malone and Milton goalie Mo Reiner.
“I came into games this year knowing I was going to be double and sometimes triple teamed, but it still didn’t stop me. I always embraced the challenge,” Saul said. “Ever since I was 8 years old, people would tell me when you get to U10 you won’t be able to score liek that, U12, U14, all the way up, but I always proved them wrong.
“If you say to me, ‘you won’t be able to do that,’ I will find a way to practice and improve.”
Which is precisely what Saul did entering her senior season.
“Lily puts in a considerable amount of offseason work in. It is nothing for her to go for an 8- or 9-mile run and attend an offseason workout later in the day. She has been so successful in soccer and track because of her strong commitment to physical fitness and always pushing her limits to get better,” Montoursville coach Vic Gorini said. “She was in the lead for every fitness test over the past four years and took pride in her exceptional work ethic.”
Simply put, Saul was a speedy, fast, talented player and could score at any time in a game if she got the ball at her feet. She ended her senior year with 31 goals — nearly double what the next scorer had — and dished out nine assists. Consider too the competition that Saul played, and her numbers jump out even more.
The Warriors had a loaded schedule this year, playing such teams as Wyoming Valley West, Northumberland Christian, Mifflinburg, Shamokin, Southern, Lewisburg, Altoona, Dallas, Milton and Central Columbia.
“Coach Vic put together a very challenging schedule this year. We have played the best teams in the area all season long, so being able to score as much as I did means a lot to me. My teammates made great passes to set me up,” Saul said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. Seeing the joy in their faces after I scored the game-winning goal against Milton this year really made me realize how much I will miss this team. We all support each other so much.”
And teams knew how dangerous Saul was up top. She put together a solid junior season and was known in the area, but even so, managed to often find her way into the 18-yard box to rifle shots left and right.
Saul was one of Montoursville’s captains this year, and Saul took pride in not only how she played and scored, but how she set an example to her younger teammates and being a role model to them.
“Having the younger girls look up to me as a role model means a lot. I always try and tell them that it goes by so fast, so they need to embrace it and take it all in,” Saul said.
After Montoursville lost in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs, Saul and her teammates walked off the field for the last time together. That’s when parents and players from Wyomissing were telling Saul how much they respected her as a player.
“It meant a lot. To gain the respect of the opponent is a great feeling,” Saul said. “I’m very humbled to represent my school and community in both of the sports I do.”
COACHES OF THE YEAR
Marc Lovecchio, South Williamsport and Jason Gresh, Muncy
Lovecchio guided South Williamsport to its first district championship game appearance since 2015, its first state playoff win since 2007 and its first state semifinal appearance since 2006. The Mounties wrapped up the season with an impressive 20-win campaign and beat Brandywine Heights and Moravian Academy to get to the state semifinals.
Under Gresh, Muncy had its best season in program history. The Indians won 13 games (the most in program history) and won the first playoff game in Muncy history in the first round of the District 4 Class A playoffs. Gresh has Muncy heading in the right direction, and the team is buying into his vision.
Others considered: Rod Harris, Milton; Vic Gorini, Montoursville; Alecia Gold, Hughesville.
SUN-GAZETTE GIRLS SOCCER ALL-STAR TEAM
PIPER MINIER, SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, FORWARD
Minier is a player who wasn’t shy to get physical in a game and played tough all season. She ended her junior season as a 50-goal scorer thanks to scoring 27 goals and posting 16 assists. The Player of the Year nominee also was named all-state this year at forward.
EMILIE NAGEL, MUNCY, FORWARD
Nagel had an absolutely outstanding season this year. She led Muncy with 22 goals and 15 assists and was a player defenses had to key in on and try to slow down. Her offensive output accounted for 41.6% of Muncy’s goals this year. Nagel, a Mid-Penn all-star, helped the Indians reach the District 4 Class A playoffs and secure the program’s first playoff win and most wins in a season (13).
KAILEE HELMRICH, WILLIAMSPORT, FORWARD
The Millionaires’ top weapon put together an outstanding season, scoring 20 goals and five assists and helped Williamsport reach the District 2-4 Class AAAA semifinals. Teams had to key in on Helmrich to try to slow her down, and often she beat great defenders using her speed on throughballs.
MACKENZIE LOPEZ, MILTON, FORWARD
Lopez was one of three outstanding scoring weapons for the Black Panthers. She scored a team-high 20 goals and had 13 assists for a team-high 53 points. Milton finished the season 14-4-1, the most wins in a single-season since 2009.
MADISON MOLL, MONTOURSVILLE, MIDFIELD
Moll earned second-team HAC-I all-star honors at midfield and helped the Warriors reach the state tournament. She had a team-high 18 assists and was constantly helping teammates score. She also had four goals.
ALEIGHA RIEPPEL, SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, MIDFIELD
Rieppel played as a defensive midfielder for the Mounties and did an outstanding job throughout the district and state playoffs. In the state quarterfinals against Moravian Academy, Rieppel shut down the Lions’ Division I prospect at center mid. She ended with six goals and 14 assist.
CHLOE BURKE, SULLIVAN COUNTY, MIDFIELD
Teams knew that they had to focus on Burke when playing the Griffins, and even so, she still managed to frequently find the back of the net. Sullivan County’s record may not have had a lot of wins, but Burke helped the team’s offense. She ended her career with 85 career goals, third most in Sullivan history.
JANAE BERGEY, MILTON, MIDFIELD
Bergey runs track and field, and her speed was on display throughout the season whenever the senior had a breakaway opportunity or throughball. Bergey scored 19 goals — second most on the team — and had 13 assists for 51 points.
ELENA MALONE, LEWISBURG, DEFENDER
Malone is the epitome of what you want in a defender. A player who reads the field great, has phenomenal closing speed and rarely lets a forward or midfielder get by her. Malone was the anchor of Lewisburg’s back line and more times than not was able to neutralize a team’s top player. She was named all-state and a HAC-I first-team defender.
NATALIE REEDER, MONTOURSVILLE, DEFENDER
Montoursville only lost three games this year and yielded 16 goals through 21 games. That’s a credit to Reeder on the backline. The junior was part of an outstanding defensive unit and teams didn’t get many easy looks at the goal vs. the Warriors. She was a HAC-I first-team defender.
CLAUDIA GREEN, SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, DEFENDER
South Williamsport coach Marc Lovecchio described Green as a stud defensively. She played remarkable for the Mounties and was a huge reason the defense didn’t allow many goals against all year. She was a Mid-Penn Conference all-star.
BROOKLYN LENTZ, SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, MIDFIELD
Lovecchio had high priase for Lentz, as well, and her play throughout the year backed it up. In the Mounties’ two games against Southern, Lentz didn’t yield a goal to Loren Gehret — one of District 4’s top players — in the run of play. Lentz also shut down both Brandywine Heights and Moravian Academy’s top strikers.
MO REINER, MILTON, GOALKEEPER
Reiner was a wall in goal this season, which perhaps is even more impressive given it was her first full season as a goalie. Reiner ended the year with the second most saves in the area (131) and posted seven shutouts. The Black Panther was extremely athletic and came up time and time again with superb stops and saves.
F–Raygan Lust, Warrior Run
F–Payden Matthieson, South Williamsport
F–Makenzie Leitenberger, Hughesville
F–Sophie Kilbride, Lewisburg
M–Devon Walker, Jersey Shore
M–Mallory Pardoe, Williamsport
M–Sophia Clark, Hughesville
M–Mia Edkin, Muncy
D–Payton Bragalone, Montoursville
D–Lindsey Trapani, Warrior Run
D–Madison Cardello, Lewisburg
D–Riley Murray, Milton
GK–Laila Shams, South Williamsport and Addy Ohnmeiss, Warrior Run
(in alphabetical order)
Lily Abadi, Wellsboro, GK; Abby Akers, S.W., M/F; Allison Andstadt, Hughesville; Lily Batman, Milton; Anna Baylor, Montoursville, GK; Alexis Beaver, Milton, M; Sarina Beiter, Williamsport, M; Natalie Bennett, Montoursville, D; Amara Bieber, Warrior Run, F; Caroline Blakeslee, Lewisburg, M/F; Kylie Bohart, Warrior Run, D; Maria Bozella, Lewisburg; Jaiden Bradley, South Wmspt., D; Madison Briggs, C.M.; Olivia Casella, South Wmspt., M/F; Sophia Casella, South Wmspt., M; Cierra Charles, Muncy, M/F; Jade Colwell, Williamson, M; Matison Cramer, Williamsport; Kierstyn Dawes, Montoursville, GK; Bryn Derrick, Hughesville, D; Sarah Dgien, Muncy, GK; Lydia Earnest, Montoursville, M; Adelia Engel, Williamsport, GK; Kate Fortin, Hughesville, D; Libby Fortin, Hughesville, F; Rylie French, Loyalsock, GK; Sarah Gardner, Hughesville, D; Leah Grow, Warrior Run, M; Chelsea Hungerford, Williamson, F; Rhandie Jessell, Loyalsock, M/F; Miah Jones, Williamsport; Mia Kopysciansky, C.M.; Alexis Kurzawa, Hughesville; Mikayla Long, Lewisburg, M/F; Averi Maihle, Jersey Shore, D; Jadyn McGinley, Hughesville, M; Maddie Millard, Williamson, D; Madalyn Morgan, N.P.-Mansfield, F; Aliyah Neece, Jersey Shore, F; Hailey Ohl, Muncy, D; Tierney Patterson, N.P.-Mansfield, GK; Sara Pecchia, Jersey Shore; Hailey Poust, Hughesville, M; Grace Pysher, Hughesville, D; Madelyn Ross, Warrior Run; Ryen Roush, Milton; Kathryn Schluter, Loyalsock, D; Maggie Sheets, Warrior Run, M;Ruby Sherman, Williamson, F; Elizabeth Shultz, Williamsport, D; Natalie St. James, Montgomery, F/M; Emma Strickland, Loyalsock, F/M; Leah Walter, Milton, F; Gracie Welshans, Jersey Shore, GK; Kaelyn Wettlaufer, Sullivan County, M; McKaye Wilton, South Wmspt., M/F; Emma Wood, Montoursville, D