It wasn’t quite clear how the Central York boys' soccer team would fair at the start of the season.
Central had lost eight seniors from the previous year’s team and were going to be relying on a lot of younger players. But now near the end of the season, it’s safe to say the Panthers never missed a beat this year.
“We have grown as a group,” Central York head coach Frank Lenno said. “We have evolved. We are starting to be pretty confident in our play individually and collectively. Younger players have stepped up to the plate and older players are leading. We’re excited to be out here and things are OK.”
Things have been more than OK for Central York. The Panthers have only dropped two games this season and have yet to fall in divisional play. The Panthers have been near the top of the table for most of the regular season and seem destined to finish in first or second place at the end of year.
“A lot of the younger guys stepped up,” Carter Luckenbaugh said. “Whether it be playing physically or just talking on the field, we’re still trying to find our roles and I think we’re fitting these roles pretty well — obviously with our results.”
For Luckenbaugh his role has changed from last season, when he was used more as a defensive player. Now, the senior captain has become one of the Panthers' main offensive threats this year, replacing Igor Gomes and Jared Hileman from last season.
It was a role that Luckenbaugh stepped into after Lenno challenged someone to step up and “finish balls off.” Luckenbaugh took the challenge to heart.
“Obviously I’m scoring more goals than I have the past two seasons,” Luckenbaugh said. “They put me at attacking-mid and when I’m up there I seem to be scoring some goals. If we need goals they’ll put me up.”
Luckenbaugh hasn’t been the only player to take up a new role, and the team has experienced some growing pains. However, Lenno has seen the maturation of the team over the course of the season.
“Over the past six or eight games you could start seeing the things that we’ve been teaching happening,” Lenno said. “People are starting to get comfortable in positions now and starting to go above and beyond what we want them to do.”
The regular season is quickly coming to an end and the team’s focus is shifting towards the YAIAA tournament, which begins on Saturday. The Panthers advanced to the league championship game last season, but fell to Gettysburg 1-0.
The loss in the championship game is still in the minds of the seniors who were on the field last season, but this season they’re looking to correct the little mistakes they made previously.
“We’re just trying to get it right this year,” Pierrce Miller said. “It’s just little details. Not tracking our man and it’s just simple things we should do that we didn’t really do. That cost us in the end.”
YAIAA boys' soccer tournament: matchups and times to be determined for Saturday at host schools Bermudian Springs, Gettysburg, Northeastern and Susquehannock
YAIAA girls' soccer tournament: matchups and times to be determined for Saturday at host schools Bermudian Springs, Gettysburg, Northeastern and Susquehannock
On deck: YAIAA girls' soccer tournament preview will be published on GameTimePA.com Thursday and in the York Daily Record Friday.