With largely new cast, Central York aims to continue tradition of boys' soccer success

  • The Central York boys' soccer team went 19-3 last season.
  • The Panthers won their fifth straight York-Adams Division I title in 2017.
  • Central is hoping to get back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2015.
  • Central is also looking for its first Y-A League playoff championship since 2014.

The Central York Panthers have been at or near the top of the York-Adams League boys' soccer hierarchy for the past decade.

Frank Lenno's Central York boys' soccer program has won five straight York-Adams Division I championships. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

The Panthers (19-3 in 2017) have won the past five Division I titles to go along with back-to-back playoff crowns in 2013 and 2014.

Being the top dog, however, comes with a mental burden that coach Frank Lenno and his players have to deal with every game night. Opponents are always looking to earn a statement victory against one of the area’s premier squads.

“When you do well, teams want to beat you,” Lenno said. “That’s the nature of the beast. (Wednesday) night we scrimmaged Suburban and we tied 0-0, and even though we won in penalty kicks, the Suburban guys were so happy to just have a tie.”

The mental aspect of getting the other team's best shot each game is difficult enough to handle as a coach. The physical aspect of a long, stressful can another challenge.

York High soccer teams set to start new era

After a string of three consecutive PIAA state appearances from 2013-2015, the Panthers have failed to make the state draw the past two years. They've also come up short of the league playoff title the last three years, with Division II champion Susquehannock taking the league playoff crown last season, while Gettysburg triumphed in 2015 and 2016.

Last year, when the Panthers were the No. 1 seed in the District 3 Class 4-A draw, the trouble was mostly with player health. A handful of starters were missing for their league playoff loss against West York in the first round. While some of them were able to play in the district playoffs, Lenno would've liked to have a full deck against a Cumberland Valley team that has now ended Central's season the past two straight years.

Ryan Balanda, right, is one of Central York's key returners this season. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

Largely new cast: If Lenno and his team are to make it back to states this year, it will likely be on the backs of a new cast of key players. Last year’s Division I Player of the Year, Nick Starr, along with all-stars Trace Becker, Kam Stoll and Carter Mummert are all gone to graduation.

As a result, Lenno is looking for some younger players to step up, along with some veteran juniors and seniors to lead the way.

“We have Michael Nelson, who’s our center-back, Ryan Balanda, Evan Smeltzer and Zach Mummert all back,” Lenno said. “They have the most experience as returning players and they’ll have to help us make sure that guys are leading and doing their work.”

Defense looks strong: Most of those returners are on the back end of the field, along with goalie Brian Ponce, who stepped in for Stoll when he was down with injury. For a defensive-minded coach such as Lenno, he’s happy with what he’s seen so far.

Central York's Evan Smeltzer, right, will return this season for the Panthers, who are attempting to get back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2015. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

“My mindset is that we don’t want to give up any goals,” he said. “The scoring will come, but if you let up too many goals you’re in trouble.”

Getting started: Lenno and his squad will kick things off this weekend when they play host to the Panther Classic Kick-Off Tournament. CY will take on Trinity in the first game at 9 a.m., while Lewisburg and Waynesboro will battle in the second contest at 11 a.m. The consolation game is slated for 1 p.m. with the championship clash set for 3 p.m.

Central will open its D-I season at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at New Oxford.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.