EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the season in a series of stories in which the Journal will take a look at what’s ahead for high school sports in the next two-year cycle (2020-21 and 2021-22).
Lackawanna Trail and Abington Heights are among the teams changing divisions in Wyoming Valley Conference field hockey for the next two seasons.
After coming within a game of the Division 2 title in each of the past two seasons, Lackawanna Trail is returning to Division 1, where it has spent much of its time as a conference member and competed as recently as 2017.
Unlike the majority of sports in the Lackawanna League and Wyoming Valley Conference, where divisional alignments are largely driven by enrollment, the WVC’s field hockey divisions are separated by strength.
The WVC has several changes in the two divisions after it produced two of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state champions in 2019.
Among those changes is a switch by Abington Heights from Division 1 to Division 2.
Field hockey has gone through frequent changes in format and divisional alignment in an effort to maintain competitive balance in a conference that annually produces multiple state contenders, dozens of Division I players and candidates for national team berths.
Lackawanna Trail has the smallest enrollment of any District 2 school sponsoring the sport, but is taking on the challenge of competing with the biggest schools as well as the best schools in its own classification (Class A) where Wyoming Seminary is a two-time defending state champion.
Wyoming Seminary and Lackawanna Trail compete in the 12-team Division 1 along with Delaware Valley, Hazleton Area, Honesdale, Wilkes-Barre Area, Crestwood, Dallas, Wyoming Valley West, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman and Wyoming Area.
Wyoming Valley West won a state Class 2A championship last season and Wyoming Area advanced to the Class A state semifinals.
Division 2 of the WVC will undergo many changes.
Northwest, the champion of the past two seasons, is the only team to have left the conference.
While Lackawanna Trail moves up, Abington Heights, Pittston Area and Wallenpaupack come down from Division 1. They join Berwick, Hanover Area, Nanticoke and Tunkhannock, which remain in Division 2.
Since posting a winning record as a Division 1 member in 2007 and claiming the Division 2 title in 2008, Abington Heights is a combined 22-124-1 in the conference. It suffered through a stretch of just five wins in six seasons while competing in Division 2 in either three- or four-division setups.
The Lady Comets have been on an upswing, posting their best two- and three-year stretches since the 2007 and 2008 seasons, under coach Samantha Krut. With the best 2018 (5-8) and 2019 (4-8-1) record of the teams dropping down in division, the change has the potential to help make the team into an immediate title contender.
Abington Heights and Lackawanna Trail are both members of the Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association, which operates Lackawanna League sports. They compete in field hockey, and Abington Heights competes in boys and girls lacrosse, in the WVC because there is no Lackawanna League for those sports.
Another scenario where Lackawanna League teams compete in the WVC could impact the level of competition for the schools in volleyball.
North Pocono had been playing in the WVC, which generally has provided stronger competition, in girls and boys volleyball. It has ended that relationship, leaving only Delaware Valley among traditional Lackawanna schools playing in the WVC.
The move of North Pocono into the girls volleyball league in the fall provides extra competition for Abington Heights and Lackawanna Trail in a league that also includes Western Wayne, Blue Ridge, Dunmore, Mountain View, Forest City, Susquehanna, Montrose and Elk Lake.
The addition of North Pocono in boys volleyball for the spring of 2021 will boost league membership to seven. Abington Heights is part of the league, along with Blue Ridge, Forest City, Elk Lake, Western Wayne and Mountain View.