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Pine-Richland soccer's deep roster helps team overcome injuries

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012,
Christopher Horner
Pine-Richland's Mike Jones takes a shot against Penn Hills during a game on September 25, 2012 in Pine. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area's Ocke Sandgren controls the ball versus Penn-Trafford during their September 6, 2012 match in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Pine-Richland's Ryan Tysarczyk heads the ball in the rain during a game against Penn Hills Tuesday September 25, 2012 in Pine. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The Pine-Richland boys soccer team has had its problems staying healthy this season.

The Rams' record sure hasn't.

Despite a spate of injuries of various degrees to no fewer than eight contributors, Pine-Richland entered this week as one of only three teams in the WPIAL with a perfect record — the only one in Class AAA — as the regular season sits at roughly the two-thirds point.

“We're very happy with the results, but we're putting everything into perspective,” coach Jon Conner said. “This time of year, it really doesn't mean a great deal if you don't do it at the end of the season. Our guys are pretty grounded and pretty mature. They know that one loss (in the playoffs) can end our season.

“We're happy with where we are, but most of the things we wanted to accomplish we haven't yet.”

The Rams are 11-0, and perhaps more importantly, perfect in seven Section 2-AAA games. Pine-Richland has nine shutouts and has allowed only two goals all season.

“I think this year we're doing so well because of chemistry,” senior co-captain Tyler McCarthy said. “Last year, we had a lot of talent, but we didn't have much chemistry. This season, with all the seniors, some of us have been playing together since we were 6, some since we were 10, and in time, everyone learns to play together. Everyone likes each other. There's no problems on the team that there might have been the past couple years.”

The Rams are on their way to qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. But only once in the previous six years have they advanced past the quarterfinals. Pine-Richland went 10-5-4 last season, losing in the quarterfinals.

Conner said this season's roster has 35 players who are juniors or seniors, including 18 seniors. The raw numbers alone — even at a Class AAA school — have helped. But beyond mere quantity, Pine-Richland has proven it has plenty of quality.

“There've been some guys who've really stepped into some roles and matured as the season progressed,” Conner said. “There's been so many guys who might not have had a role in terms of playing time when the season started but who worked in practice like they did, and now, they've been able to step in, and it shows.”

McCarthy, a midfielder, is a co-captain along with senior midfielder Pat Sullivan and senior forward Victor Osio.

Senior Grant Goldberg has been a standout at goalkeeper, with sophomore Nick Stasko also performing well. The final line of defense includes seniors Brendan Bogosta, Tom Siegrist and Hunter Drake at fullback.

Senior Mike Jones returned after missing last season due to injury and has been a key part of the Rams' midfield. Ryan Tysarczyk is another senior in the midfield, which has been bolstered by several younger players.

Senior Sean Allen and juniors Aiden Reuter and Alex Miller are among the Rams' top forwards.

For a team that has finished in second or third place in Section 2-AAA three of the past four years, a section title has meaning to Pine-Richland.

One goal the Rams aren't making is to complete an undefeated season.

“We understand we're going to lose a game. That's just something that's going to happen,” Conner said. “We understand that and are at peace with that.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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