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New coach helps fuel turnaround for Franklin Regional soccer

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012,
Franklin Regional midfielder Jake Roberge holds off Greater Latrobe midfielder Nick Tavella during their September 25, 2012 contest in Murrysville. Eric Schmadel | 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

After its worst season in recent memory last year, the Franklin Regional boys soccer team worked hard to ensure there wasn't a repeat.

Under a new coach in Ryan Montgomery, the Panthers say they were much more dedicated and focused over the offseason and in practice. It's shown in the results.

Coming off a 5-9 season that was only the program's second losing season since 2005, Franklin Regional was undefeated through 11 games heading into a nonsection contest against Plum on Monday night.

“We're having a good run right now,” senior midfielder Brent Velasquez said. “We've been doing all the things we need to do well. And we're all working hard this year.”

Franklin Regional had allowed only six goals through a 9-0-2 start heading into the week, and the Panthers lead Section 1-AAA with an 8-0-1 record. Franklin Regional was moved from Section 3-AAA after last season, and Montgomery replaced Simon Austin as coach.

“He's definitely been a positive for us,” Velasquez said. “He gets us motivated to work hard, and all that hard work is paying off. He understands the game really well, and I think he puts us in the best position to win all our games. It's been working out really well.”

Five of the Panthers, including four starters, have played for Montgomery in the Century United program.

The respect the players have for Montgomery when it comes to his knowledge of the game is reciprocated by the coach.

“The guys are a really smart group of players,” Montgomery said. “It's rare in high school to have as many guys that can understand the game well enough to allow us to put them in different positions and different formations and really be able to respond to an opponent.”

Franklin Regional has won games with offense (four times scoring at least three goals), and it's won them with defense (five shutouts). Mostly, says Montgomery, they are doing it with discipline. Players understand their roles and what they need to do during every situation at any given time on the field.

“The guys are really doing some special things,” Montgomery said. “And we're having a good season as a result.

“Just the way the boys have adapted to a regime change. They took it so well, took it in stride and adjusted to what we were trying to do.”

Velasquez, senior forward Michael Roberge, sophomore midfielder Jake Roberge and sophomore forward Tim Jolayemi are among the Panthers' most experienced players. Velasquez, senior center backer Nick Bolkovac and senior defender Mason Settino are among their top leaders.

Michael Roberge has committed to play at Northwestern, and Montgomery said Velasquez was among the other seniors likely to have a college soccer career ahead of them.

Goalkeeper Chris Ralph, outside midfielders Ryan Watson and Danny Ferriero and forward Anthony Massetto are among the sophomores who make an impact for the Panthers.

“This group is a close group,” Montgomery said. “They really have a good rapport with each other, and that carries out onto the field.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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