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Kiski Area leads local teams into soccer season

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Fox Chapel's Jack Dickens, Kiski Area's Tyler Nelson, Fox Chapel's Justin Mautino, and Kiski Area's Zach Fisher anticipate the ball during the scrimmage at Kiski Area High School on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

With expectations low last fall, a young, defensively-staunch Kiski Area boys soccer squad defied the odds to earn its first outright section title and a berth in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.

Returning nine players who regularly saw playing time last season, the 2012 version of the Cavaliers may have a new obstacle to overcome: expectation.

“We're definitely shooting to get into the playoffs again. Now, that's just become a regular objective,” Kiski Area coach Bob Wright said.

“We're playing well enough that that's a simple, basic thing to shoot for.”

And that's not all.

“After that, we want to be shooting for the section,” Wright said.

“We've got two in a row now. We'd like to have another banner to put into the gymnasium.”

Despite the ambitious outlook, Wright knows things are never that easy.

Even with the high number of players returning, the Cavaliers are still young and are looking to replace three key graduating seniors, including 2011 Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year Kyle Terrill and VND all-star selection James Winiesky.

Wright admitted the team doesn't have a natural leader yet but was upbeat on the prospect of one — or more — being determined during the early stages of the season.

“We're really looking toward a lot of players acting as leaders,” he said. “They have a real perspective on things and real good attitudes, but youth does have its disadvantages.”

Goalkeeper Brandon Smail was a revelation in his first season as a starter last year.

The athletic junior earned eight shutouts while allowing only 10 goals. Sophomores Dakota Lange and Zach Wilson also return, having led the team with eight goals apiece last year. Junior Matt Dziasdoz will be relied upon as the midfield fulcrum of the suddenly attack-minded Cavaliers.

• With perennial power Hampton moving from Class AA to AAA, the battle for the Section 2-AA title will be as wide open as ever. Mars, Shady Side Academy and Knoch are immediate contenders, while Highlands could be a dark horse.

• After securing the Section 1-AA championship, Burrell coach T.J. Trozzi hopes to see his team continue its winning ways, and do so with some flair.

“We're going to use a lot of possession, no more long-ball,” he said. “I think it shows that we're trying to make ourselves better instead of the typical kick-and-run game.”

• Still in search of its first section title, St. Joseph is hoping to compete for the Section 2-A crown and overcome local rival Springdale and improved Riverview.

“Springdale's always good, I think Vincentian Academy will be near the top ... and Riverview will be better,” St. Joseph coach Matt Skoda said. “But this year, I think we have a good chance to make a run at the section. … I always set the bar high, I don't feel like there's any point in just aiming for a certain number of wins or anything.”

Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.

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