New coach hopes to turn fortunes of Gateway boys soccer squad
Challenging times fell upon the Gateway varsity boys soccer team last fall.
Midway through the season, the Gators' head coach and top assistant resigned, and that left the team's players looking for direction.
Kevin Sanders, an em- ployee with the district who had prior soccer- coaching experience, took over as interim head coach and helped guide the team the rest of the season.
Gateway kept battling and won its home finale, a 1-0 triumph over Woodland Hills.
Eight seniors graduated from last year's squad that went 3-9 in section play.
The offseason was one of regrouping for the returning players and a restart from the coaching standpoint.
Enter Chris Duda, a for- mer head varsity soccer coach at Monessen and also a coach for several Pittsburgh area amateur teams.
Duda was hired as head coach in March, and he started to formulate an idea and game plan for the 2012 team.
“Things have been going great, and the guys have a great attitude,” Duda said.
“The guys are working together and communicating well. It's a different system than they used last year and for the past several seasons. Now that they understand it better, it's working really well.”
The team is made up of a mixture of veterans and newcomers who hope to get the Gators back in the mix for a WPIAL playoff spot.
Four senior captains — forward Brian Carey, goalkeeper Nate Kleya, midfielder Ray Scalese and defender Kenny Stevens — lead the charge.
Carey scored a pair of goals last season and returns as a top scoring threat. Kleya is expected to take over full time at goaltender after the graduation of Andrew Hilton.
Doucet Creamer, the fifth senior on the roster, is a defender who, Duda said, will be a big part of the varsity game plan this season.
Duda said he's not sure how many letter winners are back from last year. He said the starting lineups and playing time for team members have been earned by the sole observations of the coaching staff.
“There was no favoritism,” Duda said. “They didn't know me and I didn't know them. It's been their time to shine in precamps, conditioning, preseason practices and scrimmages. I needed to see what they could do now, not what they did last year.”
Duda said he also has evaluated juniors Nick Contestabile (defense), Matt Davis (defense), Rob English (defense), Gaurav Pandey (midfield), Sam Passalinqua (defense), Matt Reynolds (forward) and Matt Shapiro (goaltender); and sophomores Chris Conti (midfield), Kevin Fitchwell (midfield), Jared Jenkins (midfield), Joe Klonicki (defense), Sam Seroky (forward) and Sam Zeik (defense).
Duda said he got a good chance to see his team in action during a scrimmage last week with East Allegheny.
“I am looking for team effort, both in scoring and playing defense,” Duda said.
“I'm not looking for one individual or one player to do all the work. We have a lot of guys who can go up top and finish and play good defense.”
Danny Snyder, a midfielder, is the only freshman on the varsity squad, and Duda expects him to make an impact.
“He's an outside midfielder that just doesn't quit,” Duda said. “He's determined to go. He wants to get the ball and make an impact any way he can.”
Gateway kicks off the season Saturday at 5 p.m. against former section foe Franklin Regional. The Panthers are in a different section this season.
“They are excited to begin playing,” Duda said.
“Scrimmages are different. Saturday is for real.”
Gateway opens Section 3-AAA play at Woodland Hills on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. The Gators host section foe Penn Hills on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. and then play at the Pine-Richland Tournament Sept. 7 and 8.
“I'm excited to face some tough competition right off the bat and see how we can do and how we match up,” Duda said. “Hopefully, we can pull out some wins.”
New to the section and to the WPIAL this year is Allderdice.
The 2011 City League Champion went 20-1 last fall and was undefeated until losing to Upper St. Clair in the first round of the PIAA AAA playoffs.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.