South Fayette Lions boys soccer team hoping for return to WPIAL playoffs
Last season didn't go as South Fayette boys soccer coach Rob Eldridge expected.
The Lions finished the 2010 campaign 9-7-1 and reached the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals – their first playoff appearance since 2007.
But the 2011 squad wasn't able to carry the momentum over and finished 3-12-1 and 2-8 in Section 5-AA.
“I think the guys understand it wasn't a bad team last season,” Eldridge said. “We don't have the luxury of being in a section that we know we will make the playoffs every year. We have some of the top-level Class AA teams in our section.
“The guys understand that we need to come out every game and battle so we can stay viable candidates for the postseason.”
If the Lions hope to make a return to the WPIAL playoffs, they will need to rely on several talented underclassmen. The South Fayette roster only features three seniors. Justin Goodwill – a senior midfielder – returns and his experience will be crucial as South Fayette battles through Section 5-AA.
“(Goodwill) will be a catalyst in everything we do,” Eldridge said.
The offense will be going through a youth movement as several underclassmen step into starting roles.
Sophomore forward Brian Coyne is a player Eldridge said is fast and is expected to make an impact this season.
“We also have two freshmen with Mitch Ford and Jordan Smith, who are cutting their teeth with the varsity team,” Eldridge said. “It can be difficult when you are 15 and you are playing against 17- and 18-year-olds. But they are learning.”
South Fayette uses four defenders in its scheme. The defense will be led by senior defenders Anthony and Joseph Chilleo. Sophomores Nick McKee and George Slater are both expected to contribute to the defense.
The Lions will also get a boost on defense with the return of junior midfielder Evan Yee.
“Last season he was a marking player, meaning his responsibility was to mark out on of the best players on the opposing team,” Eldridge said. “He has an extended role now. He will now have to contribute to the possession and distributing the ball.”
Goalkeeper is a position that is expected to see improved play in 2012. Junior Alex Gedrys returns to the position after being the Lions starter last year.
“There is no better way to gain experience than playing,” Eldridge said. “It is hard to simulate the game environment, especially for the guy in the net.”
Gedrys will be backed up by sophomore Andrew Pine, a player Eldridge called an excellent goalie in his own right. The experience at goal will be crucial as the Lions battle for one of the three WPIAL playoff berths from Section 5-AA.
The section added Obama Academy and Carrick from the City League to push the total number teams to seven.
The other teams in the section include Keystone Oaks, Montour, Quaker Valley and West Allegheny.
Eldridge said that if 2012 plays out like last season, then three teams stand out from the rest – Montour, Quaker Valley and West Allegheny. Those three squads each made the playoffs in 2011 and return as many as eight starters.
“If someone would have done a preseason poll, South Fayette would have been chosen fourth of fifth,” Eldridge said. “Everyone seems to expect those three teams to make it back to the playoffs. Hopefully, we can use that as motivation.”
The Lions opened the season going 2-1-1, including a 1-0 win over Keystone Oaks and a 0-0 tie against Montour in section action.
Eldridge said it is a good start for his squad his 2012. He has challenged his players to leave everything on the field this season – no matter if is a practice or a game. By doing this, Eldridge feels it can lead to the team's No. 1 goal.
“The ultimate team goal is to be a competitive team in the WPIAL tournament,” Eldridge said.
South Fayette returns to the field Saturday at home to take on Waynesburg at 11 a.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.