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Moving to WPIAL an adjustment for Allderdice boys soccer

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Allderdice's Gabe Zuckerman (left) and Yakub Wells go for a header during practice Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, at the Schenley Oval. (Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review)
Jon Muniain (green shorts) dribbles the ball downfield during practice for the Allderdice boys soccer team at the Schenley Oval on Monday September 10, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Aidan Marty (left) and Alex Kent (right) battle for control of the ball during practice for the Allderdice boys soccer team at the Schenley Oval on Monday September 10, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Vinny Barone, East Allegheny (submitted photo)

Bring it on.

So says the Allderdice boys soccer team.

The Dragons are competing in the WPIAL for the first time after decades of dominating the City League. Over the past nine seasons, Allderdice lost only one regular-season City League game and one league playoff game. The team is coming off an undefeated regular season.

This season, things won't be nearly so easy in Section 3-AAA. But instead of shying away from the challenge, the Dragons are facing it head-on.

“We know that, sometimes, we've been viewed as a product of (the competition),” coach Sam Bellin said. “We totally disagree with that.

“We do feel this is an opportunity for us to show exactly how good we are. ... We still feel like we're one of the top teams by any measure in any league or section. To be fair, we have to go out and prove it.”

The early results haven't been overly encouraging. Allderdice is 1-2-1 playing against all WPIAL teams heading into a game Tuesday at Woodland Hills.

The Dragons lost 15 of their top 18 players from last season, so comparing this start to their 20-0 run before losing in the 2011 PIAA playoffs isn't fair.

Still, Allderdice embraces the question of how would a City League power stack up against WPIAL teams over the course of a full season?

“I think we're playing with a chip on our shoulder,” midfielder Xaver Kandler said. “We want to represent the City, and we want to show other teams that just because we were playing these bad teams doesn't mean we're not able to beat good teams now.”

Allderdice has shown it can compete in the WPIAL. Last season, the Dragons were 6-0 against WPIAL teams during the regular season before losing to WPIAL and eventual PIAA Class AAA champion Upper St. Clair in their second PIAA tournament match.

In past seasons, the Dragons often faced one or two respectable league opponents. The others? Not so much.

“Before, it was like you knew that, like, every four games you'd have a challenge,” Kandler said. “Now, it's like every game is a real game and it's a tough opponent. It's so much more exciting because every week is another challenge.”

Kandler, a defensive specialist, joins fellow seniors Aeden Marty and Jonas Portillo as Allderdice's captains this season. Portillo, a sweeper, and center-midfielder Marty were all-City League last season along with fellow returnee Jon Muniain, who had a team-high 29 goals last season.

First-year starters such as senior midfielder Lucas Johnson, freshman fullback Harrison Smith, sophomore fullback Jakob Wells, junior stopper Cameron Fells and senior goalkeeper Alex Kent have stepped up into prominent roles for the Dragons.

“Last year really was a dream season, and it's harder this year,” Bellin said. “We don't have the same experience, but we trying to develop some of these real good young players.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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