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Valley soccer experiencing resurgence

| Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Deer Lakes' Shane Mullen (No. 02) and Valley's Stephen Colagrande (No. 10) battle for possession during the soccer game at Valley High School on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Valley's Adam Hines (No. 19) locks his eyes on the ball against Deer Lakes' Tyler Smith (No. 25) during the soccer game at Valley High School in New Kensington on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Valley's Drew Buzzell (No. 23) attempts to free the ball against Deer Lakes' Tyler Smith (No. 25) during the soccer game at Valley High School in New Kensington on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Valley's Zach Hall (No. 15) defends the ball against Deer Lakes' Shane Mullen (No. 02) during the soccer game at Valley High School in New Kensington on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Valley's Adam Hines (No. 19) prepares to pass the ball against Deer Lakes' Eric Lees (No. 03) during the soccer game at Valley High School in New Kensington on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Valley boys soccer coach Andy DeAntonio refers to his team's resurgence as part of “the process.”

For the Vikings, winning is important, but it isn't everything. Losing isn't a measure of ineptitude, just the technical result of a single game.

“Wins and losses won't ever validate what the team does,” DeAntonio said. “I think it does to everyone else, but especially with this group of guys, the wins and losses are the outcome of the process. It's a whole lot nicer to win, but we understand if we played a nice game with or without a winning result.”

The Vikings haven't had to spend much time measuring losses this year.

On Tuesday, they suffered their first loss of the season to Deer Lakes. The 2-0 loss lowered Valley's record to 5-1, a single victory shy of the team's combined wins over the past two seasons. It's also the most games the Vikings have won in a single season since 2004, when they finished 5-9-3. Last year, they were 2-15.

“This year, talent and skill has met hard work more than it has in my other years. The kids understand that those two things go together,” DeAntonio said. “It's not about the end result; it's not about the win. It's about following the process to get the win.”

Senior midfielder Steven Colagrande, a three-year starter and co-captain, is among those who have bought into DeAntonio's philosophy.

Colagrande said the primary function of “the process” is to foster team cohesion and allow players to look at the bigger picture. While the Vikings thrive on possession soccer, they are neither an attacking nor a defensive team but rather a balanced unit — one that is willing to pass until a flaw can be found to exploit.

“I like to say, ‘Have a purpose with the ball. Play it into space. Don't play kickball,' ” Colagrande said. “It's been hard for the team to grasp. But that's what the greatness of our team is, the balance of offense and defense.”

Colagrande shared that everyone grasping “the process” required a lot of time and patience in practice, film sessions and individual instruction. But over time, players began to believe in the system, the results of which have been noticeable on the field this season.

“It's definitely a change,” Colagrande said. “Coach says you should hold your chest out proud in school. It's hard coming from losing, going to that winning feeling. It's hard to get used to it and keep your composure about it.”

DeAntonio echoed that sentiment.

“Without a doubt, they've built some belief,” he said. “Yes, we're concerned with getting the win, but the clear message now is that they understand to refer back to the process. It has shown to be successful, so I think that the confidence is coming along, not only with that process but with themselves.”

Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.

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