Vault to Class AAA doesn't hinder Ringgold boys soccer
Ringgold enjoyed a breakout season in boys soccer last year.
Even with a step up in class, the Rams are proving it was no fluke.
Ringgold is 9-1 and unbeaten in five Section 4-AAA games heading into a big game at Bethel Park Tuesday.
“Considering the transition we had to make from Double-A to Triple-A, all parties involved were a little concerned with how we could compete,” new Rams head coach Frank Perez said. “With that said, I couldn't be happier at this point.”
Ringgold swept 12 Section 6-AA games last season, going 15-0-1 in the regular season and advancing to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals. Remarkably, the Rams allowed five goals all season.
They've matched that number through 10 games this season; offensively, Ringgold is averaging that many goals for each game it plays.
It's enough to lead Ringgold to believe it can more than just merely compete in Class AAA.
“We've always wanted to win the section,” senior striker Nick Cichon said. “I think the goals might be a little higher now that we're doing so well.”
Perez, a Ringgold alum, formerly was an assistant under Ron Fransko and also coached at other levels within the program. He has two sons on the team.
Midfielder Jeremy Perez is the lone junior among a group of five captains who were the primary returnees from last season's strong season.
The other four are seniors: Cichon, defensive midfielder Troy Dolanch and defenders George Chettle and Jesse Pry.
“We have really good leaders on this team,” Cichon said. “Everything is good when it comes to chemistry. We all play well together as a team.”
Cichon is the Rams' leading scorer; he had more than 10 goals through their first nine games.
“He has got to be up there with some of the best finishers in the WPIAL,” Frank Perez said. “He's just uncanny around the net. Some guys have it, some don't — and Nick has it. He's good with both feet.”
Jeremy Perez and junior striker Connor Dudas also are serious offensive threats, as well as senior outside midfielder Hunter Homa.
Dolanch is a returning all-section player who is versatile and talented enough that he can help the Rams at virtually any position.
“You can't say enough about Troy,” Frank Perez said. “Just a great player.”
The final line of defense is another experienced senior, goalkeeper Jeremy Reiland.
The credit goes to many, Perez said, for the ascension of the Ringgold program from solid-but-unspectactular to powerhouse. The bottom line is that the younger levels of the program are producing more Cup-level players than in the past.
With experienced, groomed talent entering ninth grade ready for the varsity team, the results have shown.
“I would say that one of the biggest attributes of this year's team is that the players have been taught by so many coaches over the years so they're technically sound,” Perez said. “We don't have to work on techniques and basic elements of the game. We can focus on more tactical types of things — and that is big.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.