Strong defensive effort keeping Brentwood soccer team optimistic
Last year, the Brentwood boys' varsity soccer team made history by securing a spot in the WPIAL playoffs for the first time ever.
But with several offensive players lost to graduation from last year's banner season, the Spartans are struggling in 2012.
With an overall record of 3-9 and a 1-7 Section 3-A slate, the Spartans are trying to keep their heads up in the second half of their 2012 season.
“Our record does not reflect how we're playing. We're not a bad team at all,” Ron DiNardo, Brentwood's head coach, said recently at the midway point of the season. “We could easily be 5-3 or 4-4. This is a tough section.”
This is DiNardo's eighth year with the Brentwood boys' soccer program, and his sixth as head coach.
DiNardo has worked hard, and tirelessly, to build respect for soccer in the Brentwood community.
And despite the team record this season, he believes the Spartans have become a more consistently competitive program.
“We don't get crushed. When (Bishop) Canevin and Seton-La Salle come to Brentwood, it definitely is not an easy win,” DiNardo said. “Brentwood isn't a pushover anymore.”
DiNardo cited the low number of goals-allowed by his team this season, and credits a strong defense for keeping the team in its games.
Through action last week, Brentwood had surrendered either one goal or two goals in five contests, while posting one shutout.
Chief among the Spartans' defensive players is senior goalkeeper Connor Kelly, one of three team captains.
Kelly's strong play in the net has helped keep the games close this season.
Brentwood's two other captains, seniors Jason Pilarski and Josh O'Neil, have turned in strong performances this season as well.
Pilarski was a first-team all-section selection last year; DiNardo predicts he will duplicate that honor in 2012.
Danny Faix, another senior, has helped the team with his move from a midfielder position to defense this season.
There are six girls on this year's squad. One starts at stopper, while three others see varsity playing time.
DiNardo says it has worked out well for the team.
“It's sort of like a co-ed team,” DiNardo said. “I wish there was a girls' team (at Brentwood) for them, simply because they would get more playing time — most of them would start on a girls' team.”
Alexis Gaughan, a junior, is the stopper, while senior Taylor Quiring and a pair of sophomores, Natalie Andrews and Shelby Stockline, also are varsity contributors.
At midfield, the Spartans rely on sophomores Nick Gall and Steve Mattola. At the forward position, the Spartans rely on seniors Kyle Simmons, Brandon Barone and Dru McGranahan.
“Simmons and Barone are really fast,” DiNardo said, “and McGranahan is a skilled player.”
Travis Nolla is a sophomore midfielder, and the team also has received help off the bench from Justin Mondry, another sophomore
Mondry, Nolla, Mottola and Gall all are young players to watch as the Spartans move forward, according to the team's veteran head coach.
At the start of this week, Seton-La Salle was firmly entrenched in first place in the section with a 9-0 slate, followed by Bishop Canevin (6-1-1), Carlynton (4-2-2), Avonworth (4-4-1), Eden Christian (3-5), Brentwood and North Catholic (0-8).
“These kids have played their hearts out; things just haven't gone our way,” DiNardo said. “We've been in pretty much every game, but we just can't seem to get the win. We're struggling offensively.”
The local squad defeated North Catholic, 4-1, and South Allegheny, 3-2, recently.
The Spartans are scheduled to host Seton-La Salle on Tuesday.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.