Seton, Bishop Canevin to clash in section showdown Can
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The Seton-La Salle High School boys' varsity soccer team once again has assembled a dominant team with a winning season.
This time, the Rebels have done it with just a handful of returning starters, only one club player, and a lot of new faces.
With a win against Bishop Canevin today, Thursday, Seton-La Salle can clinch yet another Section 3-A title.
The Rebels have become a perennial force in the section for the past decade, winning at least a share in the section title for eight of the last 10 years.
And success for the team has not ended there. The Rebels have also gone on to win four WPIAL championships (2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011), and two state titles (2006 and 2008) during that same span.
Head coach Mike Thomas has been at the helm since 2003. With only one club player this season — defender Eric Albright — Thomas credits a lot of the Rebels' success with good family values that prepare his athletes long before they step onto the practice field.
“These are hard-working kids with good parents,” Thomas said. “They cherish family, and overall it's commitment to each other and the team,”
Year in and year out, Thomas says the team comes ready to win. He says Seton-La Salle's legacy of winning is something the players seem to take seriously, and that has a lot to do with their success.
“A lot of these kids don't go on to play college ball. This is the highest level soccer they will play and they work hard at it,” he said.
This year's team was relatively inexperienced at the beginning of the season.
But, because the team has a history of making it to the WPIAL playoffs, many of the players on the 2012 team have seen postseason action off the bench.
The Rebels have an overall 13-2 record, with a 10-1 section record. They will wrap up the regular season today, Thursday, in a section showdown with rival Bishop Canevin (10-3-1, 9-1-1).
Striker Rocco Gagliardi, a senior, leads the local squad offensively with 14 goals through 14 games.
“He's fast, strong and very determined,” Thomas said of Gagliardi. “I am sure there is a lot of talk (by opponents) about how to stop Rocco.”
Senior Tony Pecone and sophomore James Mallon are starting center midfielders. Pecone paces the team in assists with 17 through 14 games.
“Tony Pecone puts his ego behind him and sets up the plays,” Thomas said.
Seniors Sam Kostyak and Albright are both offensive players who are playing defense this year, according to Thomas
Kevin Hudson, a junior, and Pat Kist, a senior, also are essential members of the Rebels' defensive corps.
Senior goalkeeper Nick Parkes allowed only four goals all season until a dislocated shoulder during an overtime victory against Bishop Canevin on Sept. 22 sent him to the sideline.
The good news is that Parkes was cleared by doctors to return earlier this week. He will be in goal against Bishop Canevin in today's showdown.
The Crusaders' only section loss this year came against Seton-La Salle, so the game promises to be an exciting one.
Gagliardi, Parkes, Pecone and Albright all share the team captain duties for the Rebels.
“They all add something different,” Thomas said.
The veteran coach is optimistic about his squad's chances in the upcoming WPIAL playoffs.
“We do a good job of preparing,” he said. “If we stay healthy and have a little bit of luck, we'll be playing on (championship) Saturday.”
Thomas believes the team to beat in Class A is Sewickley Academy.
Seton-La Salle lost to the Academy crew during nonsection action earlier in the season.
“They're the best team in single-A. If they play mistake-free, they will be hard to beat,” Thomas said.
But he certainly would like his team to get another chance.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.
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