Bolstered by underclassmen, Southmoreland boys soccer aims to gain experience quickly
It may be a group full of youth at Southmoreland, but don't expect boys soccer coach Chris Hixson to cave for that reason.
He's hoping his players feel the same way.
With the teams at his alma mater having qualified for three WPIAL playoff spots in four previous seasons as coach, Hixson said there's no reason for a change in culture.
“We've been looking to see which players step up and accept the challenge to contribute to the program this year,” Hixson said.
More than half of the team's 26-player roster is made up of underclassmen — 10 freshmen, six sophomores and three juniors.
“I call it a season of youth and opportunity,” Hixson said. But he isn't conceding to the idea of rebuilding.
“I look for the section to be competitive, and I'm excited to see how our team competes against the talent in our section.”
The 2016 squad at Southmoreland, bolstered by the presence of center/midfielder Dylan Willard and defender Lucas Kaufman — both currently on the roster at Division III Pitt-Greensburg — reached the WPIAL playoffs with an 8-10-1 record, including a 7-5-0 mark in Section 3-AA.
Willard and Kaufman were among seven starters lost to graduation.
“Right now, there's a healthy competition for starting positions in the midfield and forward positions,” Hixson said.
Junior Brett Glowacki and sophomore Noah Kinter, part of that youth movement return.
The defense will look to a pair of experienced seniors in goalkeeper Jonathan Christner and defender Ronnie Rodriguez.
“We'll be depending on those guys to solidify the back for us and lead the younger starters back there on defense,” Hixson said.
Southmoreland opens its schedule on Saturday morning at home against Elizabeth Forward.
Southmoreland's first scheduled section game is Tuesday night at Brownsville.
“I believe, as every team that takes the field, we are going to try to win that night and put enough wins together to compete for a playoff position and keep our noses involved in the section title race,” Hixson said.
“It's going to be a process.”
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.