SSA soccer team showing confidence

Marty Stewart
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

If the Shady Side Academy boys soccer team needed a confidence builder heading into section play, the WPIAL Class AA Indians got it with a 2-1 win over Class AAA Fox Chapel last Thursday.

“It was an amazing win for us,” SSA coach James Meara said. “It's one of the biggest wins I've had as a coach. Fox Chapel is loaded with talent. It was just a great win for our team with everybody pitching in and doing their job.

“We started two freshman, Matt Rytel and Gray Garrard, who played beyond their years. Conan Smith, Chris Zhang and Berk Alper were solid at the back along with Dan Marous.

“Our captain, Mike Mathieson, led the team all night on the field and Mike Concordia and Gray Pipitone worked tirelessly up top. Evan Brazinski and Chinedu Okoroafor were outstanding in central midfield and controlled the game from start to finish.

“Brendan Leech in goal came up with some huge saves for the team to keep us in the lead.”

Okoroafor and Brazinski scored for the Indians.

Despite losing six starters from last year's WPIAL quarterfinalist team, Meara is optimistic this season.

“We started off with a disappointing loss to West Allegheny but bounced back to beat New Brighton and, now, Fox Chapel,” he said. “We had a little meeting after the loss, in which we played poorly, and the team realized that they had to step it up on the field.”

Meara said it appears that the meeting worked.

“They've grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck,” he said. “We're putting bodies in front of the ball and playing well.”

The Indians have four seniors on the team — Mathieson, Blake Beckemeyer, Perry Cao and Shivom Bharill.

The strong junior class is led by Brazinski, Concordia, Zhang, Okoroafor, Alper, Marous, Pipitone, Jason Weis, Sean Beckford and Josh Tobin.

Smith and Leech are sophomores.

Meara thinks the team is ready for a tough section battle.

“The kids have seen what they can achieve,” he said. “Our section will be strong, even with Hampton moving up to AAA. Mars will be the favorite and Knoch is always tough. We have to play well and avoid injuries.”

Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or

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