Trib Cup: Boys soccer team leads Burrell to impressive fall season
TribLIVE Sports Videos
At some point during most Burrell boys soccer practices, second-year coach TJ Trozzi splits the players into two teams. One side features members of the undefeated varsity squad. Their opposition is the junior varsity.
Trozzi throws in various stipulations when the sides square off.
“Like today,” he said of Monday night's practice. “If varsity doesn't score in so many minutes or the JV holds a tie or wins, varsity has to run.”
Varsity did have to run. Twice.
“(Monday's) practice was pretty intense,” said senior keeper Alex White, the lone varsity starter who lines up with the junior varsity. “The JV, they're pretty good. They've been winning a lot, too. It makes it hard for us.”
The difficulty the Bucs have encountered in practice has hardened rather than hurt the team and has allowed the players to thrive in difficult game situations. The Bucs improved to 11-0-1 overall and 9-0-1 in Section 1-AA with a 7-0 victory against Mt. Pleasant on Thursday.
Burrell's push toward the upper echelon of Class AA is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature.
Despite Burrell capturing a third consecutive section title last season, senior forward Pete Spagnolo — a creative force at forward and Burrell's most dangerous player — was caught off guard by the team's success this season.
“I'm more surprised this year than last,” he said. “A lot of younger guys, some who didn't have any varsity time last year, did a lot of work before the season and have become key players.”
That includes creative sophomore midfielder Joey Cox, sophomore stopper Seth Strayer and a handful of other underclassmen who rotate in and out of the lineup at various times each game.
Burrell's ability to deploy multiple weapons allows Trozzi the opportunity to innovate and use the team's speed.
“We do talk about quickness and transitioning; that's really important,” he said. “What I'm seeing more of is the team not just kicking it, but kicking it on the ground into space for a forward or outside midfielder to run on to.”
The Bucs often employ quick throw-ins and fast restarts on free kicks to keep opponents on their heels.
Utilizing the speed and width provided by senior left back Ben Wertkin and junior right back Evan West, Burrell's defense is able to support its midfield in transition and provide plenty of service to the dangerous forward tandem of brothers Pete and Tom Spagnolo.
“Their chemistry at making runs and reading each other is what makes them dangerous,” Trozzi said. “When Pete gets the ball, Tom knows where to go. When Tom gets the ball, Pete knows where to go.”
Tom, a junior, acts as the finisher with eight goals, while Pete functions as more of a setup man with seven goals and nine assists.
“I like (playing with Tom) a lot. We have good chemistry,” Pete said. “At home, we talk to each other and practice things. Throughout the game, we talk the whole time, stay together and team up on defenders like it's a two-on-one.”
Pete doesn't just credit the cohesion between himself and his brother for Burrell's success.
“More than ever, this team has great chemistry,” he said. “Everyone likes everyone. There's no drama.”
At the back, the stopper-sweeper duo of Strayer and senior Jimmy Meyers has been key to a defense that surrendered only six goals this season. Behind them in goal, White, now in his second year as a starter, has perhaps been even more vital.
After being out of soccer for four years, White returned to the sport at the encouragement of Pete Spagnolo, a teammate of his on the Burrell basketball team.
“I looked at the team, and I knew they were pretty good. They had a lot of kids returning, and I thought I could help,” White said.
After a breakout 2011 season, White has maintained that form in 2012 despite missing some time due to a hand injury. In eight games, he has surrendered only four goals, recorded four shutouts and boasts a .935 save percentage.
“I knew we needed to convince him. He's athletic, and I knew he could do it,” Pete Spagnolo said. “We worked out all offseason, and it worked out for him and the team.”
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steeler lineman Adams sues men he claims attacked, stabbed him
- Ex-Wash High star McKenzie charged by police, suspended by Virginia Tech
- Homewood shooting victim identified
- 11 Ligonier Township residents rescued by boat from floodwaters
- Penguins need trade-deadline acquisitions to bring toughness
- Elizabeth Township, McKeesport impacted by ice jam on Youghiogheny River
- Sestak kicks off U.S. Senate campaign — with a couple missteps
- House resolution urges Wolf to reverse death penalty moratorium
- Court rules Steelers must pay Okobi workers comp
- Blue Jays’ Martin has ‘nothing but praise’ for former Pirates teammates
- Police: Suspect in 1970 cold case homicide of 17-year-old dies days before charges filed