Quaker Valley boys soccer finishes season
The Quaker Valley boys soccer team's postseason magic finally ran out.
After four straight playoff victories in overtime or double overtime, the Quakers' season came to an end with a 1-0 shootout loss to Lancaster Mennonite in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals Saturday at Hollidaysburg High School.
“Penalty (kicks) are always very difficult, and when you're on the wrong end of them, it doesn't get much more painful than that,” Quaker Valley coach Gene Klein said. “You can't judge a season on a shootout — what our kids did over the year was fantastic, and they're a phenomenal bunch of kids.”
Lancaster Mennonite, the defending PIAA champion, outscored the Quakers (19-4-1), 3-2, in penalty kicks. Keeper Jacob Hertzler stopped Quaker Valley's fifth and final shooter, Nelson Westwood, to preserve the victory.
Klein said he isn't a huge fan of ending games in shootouts — “I don't know who is,” he said — but he understands why they occur.
“You have to end the game some way,” he said. “You have to have somebody advance, and it happens at the highest levels of the game. They scored one more than we did, and that's what it comes down to.”
The quarterfinal loss ended what had been a remarkable run of extra-time success for Quaker Valley. Going back to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals, the Quakers won four straight games in overtime, with three of those victories coming in double overtime.
That streak included a double-overtime victory over Mars in the WPIAL Class AA championship game Nov. 3, as well as a 1-0 double-overtime win over General McLane in the PIAA opening round Nov. 6.
“It was a great run, and I think it really demonstrates how much heart and how much character, how much resilience and passion our kids have,” Klein said. “Everyone on the team played for each other, and they played for the school. I'm very proud of each and every one of them.”
Klein credited the senior class for providing an example of heart and determination to the younger players. Five seniors will graduate from this year's team: Levi Bowers, Sebastian Pereira, Dante Piccolo, Matt Regueiro and Westwood.
“This group of seniors is one of the best ones I've ever worked with — not just for their soccer abilities but for who they are as young men,” Klein said. “They're all superb kids; they're great students, and I think they're some of the best kids in the school. It's that type of character that I think rubbed off on everyone else on the team, and certainly they were the genesis that stimulated that team spirit.”
Klein said juniors Winter Fondi and Matt Delie will likely “carry the torch” moving forward.
The coach said Saturday's loss doesn't overshadow the progress the team made from August to November, ending with a tight game against the defending state champion. And the program's first WPIAL championship since 1999 only added to the memory.
“To be able to walk away from the season with a WPIAL championship and a gold medal, it validates the hard work that all the players put into the season,” he said. “It shows you that they wanted to do well as a team. Certainly it was a thrill; it was probably one of the most thrilling games I've been involved with. But to me it's validation of all the little things you do during the season.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.