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High expectations abound for Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy boys soccer squads

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley's Keaton Grant participates in a drill during soccer practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Chuck Knox Stadium in Leetsdale.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley boys soccer coach Gene Klein talks to Landon Narkevic during soccer practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Chuck Knox Stadium in Leetsdale.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley's Max Nungesser participates in a drill during soccer practice Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, at Chuck Knox Stadium in Leetsdale.

There won't be a lack of excitement for Sewickley soccer fans this fall.

After stellar seasons from the Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy boys teams last year, both squads return several talented players and are expecting to continue the success from 2012.

Quaker Valley finished last season 19-4-1 overall and 10-2 in Section 5-AA, sharing the section crown with West Allegheny. The Quakers then captured a seventh WPIAL Class AA championship with a 2-1 win over Mars before falling to Lancaster Mennonite, 1-0, in the PIAA playoffs.

“If that doesn't help us, then shame on us,” coach Gene Klein said. “Every game we had in the playoffs and in our section was close so they know how to battle. We should be able to take that experience and carry it into this season.”

The defense will receive an instant boost with the return of senior captains and three-year starters Matt Delie on defense and goalkeeper Winter Fondi. Throw in senior defender Max Nungesser, and the defense should not miss a beat after holding 16 teams scoreless last year.

Matthew Rodgers will move to the midfield after a strong sophomore season. Juniors Adam Richert and Landon Narkevic will look to help fill voids caused by graduation on the offensive side of the field.

“They did well last year as role players,” Klein said. “The big question is if they can take it to a new level this season.”

In Section 5-AA, Klein is expecting West Allegheny to be the team to beat while Montour and South Fayette also will be fighting for playoff spots. But if the Quakers can take the season one step at a time, their coach said good things can happen.

“Our goals haven't changed from seasons past — we want to have a great preseason and move forward and win the section and qualify for the playoffs,” Klein said.

Sewickley Academy finished last season 21-2-1 overall and 12-0 in Section 5-A. The Panthers fell to Greensburg Central Catholic, 2-1, in the WPIAL Class A semifinals but rebounded with a 3-0 win over Serra Catholic in the consolation game to qualify for the state playoffs. The Panthers reached the PIAA title game but fell to Mountain View, 1-0.

The experience gained from the long season should cushion the blow of losing six players to graduation.

“We return the nucleus from last year's team,” SA coach James Boone said. “We have a lot of experienced guys who have been playing since their freshman season.”

The biggest loss will be at goalkeeper. The team lost two to graduation so sophomore Jackson O'Neill will see an extended role.

“He did get some experience last season and looked good,” Boone said. “He was a lacrosse player in the spring so hopefully he got all the butterflies out then. There will be 10 experienced guys in front of the goalie and that will help.”

The return of senior defenders Jack Matten, Keegan MacDougall and Grady Moyer will help the goalie transition.

Last season's leading scorer, senior J.P. Bowell, returns to lead the offense and will get support from senior Anthony Stinson, who went from bench player to starter last season. Midfield will be strong with the return of seniors Steve Munn and Connor Zierden, along with sophomore Geoffrey Schuchardt.

Section 5-A will provide the team a challenge with defending WPIAL champion Riverside, Beaver County Christian and Neshannock.

“Our section has great coaching and kids,” Boone said. “You cannot overlook anyone.”

While his goals for the season may sound cliché, Boone said he wants to see the Panthers strive for tree things — a section title, a WPIAL crown and a state championship.

“Any coach will tell you that,” Boone said. “But those are our goals. If you go back through the years at Sewickley Academy, you will see a proud tradition of all three and I would like to keep that going.”

Quaker Valley kicks off its season at the East-West Classic at Highmark Stadium. The Quakers will face Fleetwood at 5 p.m. on Aug. 30 and Wilson (West Lawn) at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 31.

Sewickley Academy gets it season under way on Aug. 30 with a home game against Montour at 3:30 p.m.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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