Alle-Kiski boys soccer preview: Valley hopes to sustain success
The Valley boys soccer revolution will continue through refinement.
While the Vikings tend to discuss 2012's 10-win performance as if they attain double-digit victory totals with regularity, they're certainly aware that 2012 was a year worth celebrating.
Their low-key assessment of the past season likely stems from their belief that even greater achievements are within reach this fall.
Able to go 10-5-3 overall and 8-1-3 in Section 1-AA, Valley secured the first playoff berth in program history. No overall record for the Vikings in the last 15 years was better; only in 2003 had Valley even finished above .500.
Only two players graduated from the lineup, so there's no shortage of potential for an impressive encore.
“The big thing was following this (development) process,” said eighth-year coach Andy DeAntonio, a 1998 Valley graduate. “We finally got to the point where we were able to work hard and add skill.
“Now we can add some finer points, some more schematic things. ... Hopefully we can use that this year to attack defenses rather than just taking what we can get, which is what we did a lot last year.”
A seasoned group of seniors makes up the spine that holds Valley together. Goalkeeper Josh Noel returns as a third-year starter. Cody Schrecongost is back at stopper. Tanner Walker, Ethan Walkowiak and Luke Thimons bring depth and experience to the midfield. And forward Dom Guzzi looks to build on a junior season in which he scored a team-high 18 goals.
“We know we're capable of a lot,” Guzzi said. “We just have to live up to it.”
Still, the Vikings remain humble. There's no talk about winning section titles and making playoff runs. That's a result of DeAntonio's emphasis on day-to-day improvement.
“We can't look ahead and think that because we have these returners it's written in stone that we'll win these games,” the coach said.
Burrell (13-3-2, 9-1-2 in Section 1-AA), which tied Valley twice last season, has almost as many returning starters, and it's just as focused on avoiding overconfidence.
“I'm just stressing one game at a time,” said Bucs coach T.J. Trozzi, who has seven starters back. “The last couple years, after we started well, I think the guys started to look ahead, and it got us in trouble.”
Senior Tom Spagnolo is a scoring threat at forward for Burrell. Junior Joey Cox is the keystone of a loaded midfield, and senior Evan West will lead a defensive unit that graduation depleted considerably.
While Valley and Burrell will try to dethrone Indiana in Section 1-AA, Kiski Area and Springdale will work to defend their section titles.
Kiski Area, the outright Section 1-AAA winner in 2011 and 2012 and the co-champ in 2010, has the talent to earn a fourth crown in as many years. Seven starters return, including All-WPIAL selections Matt Dziadosz (senior midfielder) and Brandon Smail (senior goalie) as well as leading scorer Dakota Lange (junior forward).
“Everyone realizes it's a hunt and a battle,” coach Bob Wright said of Kiski Area's title quest. “We're not taking anything for granted. Everybody knows that we're the guys with the target on our backs.”
Said Dziadosz: “We'd like to get that fourth section title, and I'm sure the other guys in the section won't make it easy on us.”
Springdale, which has claimed at least a share of the Section 2-A title each year since 2008, graduated 11 seniors, including nine starters, but coach Cesareo Sanchez isn't panicking. He has faith that senior forward Will Noble and senior midfielder Adam Winklman, the two returning starters, can steer their less-experienced teammates toward Springdale's gold standard for success.
“Maybe some people will think that we're underdogs,” Sanchez said, “but I think with the reputation we have, the boys will have to live up to that.”