Last year's long-awaited trip to postseason motivating West Mifflin boys this season
A trip to the WPIAL playoffs in 2012 — the first in 26 years — has given the West Mifflin boys soccer team a boost that second-year coach Chad Perry hopes is padding his players' confidence level.
Even with an untested varsity player in goal for most of the Titans' early games, West Mifflin has experienced some success.
Freshman Tyler Beck, subbing for the injured Kyle Buettner, produced a victory and a tie in West Mifflin's past two games, but Buettner is expected back in the lineup Tuesday for the Titans' scheduled Section 3-AA home game against Belle Vernon.
“Tyler gave us some really good minutes. He gave us a good lift, made some key saves and earned some respect from the other players on the team,” Perry said.
Buettner, the team's regular goalie in 2012, was injured in West Mifflin's 2013 opener against Ringgold, suffering from a bruised left shoulder that limited his motion.
The junior was back on the practice field Monday, wearing a brace and some extra padding.
“I have full range of motion now, but it does feel a little stiff from not using it,” said Buettner, who missed three games.
West Mifflin was 1-1-1 with Beck in goal, including a 2-2 tie with Yough in the section opener Sept. 3.
“He did well,” Buettner said. “It's very tough for a freshman to step into the flow at a position like goalie, which is one of the toughest things to do. One thing I've been emphasizing from training camp, as a captain, is to pick up each other's play.
“There was competition in camp, but I told Tyler that whoever the varsity goalie was going to be that the other guy needed to be ready at any moment. I told him that very thing on the day I got hurt, too, and look what happened. He was in there for the next game.”
Perry likes the leadership qualities he's seeing in his players, particularly guys like Buettner, senior midfielder Chris Demeri and sophomore midfielder Chad Wright. Demeri leads the team with three goals, and Wright has contributed a goal and two assists.
“Kyle was an outstanding goalie all last season, and Chris and Chad have really played well for us,” Perry said.
“Our expectations have not changed. Not having Kyle in goal was a little bit of a setback, but we're developing some good chemistry with this team. We're optimistic that we can hopefully surpass last season's accomplishments.”
West Mifflin qualified for the 2012 playoffs with a 7-7-2 record before losing to Laurel Highlands, 1-0, in a preliminary-round game.
“Everything has to be kept simple. Don't try to do too much. I believe that we have a playoff-caliber team,” Buettner said.
“We've got six of 11 starters back from last year. We definitely have that playoff feeling from the experience we had. It seems like everyone is understanding what it takes to make the playoffs.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.