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Penn-Trafford boys soccer happy with fast start

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's Galen Kreutzberger heads the ball in between teammate Jon Watt and Latrobe's D.J. Kiesel and Matt Kemerer during a game Thursday, September 12, 2013, at Penn-Trafford.

Coming into the 2013 season, after two straight losing campaigns and with a new coach at the helm, the Penn-Trafford boys soccer team didn't quite know what to expect.

Six games into section play, however, the Warriors are thinking big.

Penn-Trafford (4-1-1, 3-1) entered the week in a tie atop Section 1-AAA with Franklin Regional (4-1, 3-1). By virtue of a 4-1 victory last week over the Panthers, however, the Warriors currently occupy the first-place seed in the section as the midway point of the season approaches.

“Our goal right now is just to make the playoffs, but looking from the start of the season, we want more than that,” senior goalkeeper Bryce Tramuta said. “We want to finish first or second (and) not have to settle for just third. We seem to be taking it one game at a time at the moment.”

The players feel differently about the team now than they did when they began fall practice in August.

Penn-Trafford finished 5-13 overall last season and 4-8 in the section, leaving the Warriors four games out of a playoff spot.

“Heading into camp, a lot of people had doubts thinking we were going to be one of the lower-seed teams and we weren't going to be on par with a lot of the other teams,” junior midfielder Galen Kreutzberger said. “But as the season progressed, we gained a lot of confidence. We've got a lot of team chemistry going, and it's just the hard work and team chemistry that keeps us going.”

Kreutzberger credited new coach Jeff Nese, who took over for Derek Cuthbert in the offseason, for helping foster the newfound team chemistry. Tramuta said infighting derailed last season's team.

“We knew once we got the new coaching staff (that) it was time for a change,” Tramuta said. “We knew we couldn't have another season like we did in the past, and we knew this was the perfect start for the whole team. Everybody realized that. (The) new coach didn't know anybody at the beginning of the season, so everybody was playing for their spot. I think that brought us more together as a team.”

Penn-Trafford began the section season with a 3-1 loss to Kiski earlier this month.

Since that time, the team reeled off three straight wins: 1-0 over Hempfield, 4-1 over Franklin Regional and 3-2 over Latrobe in overtime.

“Against Kiski, we sort of sat back and let them take the game to us,” Nese said. “We were chasing the game pretty much from the beginning. We changed things around a little bit. We went into the Franklin game and into the Hempfield game with the idea that we wanted to flip the tables and be the aggressors and kind of take it to them early and see what happened.

“It's just like any other sport: The team that usually gets off to the fast start builds confidence, and that's what we've been doing.”

Nese said the team played “absolutely excellent” against Franklin Regional, but he and the players weren't as happy about the victory over Latrobe, the last-place team in the section.

“Last year, any win we'd get we'd be happy at the end of the day,” Tramuta said. “But we realized we really need to step it up if we want to make the playoffs this year, especially after our performance.”

While Penn-Trafford currently occupies first place, that could change quickly because of the tightness of this year's section race. Kiski and Hempfield sat a half-game behind Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford entering Tuesday's games, while Connellsville (4-2, 1-2), Norwin (1-5-1, 1-2) and Latrobe (0-5, 0-4) could all make a run at some point.

The Warriors were scheduled to play at Connellsville on Tuesday and will host Norwin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Warrior Stadium.

“A lot of these games are coin flips,” Nese said. “Everybody's beating everybody. So it makes it fun, it makes it exciting, but at the same time it keeps things in perspective and you know that if you don't perform, you could lose to anyone on any given day. It's very interesting.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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