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Penn-Trafford boys soccer team battling for playoff spot

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford junior Andrew Miller (right) battles for the ball with Franklin Regional's Jake Roberge during a game on Sept. 10, 2013.

The Penn-Trafford boys soccer team treated Monday's Section 1-AAA matchup with Connellsville as a must-win game.

In a tight section race, that's been the case all season.

Penn-Trafford (8-4-1, 7-4) kept its grip on the third and final playoff spot in Section 1-AAA by beating the Falcons, 3-1, on Senior Night at Warrior Stadium.

“Senior Night helped us out a lot, but our boys knew the importance of this game,” coach Jeff Nese said. “Connellsville has a good team, and we were going to have to play one of our better games to get the result we were looking for. Our energy was high tonight. We were flying around the field. So (I'm) happy with it.”

The Warriors began the week fighting with Franklin Regional (6-5-1, 5-4-1) and Hempfield (6-4-3, 4-4-2) for third place in the section. Penn-Trafford also had a chance to move up to second or even first in the section, depending on how Norwin (7-6-1, 7-2) and Kiski (8-5-1, 6-2-1) finish out their seasons.

With stakes like that, the players know the importance of every game.

“It's always a must-win when you're competing with two other teams,” said junior Galen Kreutzberger, who scored two goals against Connellsville. “You need all the points you can get.”

Nese, who previously coached at Plum, said earlier this season he'd never seen a section race with as much parity as this season's. Each team has at least two section losses, and many of the games have been decided by one or two goals.

The players are keeping close tabs on how their section competitors are faring.

“The results, every time we (see) them, are like, ‘What just happened?'” senior Bryce Tramuta said. “Everything's not like it should be from the last three years.”

Making the playoffs remains a strong motivation for Penn-Trafford, which missed out on the WPIAL playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

“The last time we were in the playoffs, we were freshmen and a lot of us weren't even playing varsity,” said senior Cameron Breze, who scored a goal in Monday's win over Connellsville. “A lot of us never even saw time on the field. It'll be interesting to see if we make it. If we do, we'll play our hearts out.”

The Warriors looked to be in trouble of missing the postseason after a three-game losing streak in late September dropped them from first place to fourth in the section. But the team righted itself with a 2-1 victory over Franklin Regional on Sept. 28 and had won three straight games after Monday's results.

“I think we just kind of realized that we needed to step it up and get some more wins or else we would be out of contention,” Kreutzberger said. “All of us really kind of stepped up our game and competed.”

Penn-Trafford can clinch a spot in the playoffs outright with a victory Thursday night against Norwin. The Knights beat the Warriors, 2-0, earlier this season and have won nine straight games over their rivals.

“It just makes it even bigger since it's a rivalry,” Tramuta said. “Winning that, I can't even imagine how that would feel — especially since we've never gotten a result against Norwin.”

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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