South Fayette boys soccer continues dominating on defense
No team ever wants to lose a game.
But a loss by the South Fayette boys soccer team helped get a monkey off its back.
After starting the season 11-0-1, the Lions dropped a 1-0 decision to Quaker Valley. Not only was it South Fayette's first loss, but it was the Lions first – and only – goal allowed this season.
“I prepared the kids and told them it was unlikely they wouldn't give up a goal all season,” South Fayette coach Rob Eldridge said. “Obviously, a tie or a 2-1 win would have been better than a loss. What I was most impressed by is how we responded coming out of that game.”
The Lions followed the loss with wins over Seton-La Salle, 4-0, and Obama Academy, 6-0, last week. In all, South Fayette has outscored its opponents 52-1.
The defensive success isn't a shock to anyone on the team. The team returned seven starters from a squad that made a run to the WPIAL Class AA consolation game last season, including senior defenders Evan Yee and Dan Pruss and senior goalkeeper Alex Gedrys, who was an All-WPIAL selection.
Junior Nick McKee has shifted back because of a hamstring injury to Travis Revay. Junior George Slater has also contributed to the defensive pressure.
The team has worked a second goalkeeper – junior Andrew Pine – as a procautionary step.
“It has been a really good thing,” Gedrys said. “Now in case there is an injury along the way, we have someone who can step in line.”
The chemistry on the field has been big factor in the team's success. Many of the defensive starters have been in the spot since they were underclassmen.
The team took its bumps during a three-win season in 2011 but the dividends are now paying off.
“If someone told me before the season at the end of 15 games we would have one goal against us, I would've chuckled,” Eldridge said. “But at the end of last year, we were putting together some nice defensive performances. We think this is a continuation of that, just a more mature version.”
The Lions reached the WPIAL Class AA semifinals before falling to Quaker Valley, 1-0, in double overtime. South Fayette then lost to Belle Vernon, 1-0, in the consolation game.
Experiences like those have prepared the team for this season.
“It helps a lot,” Pruss said. “We all know each other and have played together for years. We have a good chemistry.
“And we know if we don't let the other team score, they can't win.”
That mentality has pushed the Lions (8-1-1) to the top of the Section 5-AA standings. The team trails only West Allegheny (8-0-1) with one game remaining in the series this season – 7:30 tonight, Thursday, at West Allegheny. The Lions lead Quaker Valley (7-3) and Montour (5-5).
Even with a playoff berth secured, the Lions are not looking to let up anytime soon. They still have a chance at a section title and the team wants to improve heading into the postseason.
That may be the scariest thing about South Fayette – Eldridge thinks his team can get better.
“I honestly don't think we are playing our best soccer,” Eldridge said. “That is still ahead of us. We are getting better every day.
“Every day we go into training, we want to walk off the field looking at each other and saying we got better as a team.”