Lackluster start doesn't linger long for Seneca Valley boys soccer team
Colton Smith figured the Seneca Valley boys soccer team's own kickoff tournament would serve as a barometer for the season.
So much for that.
Despite a loss to Baldwin and a tie against Norwin later settled (unsuccessfully) in penalty kicks, the Raiders' eight new starters quickly improved, enough for an 11-1-1 record and a 9-0 mark to lead Section 2-AAA.
“When we tied and lost, it didn't look good,” said Smith, a senior goalkeeper. “Then we came back and kept winning and winning, the young guys started working together, and we picked it up.”
All that winning had Seneca Valley in position to clinch the outright section title going into last night's game against North Allegheny. It would be the fourth in the past six years for the Raiders and the first since 2011.
Baldwin, which scored the game-winner with about 90 seconds left, has been the only team to top the Raiders in regulation, and it proved pivotal.
“We learned a lot about not letting down,” Seneca Valley coach George Williams said. “I know it's cliché, but you can't take breaks. That really does ring true.”
Seneca Valley learned how to better defend through balls, Williams said. So far the message has been received: Smith has seven shutouts, and the Raiders haven't allowed more than one goal in a game since Norwin.
“After that tournament, I think we all realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as we might have thought,” senior forward Jared Myers said. “We buckled down and decided that we're not going to have that type of season.”
Myers has led the way with seven goals and nine assists for Seneca Valley, which lost Tribune-Review Player of the Year Ryan Vilella from last year's group.
Vilella helped the Raiders go 14-5-1 and reach the quarterfinals.
Matt Saluga, a sophomore midfielder, has five goals and six assists. Fellow sophomore midfielder T.J. Turley has three goals and four assists, and senior forward Brad Banks has contributed four goals. Sophomore midfielder Connor McCandless has added four goals off the bench.
Smith has been supported by the back line of Joe DeAugustino, senior Kalin DiPaolo, junior Danny Wallowicz and sophomore Adam Mascio.
“They're always in good position,” Smith said of his defense. “Say someone splits our defenders, we always have someone covering. They're all doing their jobs.”
Which didn't always happen last season — mostly because they weren't together all that much.
Williams estimated that because of injuries and performance, Seneca Valley started a different lineup every game.
Not so this time around.
“We've had the same starting lineup the majority of the season,” Smith said. “When you have the same lineup, you get other each other's tendencies down and play better as a unit.”