Butler boys soccer returning to WPIAL playoffs after 4-year absence
After a long hiatus, Butler's boys soccer team is headed to the postseason.
The Golden Tornado punched its ticket to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs with a 4-3 win Tuesday at Hampton.
“Getting into the playoffs was one of our goals going into the season,” Butler coach Troy Mohney said. “We pulled one out (at Hampton) and got some help with Pine-Richland and North Allegheny losing. We were able to clinch a spot, and that's good.”
Butler locked up one of Section 2-AAA's three playoff berths. The Tornado can finish as high as second behind section champ Seneca Valley and ahead of North Allegheny. Regardless, the team is happy to get into the postseason.
“Our goal was to make the playoffs, so we are right where we need to be,” Mohney said. “Hopefully, we can secure second place in the section and get a little higher seed in playoffs and make a run.”
Butler was no stranger to the playoffs in Mohney's first four seasons as head coach. However, the Tornado failed to qualify the past four years. So, the playoff experience will be new for all of Butler's players. Yet, Mohney is not worried about how that might affect his team after enduring a grueling section schedule.
“With our section, every game is important,” Mohney said. “I am not sure if it'll be that much of a change for them to play in a playoff atmosphere.”
The Tornado got off to a strong start this fall. The team opened with five consecutive shutout wins. However, a 4-0 loss at North Allegheny started a five-game losing streak. Butler bounced back, though, with four wins in a row.
“Our season has been different here,” Mohney said. “We've definitely been up and down.”
“During that losing streak, we had some sicknesses and injuries that we had to work through as well,” he continued. “We're playing a different way now, and I think all the kids bought into it, and they are all playing their role on the team and that's helping us win.”
The Tornado avenged its 4-0 loss to North Allegheny with a crucial 1-0 triumph over the Tigers. It gave them a late-season boost.
“To come back and play pretty well against them and limit their chances and create a few of our own and come out with the win is a great accomplishment,” Mohney said. “We're playing a bit of a different formation now and playing differently. ... I think the kids have some confidence now. Whoever we go up against, I think we have confidence we can compete and can win.”
Matt Huey leads Butler with nine goals and two assists. The Tornado also has received goals from several players. Anthony Werth joins him up top in the starting lineup, and Jordan Edwards, Steve Benson, Dan Cleary and Sam Horne are in the midfield. Joel Stutz, Ty Savochka, Henry May and Wes Eckstein are on defense; Adam Voelker is the goalkeeper.
Butler's defense was all new this season, but has responded with shutouts in seven of its first nine wins.
“Everybody has bought into being a team. If one of the pieces is not doing their role, they won't be doing as well together,” Mohney said. “Against Hampton, we had four different guys (Steven Benson, Cassian Widenhofer, Horne and Werth) score a goal. We have a lot of different guys who can score. We have some defenders who are committed and we have goalie that has come up with huge saves. It has all come together in enough games for us.”
The Tornado hopes to keep it going deep into the playoffs.
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.