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Norwin's strong season ends with playoff loss

| Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Nicco Alessandro (left) and Canon-McMillan's Alexander Ablak battle for the ball during a playoff game at Norwin on Monday, October 21, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's Jake Wilcox moves the ball past Norwin's Corey Hough during the first half of a playoff game at Norwin on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Canon-McMillan's James Trainor (left) and Norwin's Jake Hannahs battle for the ball during a playoff game at Norwin on Monday, October 21, 2013.

Norwin boys soccer coach Scott Schuchert delivered a simple message to his team immediately after a 4-0 loss to Canon-McMillan in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs Monday.

“The only thing we said after the game tonight to the boys was we were really proud of them, of what they accomplished from day one to this point,” Schuchert said.

The Knights' 2013 season, which included a late-season seven-game winning streak that culminated in their first section title since 2010, officially ended Monday.

Despite the lopsided score, Schuchert believed his team played Canon-McMillan, the defending WPIAL Class AAA champion, well.

“A couple of freak incidents, I think, caused a couple of those goals,” Schuchert said. “That's the game of soccer. It really is a game of inches. A couple of our chances were inches (away), and they got theirs. I really don't think the score amounted to how competitive the game was. These boys played a heck of a game against a heck of a team.”

Norwin (11-7-1) came out strong against the Big Macs, controlling play in the offensive end early. However, the Knights couldn't beat Canon-McMillan goalkeeper Christian Snatchko despite a few strong early chances.

Canon-McMillan (15-2-2) got on the board in the 25th minute of the first half when Josh Kruczek found teammate Nick Sodini with a long stretch pass from near midfield. Sodini beat the Norwin defense and then put his shot past sprawling Norwin goalkeeper Steven Phipps to give the Big Macs a 1-0 lead.

“We came out really well,” Schuchert said. “We possessed (the ball). I feel like we won the majority of the play, especially in the first half. Playing the style of possession we were, I was very comfortable keeping it in their end. Unfortunately, giving up a goal made us kind of drift away from our style of possessing and keeping the ball.”

The Big Macs went up by two goals in the 37th minute, when a header by Alex Ablak deflected off Norwin defender Dan Passarello's head and into the net.

Sodini and Ablak each added goals in the second half to provide the final margin.

“These boys, and I think (in) sports in general, play on confidence,” Schuchert said. “Great teams learn how to play against adversity, and we've had many of those games. Our few chances to get back in the game, we just left on the table. At the end of the day, the kids finished the game off the right way. We didn't panic, and we didn't just start to play longer ball and get out of our style. We still tried to play our style to the very, very end.

“It just wasn't our day.”

Schuchert said he was proud of the team's accomplishments this season, particularly the late-season winning streak, section title and season sweeps over section rivals Kiski Area and Penn-Trafford.

While several strong underclassmen will return next season, a large class of seniors will graduate, including Nicco Alessandro, Jake Gribschaw, Ronnie Dushack, Jake Hannahs, Corey Hough, Will Kerr, Zac Lakenan, Dean Leventopoulos, Tyler Livingston, Brandon O'Brien, Passarello, Ian Pearsol, Phipps, Niko Sacoolas, Noah Smith and Ryan Victor.

“I think (we're going to miss) the overall passion,” Schuchert said. “(The seniors) were really passionate about the game. The wins and losses really meant a lot to them. I tried to (tell them) it's just a game and life will move on either way, but they were really passionate about playing for their team. I've had a lot of teams that were individual, but this class in general played as a team.”

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

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