Trib Cup: Seneca Valley girls soccer had best playoff run in school history
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It was a bittersweet ending for the Seneca Valley girls soccer team, which made the best playoff run in school history.
The Raiders' season came to a close after dropping a 1-0 match against Spring-Ford in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals Tuesday. The program's first 20-win season and a five-game WPIAL and state playoff shutout streak were just a few of the momentous high notes for the young team.
“It still stings a little bit to talk about,” coach Dave Sylvester said. “But for what we lost after last season as far as seniors, this group really came in and what they did was just amazing.”
The Raiders are highlighted as this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team, and they are a primary reason why Seneca Valley is in fourth place in the Class AAAA standings.
Sylvester struggled to come to grips or find the words to commend the job his team did this season. He said he hopes he'll be able to put the season into words come the team's end of the year banquet Tuesday.
“I think what makes it so hard is that it really is over,” he said. “From day one they just had such a great chemistry. And to me that's the most important thing any team needs to have.
“It was never hard to come to practice or play in a game because the atmosphere around here was always great.”
Sylvester's sometimes 19-player rotation was at times nightmarish for opponents who struggled to match its speed and grit and, if it did, putting the ball in the net was near impossible.
Goalkeeper Jess Neill — a three-year starter — was in net for 13 of the Raiders' shutouts, including five consecutive in the playoffs. As commendable a feat as that is, Sylvester was quick to point out that a total team effort is what made the act possible.
“I think it goes back to the chemistry they have and everyone playing for each other,” he said. “Everyone, from Jess to the defense to the forwards and mids, everyone contributed each game to accomplish what we did.”
Leading the charge were seniors Alexis Pucci, Kayli Kumanchick and Maykate Zahorchak. The juniors that played key roles were Kelsey O'Connor, Emily Wagner, Alicia Hart and Kaylin Serman.
The Raiders will not have to rebuild much, as this year's crop of juniors and sophomores gained significant playing time throughout this playoff run. Sylvester hopes to harness their experience into another deep run.
“As disappointed as I am in that we lost,” he said, “I'm that much more excited for the talent we have coming back.”
Caroline Miller, Sarah Anderson and Megan Majeski are just a few of the sophomores that gained valuable experience this year.
With the bow all but put on the season, Sylvester has an interesting take on how to compliment what his group was able to accomplish.
“Some people take being called overachievers the wrong way,” he said. “This group was overachievers that no one knew they'd do what they did but them.
“That is meant as a compliment. They accomplished it. I was just glad to be on the ride.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.
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