Quaker Valley boys soccer team has work cut out
If the Quaker Valley boys soccer team is going to improve on last year's first-round playoff exit, it's going to have to make the most of its preseason camp.
Coach Gene Klein has been tasked with replacing six seniors from last year's team.
While the sheer number of players is not insurmountable, the fact that five of those six seniors — including All-WPIAL players Winter Fondi and Matt Delie — were the starting defensive unit makes the task a little more daunting.
Despite that, Klein has conducted this year's business as usual.
“My philosophy with the camp has always been the same,” Klein said. “You need to build the foundation in everything we do, and without that foundation you're not going to be able to apply the tactics, team-wise, to whatever we need to. They have to know how to defend as an individual and how to play in twos and threes before they can play in the back four.”
The Quakers have the luxury of being able to replace Fondi with another very talented goalie in Jack Regueiro to help with the defensive turnover. Klein also expects seniors Fritz Wiltman and Ricky Lagnese to help on the defensive end.
The remaining spots in the back four could be filled by sophomores as the only junior on the team is backup goalie Jonathan Roboton.
With a team composed of mostly seniors and sophomores, it took the players a few days to really get up to speed, Klein said.
“The fitness level was fair,” he said. “They're working very hard. It's always a bit of a transition for the younger guys, making that jump from middle school, or whatever club they play for, to high school soccer.”
Quaker Valley scrimmaged Tuesday against Mt. Lebanon and has another scrimmage Saturday against Ambridge. The games will play a big part in determining the starting squad and the makeup of the team, but it could be a while before it's finalized.
“I do think with a team this young it's going to be a process throughout the first part of the season,” Klein said. “We'll make some changes and adapt through the teams we're playing. We definitely won't have the answers right away.”
As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, and the Quaker Valley defense should get plenty of support from its offense.
The Quakers bring back senior forward Adam Richert and senior midfielder Landon Narkevic, their two leading scorers from last season. Klein also expects senior midfielder Matt Rodgers to have a big season.
If there's one thing the team doesn't lack, it's leadership.
“The seniors have done a good job providing leadership and trying to bring the younger guys around,” Klein said. “They're a good bunch. They work well together. Everybody has to bring up their level. That's just part of the game.”
That leadership is going to be an important factor in how the season plays out. The Quakers saw their usually tough road to the playoffs get even tougher this year with Steel Valley joining section 5-AA through realignment.
“It's going to be a battle. There will be a small margin between winning the section and being out of the playoffs. That's why we have to take care of a lot of business here in the next couple of weeks.”