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Hempfield boys soccer adjusting to style change

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

The Hempfield boys soccer team was in need of some tough love, and new coach Tom Sochacki is there to provide it.

Admittedly a squad that found itself playing sloppy last year, the Spartans went 7-6-3 overall and 5-5-2 in Section 1-AAA. In the offseason, the players realized they could have done more.

“We should have gone a lot farther than we did,” senior forward Scott Fox said. “We should have made the playoffs.”

With Sochacki leading the way, Hempfield is thinking big. Gone is the dump-and-chase style of play from last year. Replacing it is a more possession-oriented game plan.

“They weren't used to it,” said Sochacki, who came to Hempfield from Greensburg Central Catholic.

“There's a lot of talent that has a lot of potential that can come through. I'm hoping for a quick turnaround.”

The players are on board. Sochacki's style of coaching is more detail-oriented than the Spartans are used to. He also has a more intense conditioning program.

“I like his style,” Fox said. “He expects a lot from us, and you have to deliver. I think we're going to put up a good fight and not lay down like we did last year.”

Sochacki said he was impressed by the shape his team was in once practice began. He took that as a sign that his players were serious about becoming a contender.

“The first week (of practice) went well, the second week went even better,” Sochacki said. “I think this is the best group I could have come in with. The attitudes are great.”

Along with Fox, center midfielder Andy Sukulsky and goalkeeper A.J. Bove are team captains. Each is a senior hoping to end his high school career on a high note.

“They see the talent that has come through here the past couple years that hasn't transitioned to wins or playoff success,” Sochacki said. “Hopefully, we can turn this around.”

The Spartans host the Hempfield Tournament, which includes Thomas Jefferson, Kiski School and Waynesburg, on Saturday and Sunday to begin the season.

The Spartans will find out how far they have come midway through September when they take on section foes Norwin, Penn-Trafford and Latrobe in a span of four games.

“I don't think any of them are going to expect us to play the way we are,” said Sukulsky, who has been in touch with Waynesburg and Mt. Union about playing collegiately.

Fox said Sochacki has preached to his players to change their mindset, and they have. The word “playoffs” used to bring up disappointment. Now it's a buzz word that keeps everyone motivated.

“I'm hopeful,” Sukulsky said. “I think we can have a really good year. I think we can make the playoffs.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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