Kiski Area boys soccer eyes section title, playoff run

| Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, 11:08 p.m.

The Kiski Area boys soccer team, returning most of its starters from last season's section-winning squad, entered the season as the favorite to capture the Section 1-AAA title. With one game left,it remains in position to do that — but so does Franklin Regional.

The Cavaliers (12-2-2, 9-1-1) travel Monday night to face the Panthers (11-2-2, 9-1-1) in a match that will determine the section champion.

“We want to win this game. We want to establish ourselves again, for the third straight year, as section champion,” Kiski Area coach Bob Wright said.

On Sept. 18, the teams battled to a 1-1 tie at Kiski Area. Sophomore forward Dakota Lange, the Cavaliers' leading scorer, netted the only goal for Kiski Area in the draw. Should another tie occur in the rubber match, Franklin Regional and Kiski Area will split the section title.

“Franklin impressed by being able to finish a good chance they had and defending very well,” Wright said. “They are smart and disciplined at the back.”

Despite being pleased with how the Cavaliers have played, the one thing that gives Wright cause for concern entering the playoffs is the team's trouble finishing chances.

“Our potential is still so great to do so much, but we manage to really have difficulty with some little things sometimes,” Wright said. “Primarily, that's in the area of finishing.”

Along with leading scorer Lange and junior attacking midfielder Matt Dziadosz, who has eight goals and a team-high nine assists, Wright said a number of players have chipped in offensively as part of a fluid attack. With all of the chances the team has fashioned, Wright believes that the team's average of 2 12 goals per game could be even higher.

Heading into a finale against a Franklin Regional team that has surrendered 0.9 goals per game in section play, the Cavaliers may have to make the most of only a few chances. Wright thinks they can.

“We're going out to win. We're confident, and we think we can,” Wright said. “If we can just continue to get smarter and smarter on finishing and finding more and more goals to score, it will serve us really well in the playoffs.”

Other local story lines:

• After ending a 14-year playoff drought in 2011, the Highlands girls soccer team not only repeated the feat but also improved on it. Led by first-year coach Mark Duffield, the Rams are 13-3, 11-2 in Section 2-AA, significant improvements over records of 8-10, 7-7 last season.

Buoyed by the efforts of prolific senior forward Natalie Richards and emerging sophomore goalkeeper Sam Kovach, the Rams look to improve on their marks.

“If they believe in themselves as much as I and (assistant coach) Dave (Henderson) do, they can definitely make a good run,” Duffield said. “It's very rare that you meet a team that has talent and a big heart as well. They have both.”

• Despite rattling off 11 straight wins to open the season, the Fox Chapel girls soccer team (15-2, 10-2) came up short of the Section 3-AAA title after a pair of losses to champion Gateway. Still, after averaging 4.4 goals for and 0.5 goals against, the Foxes are one of only a few teams that boast a solid combination of offense and defense.

• Section 3-AA playoff qualifiers Plum (8-4-3, 6-3-3) and Fox Chapel (11-3-1, 9-2-1) could make noise in the boys playoffs. The Mustangs managed an eye-opening win over section champion Central Catholic earlier in the season, while the defensively imposing Foxes have pitched shutouts in 10 of their 11 wins.

Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.

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