CW North Catholic boys savor playoff run
That's the question Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's boys soccer team has been asking all season.
Before this year, the Trojans' program had never won a section title. The players took care of that.
The team hadn't been in the postseason in more than two decades, and that all changed.
On Friday at 8 p.m., North Catholic will go for its first WPIAL Class A title when it meets defending PIAA champ Sewickley Academy at Highmark Stadium.
“We knew we were going to have a successful year. We didn't really know it was going to be like this. We wanted to just make playoffs, and we knew we'd be competing for the section, but we didn't know we were going to win it outright in the fashion that we did,” CWNC coach Jordan Wiegand said.
“Now we have a chance at a WPIAL championship. They are just soaking up getting into the playoffs. None of these kids were around the last time the team made it and I was in elementary school, if it was then. They are really just soaking it in.”
Two seasons ago, the Trojans finished 2-14. Last year, they improved to 7-9-1. They took a bigger step this year when they captured the Section 3 title with a 13-0-1 mark and sported an 18-2-1 record.
“The kids that are the juniors now were the freshmen getting constantly beaten up time-in and time-out in that 2-14 spell. They've grown so much. They've contributed so much on and off the bench,” Wiegand said. “We finally have leaders now. Before last year, we didn't even have a senior. So, going into this year, we have senior leadership, and it's just nice. Our sophomores now played all last season. It's just the extra experience they are getting that will help them for the future.”
The experience has helped them this season, especially on defense. The Trojans have not allowed a goal in three playoff victories, including a 3-0 triumph over Seton-La Salle, the defending champ, in the semifinals. Dating to the last match of the regular season, the Trojans have posted four shutouts in a row.
“Our defense has done very well this year,” Wiegand said. “That's a testament to our leadership back there and our keeper, who is only a sophomore.”
The team, which secured a PIAA tournament berth as well, has three captains on the backline in senior center back Josh Rivetti and junior outside backs Danny Lynch and Nick Milas.
Sophomore Nate Paras leads the way in goal. Junior Mike Dramble, sophomores Braiden Wills, Anthony Rivetti and Owen Daugherty and freshman Bryce Kopchak are at midfield. Sophomore Joe Kearney, who had 21 goals in the regular season, and freshman Ryan Augustine are strikers.
“We do like to possess the ball. Our main goal going into every game is we want to outpossess a team. We want to be more aggressive than that team, too,” Wiegand said.
The Trojans hope to be a factor in the WPIAL playoffs for many more years.
“It's an amazing experience. Just to see them build and grow in front of my eyes is a very special thing,” Wiegand said. “This is going to give them all the motivation. To see they came this far at such a young age, they are going to expect it now. It should be routine for them. That's our goal.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.