With new head coach, Gateway boys soccer hopes to continue rise
The Gateway varsity boys soccer team came close to securing a WPIAL Class AAA playoff spot last year out of Section 3.
The Gators finished the 2014 campaign 6-6 in section play and took fourth behind playoff qualifiers Franklin Regional (9-2-1), Fox Chapel (8-2-2) and Kiski Area (8-4).
One of the highlights of the season for Gateway was a 3-1 victory over the section champion Panthers at home.
First-year head coach Marc Bucci, an assistant coach under Chris Duda last year and a Plum graduate who played in college at Pitt-Johnstown, said he saw a number of good things from the team last year.
He said he hopes the returning players from that squad can continue to improve this year and challenge for a spot in the playoffs.
“This team has a lot of chemistry, and they really want to win,” said Bucci, who was named head coach in March.
“It's about the team, and not about stats. We have a goal to make the playoffs, and we have the talent to do that.”
Bucci said the charge to a possible playoff berth will be helped by a quartet of captains in seniors Shane Seager, Danny Snyder and Andrew Thorsen and junior Cole Gongloff.
Seager will be the starting goalkeeper, while Thorsen and Gongloff solidify the defense.
Snyder is expected to be a goal scorer up front.
“I told those four at the beginning of the summer that based off their progression from last year, I wanted to see how they would be able to lead things,” Bucci said. “I look to these guys to keep practices and workouts running smoothly. They have really shown great leadership.”
Bucci said a lot of scoring was lost to graduation, including leading scorer Jared Jenkins, the Section 3 co-Player of the Year in 2014 who now plays in college at Division I St. Francis (Pa.).
“I can't see a 20-goal scorer, but I see a collection of players scoring goals for us,” Bucci said.
Senior Anthony Scalese will make the transition from defender to forward, and sophomore Jakob Richman is expected to be a starter up front.
Bucci said he will look to junior Marcelo Pomiecko and sophomore Ryan Dodson to shore up the midfield.
“Ryan really improved from last year,” Bucci said.
“He is great with possession. Ryan and Marcelo will be key players to our success.”
Bucci said the defense is looking strong overall with Gongloff and Thorsen leading a group that includes seniors Max Herman and Mitchell Wohlfarth, junior Zac Janocko and sophomore Omar Alshmari.
“We are big into possession where if we have the ball, the other team can't score,” Bucci said. “We want to concentrate on possession-based plays on defense.”
Herman continues to get into a groove after recovering from a baseball injury in June that kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.
As a pitcher, he took a line drive to the forehead in an early-June American Legion baseball game. He eventually was cleared to return to running and contact.
“I wasn't worried too much about Max's fitness,” Bucci said. “He's a pretty fit kid. He is progressing nicely.”
Junior Saif Abdaoui, Bucci said, is a versatile player who can man a spot in the midfield or at forward.
Senior Bryan Patrick Farren, Bucci said, is another player who can make an impact through his work ethic.
Bucci said sophomore Sam Meshanko did a nice job in competition with Seager at goalkeeper.
“Sam pushed Shane during the summer,” Bucci said. “It was a clean slate, and the competition was what we wanted. (Assistant coach) Eddie Stover really worked hard with them. Also being new to the program, he had no biased opinion. Sam brought out the best in Shane.”
Bucci said the section will be as competitive as always.
“There are always close battles between Franklin Regional, Plum, Gateway, Kiski and others,” he said. “We beat FR last year, and they weren't expecting that. Only three all-section players return from last year, and it should be a wide open race. We have a good chance to be at the top in the end.”
Bucci said he liked what he saw in last week's scrimmage against East Allegheny, and he hoped to see more good things as the Gators scrimmaged Norwin on Tuesday.
Gateway kicks off its season Friday at home with a nonsection game against Hampton. The contest at Antimarino Stadium is set for 5 p.m.
Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.