Kiski Area, Fox Chapel make case for Section 3
To some, Kiski Area's presence in the WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer semifinals would seem a surprise.
Fox Chapel coach Erik Ingram would disagree.
“It doesn't surprise me at all,” said Ingram, whose Foxes played the Cavaliers twice in Section 3-AAA play and will meet them again at 8 p.m. Monday at Linton Middle School in Penn Hills. “I think a lot of people look at us as having the weakest section. It's very clear now it's quite the opposite.”
For all the attention given to Section 2-AAA, which includes the teams north of Pittsburgh, and Section 5-AAA, which encompasses the South Hills, only Section 3-AAA has two teams in the WPIAL semifinals.
No. 2 Fox Chapel (16-1-1) advanced with victories over Connellsville and another Section 3 team, Franklin Regional. No. 14 Kiski Area (9-9-2) knocked off North Allegheny and Allderdice.
“I think it's a sign of the future,” Kiski Area coach Sean Arnold said. “We've been a pretty solid section for years, and I don't know that we've gotten the respect.
“Don't get me wrong: There are a lot of tough sections. But anyone in our section can beat each other, it's that close.”
Perennial playoff teams Franklin Regional and Kiski Area joined Fox Chapel in Section 3 before the 2014 season, adding more punch to the overall competition. The Foxes have made the playoffs for 16 consecutive years, with the Cavaliers making it eight in a row.
“We went through a season where I felt lucky to have only lost one game in that section,” Ingram said. “Every game was a tough game. Franklin Regional lost three games in our section. Kiski lost several games in our section. Playing tough games in and out of the section, regardless of the other team's record, really prepared us for the playoffs. The proof is in the results.”
After a slow start to the season, Kiski Area came on strong down the stretch to earn a playoff berth. The 2-1 victory over North Allegheny and 1-0 triumph over Allderdice gave the Cavaliers their first semifinal appearance.
“Year after year the boys work hard all year round, and it seems we always get a tough seed in the playoffs for whatever reason,” Arnold said. “Years in the past it's been an intimidating factor for us, but this year we had nothing to lose. The guys, their drive and passion to win is really paying off. It's hard to play against someone who won't take no for an answer and doesn't want to lose.”
Fox Chapel is in the semifinals for the first time since 2008, when the Foxes advanced to the finals before losing to Peters Township.
Ingram said the key to the Foxes' success this postseason is a consistent, 80-minute effort.
He rested some of his starters in the second half of the 3-0 victory over Connellsville, while the 1-0 win over Franklin Regional was a battle throughout.
“From the forwards all the way back to the goalkeeper, everybody put a thumbprint on (the Franklin Regional) game, which made it an even more meaningful win for us,” Ingram said. “This is where we wanted to be at this point of the year. We wanted to be hitting that stride where we're playing consistently good soccer and peaking at the right time.”
Fox Chapel beat Kiski Area twice during the regular season. The two meetings give the Foxes and Cavaliers familiarity with each other before Monday's match, which will be a showcase for Section 3 soccer.
“I think we understand what we're up against and they have to be disciplined themselves and not give them the game,” Arnold said.
While Fox Chapel's and Kiski Area's boys are making a name for their section, Fox Chapel is doing the same on the girls side.
Despite receiving the No. 7 seed after sweeping Section 3-AAA, the Foxes (18-2) knocked off No. 10 Penn-Trafford and No. 2 Canon-McMillan to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1999.
Fox Chapel will play No. 3 Upper St. Clair (15-1-1) at 6 p.m. Monday at Linton Middle School as it looks to advance to the WPIAL championship for the first time since 1997.