2023 WPIAL boys soccer preview: Rankings, contenders, players to watch

Monday, August 21, 2023 | 8:01 AM

WPIAL boys soccer preview

Class 4A

Defending champion: Pine-Richland

Runner-up: Seneca Valley

Team to beat: For now, it’s the team at the top. But 4A could be wide open. While the offense will need an infusion of new scorers, Pine-Richland returns several starters from a 15-5-1 team that stunned two-time defending champion Seneca Valley as the No. 6 seed.

Others to watch: Fox Chapel nearly knocked off Seneca Valley in the semifinals. Defense could be a calling card for the Foxes. … Butler could shake things up after reaching the semifinals. … Seneca Valley lost 11 seniors, but can’t be counted out. Remember, the Raiders are coming off a PIAA title. … Don’t disregard a young Canon-McMillan lineup. … Peters Township and Norwin have talent back. The Nos. 2 and 3 seeds were knocked off in the quarterfinals. Norwin might pack a punch offensively.

Top players: Cole Barton, Jr., GK, Mt. Lebanon; Cadan Bennett, Sr., GK, Pine-Richland; Alex Brown, Sr., F, Norwin; Owen Christopher, Sr., D, Norwin; Blake Gabelhart, Sr., F, Peters Township; Ryan Galicac, Jr., MF, Canon-McMillan; Cole Kamarec, Sr., F, Seneca Valley; Nick Kilgore, Sr., D, Butler; Drew Knight, Sr., GK, Butler; Colin Lazzara, Sr., MF, Fox Chapel; Pablo Lonzoain, Jr., MF, Fox Chapel; Cody Lubinsky, Sr., MF, Butler; Daniel Maddock, Jr., F, Norwin; Michael Shin, Sr., D, Fox Chapel; Ryan Simonette, Sr., GK, Canon-McMillan; Danny Stevens, Sr., MF, North Allegheny

Rankings: 1. Pine-Richland (14-5-1); 2. Fox Chapel (13-4-2); 3. Butler (13-5-2); 4. Seneca Valley (23-1-1); 5. Norwin (11-7)

Class 3A

Defending champion: Moon

Runner-up: Ambridge

Team to beat: Moon tore through the postseason as the top seed to win its sixth WPIAL title. The Tigers won’t lose much firepower, so look for continued success.

Others to watch: Hampton, the 2021 champion, could pose a threat with some viable midfield talent. … Watch Montour, a surprise semifinalist as a No. 13 seed. … Plum was a No. 2 seed but must fill a large scoring void. …Thomas Jefferson was a section champion and has Anthony Orlando back. … Perennially strong Franklin Regional has speed on the outside. … Upstart Ambridge, which shook up the bracket as a No. 11 seed, has to replace that many seniors. … South Fayette is lurking in the shadows.

Top players: Alex Bauer, Sr., GK, Indiana; Joey Bayne, Jr., F, Franklin Regional; Nate Belcufine, Sr., MF, South Fayette; Carmen Devincentis, Jr., F, Chartiers Valley; Coleman Docherty, Sr., F, Hampton; Lucas Fiscus, Sr., MF, Hampton; Aldi Flowers, Jr., MF, Plum; Henry Gaston, Sr., MF, Bethel Park; Landon Hankey, Sr., GK, Penn Hills; Owen Haywood, Sr., MF, Ringgold; Dylan Janoski, Sr., GK, South Fayette; Davi Jansson, Sr., F, Moon; Conner Killmeyer, Sr., D, Hampton; John Krug, Jr., F, Chartiers Valley; Matt Marcinko, Sr., D, Montour; Cooper Nickles, Sr., MF, Moon; Anthony Orlando, Sr., F, Thomas Jefferson; Anthony Powell, Jr., F, Ambridge; Tristan Ralph, Sr., F, Plum; Aryan Selokar, Sr., GK, Franklin Regional; Ryan Shantz, Sr., F, North Catholic; Jake Shoemaker, Jr., F, Thomas Jefferson; Oliver Spinola, Sr., MF, Hampton; Thatcher Wilson, Sr., F, Laurel Highlands

Rankings: 1. Moon (19-1-2); 2. Hampton (12-7); 3. Montour (12-5-5); 4. Plum (19-3-1); 5. Ambridge (14-7-1)

Class 2A

Defending champion: Deer Lakes

Runner-up: Beaver

Team to beat: South Park. The Eagles ran into a hot Deer Lakes team in the semifinals and fell, 1-0. But a number of key pieces return from a 19-win team, including all-state midfielder Kaiden Fischer.

Others to watch: Deer Lakes only lost six seniors, but they were a core group. … Beaver made the finals and had a relatively young team. … Quaker Valley is dangerous once again. Nick Allan is one of the top midfielders in the class. The Quakers fell in penalty kicks to Beaver in the semifinals. Those two PIAA-qualifying teams are in the same section. … Always keep Shady Side Academy in view. … Trevor Kovatch powers Belle Vernon, a returning section winner.

Top players: Nick Allan, Sr., MF, Quaker Valley; Amir Awais, Sr., F, Shady Side Academy; Danny Battista, Jr., MF, South Park; Kyle Carlsen, Sr., Beaver; Rowan Carmichael, Jr., MF, Avonworth; Matteo Castellini, Sr., MF, Quaker Valley; Chris Colonna, Sr., F, Hopewell; Ryan Ellis, Jr., D, South Park; Kaiden Fischer, Sr., MF, South Park; Trevor Kovatch, Jr., F, Belle Vernon; Joey Kushon, Sr., D, Deer Lakes; Peyton Kushon, So., F, Deer Lakes; Cam Loveland, Sr., MF, South Park; Drew McKim, Sr., MF, Shady Side Academy; Jack Ozimek, Jr., F, South Park; Luke Rivardo, Sr., MF, Mt. Pleasant; Dylan Stewart, Sr., MF, McGuffey; Jordan Taylor, Sr., F, Jeannette; Ryan Wesolowski, Jr., MF, South Park; Eli Whalen, Sr., D, Avonworth; Dylan Wudkwych, Sr., F, Washington

Rankings: 1. South Park (19-2); 2. Deer Lakes (20-3); 3. Quaker Valley (18-4-1); 4. Beaver (13-8-1); 5. Shady Side Academy (14-4)

Class A

Defending champion: Winchester Thurston

Runner-up: Charleroi

Team to beat: With some experience and scoring back, Charleroi gets the nod after falling 3-2 in the championship.

Others to watch: It’s hard to pick against Winchester Thurston, but the Bears lost a dozen seniors to graduation. Even the top programs, like the two-time defending champions, have to rebuild. … Sewickley Academy will look to replace nine seniors from a semifinal run. … Watch for Seton LaSalle to make some noise with goalkeeper Nick Cherry stopping shots. … Eden Christian, a semifinal team, also has an uphill climb after 12 seniors moved on. … Greensburg Central Catholic has a new coach and still is reeling after a quarterfinal loss to Charleroi. … Burrell and Springdale are returning playoff teams to keep an eye on.

Top players: Jack Billick, Sr., F, Seton LaSalle; Danny Bourgeois, Sr., F, OLSH; TJ Braun, Sr., MF, Trinity Christian; Mateo Carrasco, Jr., MF, Carlynton; Jake Chambers, Sr., D, Charleroi; Nick Cherry, Sr., GK, Seton LaSalle; Jordan Delon, Jr., MF, Freedom; Cole Evans, Sr., F, Bishop Canevin; James Farnan, Sr., D, Seton LaSalle; Mason Gent, Sr., D, Springdale; Luke Kost, Jr., MF, Trinity Christian; Bryce Large, Sr., MF, Charleroi; William Lawrence, Sr., F, Springdale; Ryan Lewis, Jr., MF, Carlynton; Arlo McIntyre, Sr., MF, Charleroi; AJ Mejalli, Sr., MF, Serra Catholic; Alex Merritt, Sr., GK, California; Ryan Moessner, So., HF, Bentworth; Jaxson Pozivak, Sr., D, Serra Catholic; Mason Smith, So., GK, Neshannock; Tomer Tuti, Sr., MF, Winchester Thurston; Jackson Vacanti, Jr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic; Cam Wagner, Sr., MF, Burrell

Rankings: 1. Charleroi (18-4); 2. Winchester Thurston (19-2-1); 3. Sewickley Academy (16-4); 4. Greensburg Central Catholic (15-3); 5. Seton LaSalle (13-4-1)

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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