A-K Valley high school notes: Walker to build Leechburg boys soccer team

Monday, March 18, 2019 | 9:49 PM

Brad Walker knows about rebuilding. Now he will just be building.

The former Highlands boys soccer coach was hired last week for the same job at Leechburg, which is fielding a boys soccer team for the first time.

The Blue Devils formed a cooperative agreement with Apollo-Ridge and will play under the Leechburg name in Section 2-2A. The schools also have a girls co-op and play under the Apollo-Ridge name.

“It’s going to be starting from scratch,” Walker said. “The feeder programs help out. Kiski Area Soccer League, the Apollo and Leechburg kids have always played there through the spring and fall. Now they’re going to have a chance to play together for high school ball, so we’ll have some experience but to my knowledge it’s going to be a young roster.

“We’re going to be a young team for a couple years, but three or four years down the road, we’re going to look to compete with everybody.”

Walker knows his way around a young roster after coaching at Highlands. The Golden Rams had 13 players when he took over in 2015, and the number grew to 34 by his final season.

After dealing with the growing pains with a young roster for Walker’s first two seasons, Highlands won 15 in his last two. The Golden Rams went 7-10 and 6-8 in Section 1-3A last season, finishing a game out of the WPIAL playoffs.

“From a game aspect, it’s tough because you’re going to be putting 14- and 15-year-olds out against 16-, 17- and 18-year olds,” said Walker, 18-47-2 in four seasons at Highlands after spending four years as an assistant at Kiski Area. “That’s tough, but from my learning experience in coaching … it kind of just helps you structure your year. You know what to expect from them. You don’t have to push them as hard at certain times.”

Walker, the business manager at Leechburg, is hosting a meet-the-coach night at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the school cafeteria.

“I think for Year 1 — if not Year 1 and Year 2 — is to compete and progress as the year goes on,” Walker said. “I think Leechburg and Apollo have good athletic programs. … I think the kids will come out. They’ll listen to coaches. They’ll be very scrappy. I just think that’s the nature of the beast around this area.”

Lancers’ next step

Deer Lakes boys basketball coach Terence Parham couldn’t previously point to players with significant postseason experience as examples for younger teammates, but that won’t be a problem now. After the Lancers advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time in school history, they have plenty of games in the bank.

“We needed this season in order to put ourself in position to be perennial players not only in Western (Pennsylvania), but in the state,” Parham said after Deer Lakes’ 68-42 loss to Sharon in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday. “Our young guys have been following this group like crazy, and I know they want that same feeling.”

Said senior Brad Perrotte: “Every year, we slowly got more successful, and this year we really pushed it out. I think those younger guys can count on us and come to us if they have any questions about the process of how to get there. I think we built a really good foundation.”

On the recruiting trail

• Deer Lakes senior Victoria Keibler signed to play basketball at Washington & Jefferson. A four-year contributor and three-year starter at guard for the Lancers, Keibler was one of the team’s top defenders. She helped Deer Lakes qualify for the playoffs in all four of her seasons and make it to the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals as a senior.

• Deer Lakes girls volleyball player Kaylee Sciubba signed with Westminster. A 5-foot-11 middle hitter, Sciubba led Deer Lakes in kills as a senior, earning first-team all-WPIAL and first-team all-section honors. She was third-team all-WPIAL as a junior.

Freeport senior Sean Fennell committed to play lacrosse at Marietta. An attacker, Fennell led the Yellowjackets in scoring last season to help them reach the WPIAL Class AA playoffs for a second straight year and earn the first postseason victory in school history.

Freeport senior Sarah Hettich committed to Wittenberg for volleyball. The 6-foot-2 middle hitter was one of the Yellowjackets’ leaders in kills and blocks before suffering a late-season ankle injury. She was named second-team all-section.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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