After early playoff exit, Deer Lakes boys soccer team turns attention to next season

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 9:47 AM


The ink wasn’t even dry on the 2021 season and a disappointed Deer Lakes boys soccer team was eager to dive right into offseason workouts.

“They said they wanted to get started, and they said they wanted to start ‘yesterday,’ ” said Deer Lakes coach Aaron Smith, who just finished his first season with the Lancers.

“I want them to have their time off. I’m not really used to that.”

The reason to get right back at it was because the 2021 season left a bad taste in the mouths of Lancers players.

Deer Lakes’ 2-1 overtime loss to East Allegheny in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs marked their earliest postseason exit in five seasons.

“We expected to go farther than we did,” junior keeper Nick Braun said. “We knew we weren’t the same team from the year before.

“But we expected to beat East Allegheny and go a little further in the playoffs. I think our team, to begin the season, (thought) if we can make it to states, the season was a win.”

The Lancers (8-5-1, 7-2-1), who were WPIAL champions and PIAA runners-up in 2020, finished second in Section 2-2A behind Shady Side Academy and went on to earn the No. 6 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A postseason bracket.

Although they started the season with a 2-1 loss to Class 3A rival Knoch, the Lancers seemed to quickly rebound after a loss having never strung consecutive losses together during the regular season.

“We won some games this season, and we got some losses,” Smith said. “We have a feeling that we have a chance with every team in section.”

The Lancers went 6-2-1 in September with losses to Knoch and Shady Side Academy, and the 1-1 tie coming against section rival Leechburg.

Deer Lakes held a 2-3 record in one-goal games this season.

“I think that this team got a little down on themselves too quick in a match,” Smith said. “This happens in all ages. If the first half of the game was going in our direction, it would continue that way. If we made mistakes, we’d go on a little roller-coaster ride.

“I have three junior captains, and it’s new for them. I think they were trying to live to standards.”

Braun has been a part of some good teams; he started three years ago as a wide-eyed freshman.

“We’re very strong defensively. Offensively we’re a little weaker, especially compared to the way we were last year,” Braun said.

Braun and the Lancers delivered six shutout wins this season.

Junior captain Ryan Hanes led the Lancers with 15 goals, and junior Mason Metzler notched 10 assists to lead the team.

Despite the sour end to the season, there are reinforcements on the way. Smith said next year’s team will almost double in size with a wave of middle-school players expected to hit the pitch.

“We have a nice core coming back,” Smith said. “We have about 13-15 players coming. It’s going to be exciting here (next fall). For the next couple years, we’re gonna have some numbers here. I want to get them back to where they were a few years ago.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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