After rare miss, Penn-Trafford boys soccer sets sights on WPIAL playoff return

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019 | 8:55 PM


Reno Kearns doesn’t try to mask anything by a pretense. He and his Penn-Trafford boys soccer teammates are not satisfied with last season.

“The ultimate goal is to make the playoffs, and we didn’t do that,” the senior midfielder said. “We have to do a better job defensively if we want to make it back.”

The Warriors finished 9-8-1 last season and missed the WPIAL postseason after four consecutive trips.

Fifth-year coach Rick Nese agrees defense is the key to his team reversing course. But determining an overall identity — on both sides of the ball — has been the top priority throughout preseason camp.

The season opens Friday.

“We’re still trying to find ourselves,” Nese said. “We’re still trying to find the best combination that gives us the best chance to win.”

Kearns, senior Tyler Pisarek and sophomore Nate Schlessinger are three players around whom the Warriors plan to build. They also look to be the primary offensive threats, along with senior Evan Painter.

“Right now, it’s about being organized,” Nese said. “We have to be able to defend and find some guys who can jell at the top.”

Kearns said he could end up playing more forward than center midfield, although Nese said a number of players could move around as the Warriors look for chemistry.

That includes Pisarek, who could bounce between forward and midfielder.

“With Nate and Reno, you have two guys you can put anywhere,” Nese said. “Again, it’s finding that right mix and putting guys where they can best help us.”

Two key players the team must replace are midfielder Noah Schlessinger and goalkeeper Logan Kreutzberger.

Additional players of note are junior Joe Whipkey, who Nese said is the team’s fastest player, junior Logan Brinko and senior Lukas Johnson. The latter two are central defenders.

Junior left-footer Lucas Killen also figures into the mix.

Senior Isaiah Juarez is expected to be the opening-day starter at goalkeeper, and sophomore A.J. Visco has shown promise in net. He and Slessinger are kickers for the football team.

Nese expects the usual suspects to front the race in Section 3-AAAA: traditional rival Norwin, Plum and Connellsville.

As for the remainder of the teams — Penn-Trafford, Latrobe, Hempfield, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills — “Put them in a hat and pull one for the fourth spot,” Nese said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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