Behind young roster, Gateway boys soccer looks forward to promising future
Sunday, November 7, 2021 | 11:01 AM
It wasn’t the way the Gateway boys soccer team wanted to close out its 2021 season.
The Gators finished third in Section 4-3A and were the No. 11 seed for the WPIAL playoffs.
Gateway played even with No. 6 Kiski Area for the first half of their first-round matchup Oct. 23, but the Cavaliers pulled away in the second half for a 5-1 victory and eliminated the Gators.
“We were very much alike with similar styles and strengths, so the disappointing thing was that with the final score, they did so much better than we did,” Gateway coach Bernie Stiles said.
“We felt we had a good chance despite the fact that all of (Kiski Area’s) starters returned for this season. They had a lot of guys who had scored goals during the year and were pretty strong on the offensive side.
“We were down 1-0 at halftime, and we felt that it was a very close offsides (no-call) that gave them their first goal. We also had a fantastic shot from (sophomore) Keagan Kyper to the upper 90, and I am still not sure how that keeper got his hand on it. It was a remarkable save. The first half was more back and forth. With high school soccer, if you get that tying goal in that situation going into halftime, that can give you all the momentum in the world. In the second half, they started to slowly break us down. We were disappointed in not being able to get the win. An 11 against a 6 is always going to be hard, but we felt like we had a chance. But overall, I am happy with how the season went.”
Senior midfielder Dietrich Zeisloft, junior midfielder Brendan Strawser and senior defender Cooper Hayes earned selection to the Section 4 Finest 15 all-star team.
Strawser finished with a team-best 16 goals and 19 assists for 51 points. He earned Man of the Match selection six times.
Zeisloft contributed nine goals and eight assists (26 points), while Hayes was a part of a defense which posted six shutouts and allowed just one goal in three other victories.
Junior forward Colton Corrie, second on the team in goals with 15, picked up an honorable mention honor.
All-WPIAL selections were scheduled to be released Monday, and Stiles said he hoped to see one or more of his all-section picks also get the WPIAL-wide nod.
Gateway finished 10-9 overall and 9-5 in the section.
Four of its losses came to section co-champions Plum and Franklin Regional.
The Mustangs and Panthers faced off for the third time this season last Wednesday at Gateway in the Class 3A consolation game with a trip to states on the line. Franklin Regional came out on top in penalty kicks.
“We knew we were going to be breaking in a new goalkeeper, no matter who it was, Cole (Plaskon) or Jack (Kweder), and we were starting several new defenders,” Stiles said.
“The way our schedule was, we were playing two really good teams in Allderdice and Belle Vernon right away. Those were big tests, but they helped us sort out a lot of things defensively despite some of our scores. Then we played top-five WPIAL teams four times in our section with Plum and Franklin Regional. Those games gave us good affirmations on what we were doing and how we were progressing.
“The second game with Plum, at home late in the season, we were 1-1 at halftime. That really boosted our confidence.”
Kweder, who overcame injury and got the start for the playoff game, and Plaskon each finished with 52 saves in net.
Gateway split with Penn Hills, but swept West Mifflin, Woodland Hills, Obama Academy and Greensburg Salem in section play.
Stiles said a lot of the sophomores and other young players started to progress exponentially throughout the season with how the team was training and how they played and reacted in games.
Sophomore striker Will Hansmann scored Gateway’s goal in the playoff game, and he finished with four goals overall.
“They overtook a couple of the seniors for starting positions,” Stiles said.
“They were challenging decisions on my part, but they earned them.”
Stiles noted the play of first-year varsity players in freshmen James and Nick LoCoco.
Nick finished with five assists, tied for third on the team with sophomore Blake Marsh behind Strawser and Zeisloft.
“They came in and started just about every game,” Stiles said.
“Coming from a seven-game junior high season to playing 21 games in high school, they held up well and were very important players on the team.”
The Gators had 21 players letter this year, and 17 of them were underclassmen.
The senior class, which also included Aiden Coleberg and Gunnar Hayes, was recognized on senior night Oct. 7 against Obama.
“They all contributed and led in so many different ways,” Stiles said.
“This group will be missed. They had a great influence on the younger players.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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