Bethel Park boys soccer eyes WPIAL playoff berth

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Saturday, August 28, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Small steps.

The Bethel Park boys soccer team isn’t reaching for the sky this season.

More on point, the Black Hawks would like to return to the WPIAL playoffs after sitting out the postseason the past four years.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” said fourth-year coach Doug Fink, who embraced his team’s willingness to compete as a unit. “We don’t have any superstars so we will have to outwork teams to win matches.”

Over the past decade, Bethel Park has advanced to the playoffs six times and won two section championships. All of that took place from 2011-16.

The Black Hawks were a powerhouse in Western Pennsylvania the previous five seasons, winning two WPIAL titles and one section crown between 2006-10.

The past two years, however, Bethel Park logged identical 3-8-1 records in section play and finished 4-9-1 and 5-9-2 overall.

The team ended up sixth in Section 2-4A last season behind Peters Township (10-1-1), Canon-McMillan (7-4-1), Upper St. Clair (7-4-1), Baldwin (6-5-1) and Mt. Lebanon (5-6-1). Brashear sat in the basement at 1-11.

“Our section is very competitive,” said Fink, previously a Bethel Park assistant for 16 seasons under Mike Galietta. “Every match is a battle.”

To combat the competitive nature of the section teams along with the intense rivalries that have developed over the years, the Black Hawks paid extra attention to their conditioning during preseason practice.

“This past week, we’ve been building our fitness levels, competing in small-sided games and scrimmaging in an 11 versus 11 setting,” Fink said. “We also held our annual Iron Man competition, which encompasses a combination of stamina, strength, speed and skill.

“I’d like to thank our entire coaching staff — Tom Sochacki, Josh Kicinski and Jay Zeminski — for all of their hard work.”

Bethel Park has a small group of returning seniors with varsity experience to build around this season. They include forward Keelan Donovan, midfielders Caleb Thompson and Sean Eckert, and defender/midfielder Calvin Walsh.

“We’re expecting to make the playoffs and once we get there we’ll look to put together a run,” Donovan said. “It’s been the same the past couple of years where we’ve been right on the edge but haven’t quite made it.

“We’ve had to replace four seniors in our back line. However, the guys have been working hard to make sure we’re ready for the start of the season. I’m confident they’ll be able to settle in and become a solid force for us.”

Donovan is a third-year starter and former Century Soccer player. He is president of the National Honor Society and a DECA competitor.

He owns GPAs of 4.62 and plans to study computer science in college at either Georgia Tech, Michigan or USC.

Other senior athletes vying to make an impact consist of goalkeepers Grant Calhoun and Peyton Lancy; midfielders Alecko Fekos, Josh Narr and Brendan Ridge; and defenders Nick Carbone and Jake Narr, who’s also a midfielder.

There are 10 juniors in the program, including forwards Caden Flanigan, Miles Jackson and Lucas Varley; midfielders Cody Hendrych-Bondra, Forrest Shaw and Nate Uselman; defenders Jack Molli and Jake Zeminski; plus M/D Owen Newman and D/M Carter Kicinski.

“Our strengths are in the midfield and attack. These guys have the most experience on the varsity level,” Donovan said. “We’ve got big physical guys in the midfield who are able to win the ball back and spray the ball through the channels for our forwards. Our three forwards have varsity experience and a physical presence which will benefit us in finding the back of the net — not to mention the friendly competition we have to see who scores the most goals.

“Off the field, all the guys have a good relationship which makes us stronger on the field.”

Sophomore candidates this year include midfielders Henry Gaston and Adam Thompson, along with defenders Dylan DeClair and Carmin Yimin. Jackson Friday is a top freshman prospect at midfield.

After scrimmages with Montour and Allderdice, the Black Hawks are slated to open the season with four consecutive road tests at Shaler (Sept. 4), Brashear (Sept. 7) at Cupples Stadium, Seneca Valley (Sept. 9) and South Fayette (Sept. 11).

Seneca Valley is the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion in Class 4A. The Raiders were 17-1-1 last season.

Bethel Park’s home opener is set for Sept. 14 against Peters Township, the WPIAL runner-up a year ago.

The Black Hawks are scheduled to play seven home and nine away games in 2021.

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