Burrell boys soccer team clinches first playoff appearance since 2014

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Monday, October 14, 2019 | 7:31 PM


Over the last few years, the Burrell boys soccer team has taken its lumps. After some recent success, the Bucs are starting to bump back.

After a 5-1 win over Valley last week, the Bucs are heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, when they went 12-8 overall and worked their way into the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AA tournament before losing to West Allegheny, 6-1.

Now, after a recent run where the Bucs (10-7, 8-6) won five of their final six games, including a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over then-No. 2 Shady Side Academy, they are ready to do it again.

“We’ve definitely improved from the last few years,” junior Ian Smola said. “We’re really happy with how we’ve played the last few games, and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

Their trip to the playoffs has been a work in progress. Burrell coach Andrew Kariotis has a core group of players who have been starting since they were freshmen. In his third year at the helm, that group, which includes his son Nicholas, along with Smola, Jake Guerrini and Ryan Wurzer, has started to round out.

“We’ve been young, and they’ve been taking their beatings as we’ve went,” Kariotis said. “Every year when we get bigger, the other teams are graduating people ,and we’re not. So you can see the confidence when they play this year.”

Their 3-2 win over Shady Side Academy was a perfect example of that confidence. The Bucs went into halftime down two goals but came out of the break and scored three to overtake one of the best teams in their conference.

“We wouldn’t have done that last year,” Kariotis said. “When we got down last year, it was like the floodgates would open up. But they just don’t play like that anymore, though.”

This year is different for Burrell, but at the beginning of the season, the wins weren’t always there.

Kariotis said they played well but couldn’t quite score at times. Four of their seven losses have come by two goals or fewer.

They never have lost more than two games in a row and have outscored their opponents by 20 goals.

“When we are focused, I do think we can play with anybody,” Kariotis said. “It’s not as big of a surprise to us as it is to everyone else. We were kind of hoping for this and expecting it. So when we lost to Freeport the second time, we were bummed because we thought we let an opportunity get away.”

But the opportunity came right back around for the Bucs when they started their streak to cap off the season. First, they topped Derry and Mt. Pleasant before coming from behind to take down Shady Side. Then, they handled Leechburg and Valley with ease to secure a playoff spot.

During that stretch, they outscored their opponents 19-9 and recorded two shutouts. As the playoffs are nearing — brackets will be released Wednesday — the Bucs have an idea of what it will take to succeed.

“We just have to keep our effort up and keep our hard work up,” Wurzer said. “We just have to keep up what we’re doing.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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