Championship WPIAL soccer coach to follow father into A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame

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Saturday, March 30, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Throughout his life, Mark Perry has followed in his father’s footsteps.

On May 4, he will do it once again as he joins his father in the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

“My father was the soccer coach at Fox Chapel when I was in high school,” Perry said. “I would follow him around as a kid when he started coaching. I always wanted to be a coach at some point. To go into the same hall of fame as my father is pretty special.”

Growing up in Springdale, Perry was a three-year starter as a center midfielder on the high school soccer team and a two-time captain.

“I looked at the captaincy as a coach on the field,” Perry said. “To be chosen by my high school coach was something I took seriously. I was proud to be named a captain.”

Some of his favorite memories from his time at Springdale include the long bus rides to schools that no longer exist.

“Back then, Route 28 wasn’t finished, so we had a long way to go to play teams like Worthington, Dayton, Saint Fidelis and Elderton,” Perry recalled. “One time we came back from a game and our bus ran out of gas by Brackenridge Golf Club.”

“Another time, in a game at Dayton, we had to stop the game for a half-hour because they were performing mine explosions nearby,” added Perry.

Perry’s Springdale teams made the WPIAL playoffs each of his three years on varsity.

His sophomore year, they lost in the finals to Shaler, then lost in the semifinals to North Allegheny his junior year and Upper St. Clair his senior season.

“It was disappointing not to win at least once,” said Perry. “Because we were a smaller school, we embraced the underdog role against those bigger schools.”

He was named to the all-WPIAL team in both his junior and senior years, even though he tore his ACL in the summer between those two seasons and played the last five games of his senior season.

“That was a great honor, because of the competition we played against,” said Perry. “We were in the same classification with teams like North Allegheny, Fox Chapel, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon. I believe I only got the honor my senior year because of how well I and the team played my junior year.”

Perry was afraid his injury would cost him an opportunity to play collegiately, but he was able to earn a guaranteed four-year scholarship to play at Wheeling Jesuit University in NAIA. He was a four-year starter.

When he got to Wheeling Jesuit, he had to grow up quickly, as the NAIA did not have any age restrictions. That meant Perry would be playing not just against, but with soccer players older than he was.

“I was playing with guys who were 24, 25, sometimes 26 and had families,” said Perry. “I played center back in college and the other center back I played with was a 24-year-old guy from Trinidad and Tobago.”

Wheeling Jesuit played in the West Virginia Conference, which consisted of only five or six teams. Each team was filled with international players, some who were good enough to play on their country’s national teams.

“That really opened my eyes,” said Perry. “They were so skillful, had skills I never saw from players here in the U.S. One of my teammates got called up to play for Trinidad and Tobago against the United States in St. Louis. The whole team went down to cheer him on.”

With all the highly skilled talent around him, Perry was named a team captain and earned all-conference honors in his time at Wheeling.

After graduating in 1986, Perry went straight into coaching, taking a job as the North Allegheny middle school soccer coach under Bruno Schwartz.

In 1987, he got hired as the head coach for Hampton’s boys varsity team. He coached there until 1990 and compiled a record of 71-12-3.

“We were the first sports team ever at Hampton to win a WPIAL or state title,” recalled Perry.

He then took over at Fox Chapel for the 1991 season after his father retired. From 1991-2005, he was very successful, putting together a record of 257-63-14.

“That 1995 boys team I coached was the best team I ever had,” said Perry. “We lost to Erie Prep in the state semifinals at North Allegheny. When we left Fox Chapel, the weather was 60 degrees. All of a sudden, there was two inches of snow on the ground and heavy winds. They wouldn’t postpone the game and we lost in penalty kicks.”

In 2006, he moved on to Center/Central Valley as the boys head coach until 2010.

In his time there, he also took the girls soccer head coaching job from 2009-2015. For two years, Perry coached the boys and girls soccer teams at the same time.

“When I proposed coaching both teams, a lot of the people looked at me like, ‘Really? You want to do that?’” said Perry. “But I’m thankful to Central Valley for giving me the opportunity. I had youth on my side back then and even though there were some tough times, I enjoyed it.”

After giving up coaching the boys in 2010, Perry coached the Central Valley girls team to an undefeated season in 2013, winning both WPIAL and PIAA titles.

His record at Central Valley was 72-25-4 as the boys coach and 119-18-6 as the girls.

Since 2016, Perry has been the head coach of the Seneca Valley girls soccer team and has a record of 107-32-9 over his eight seasons.

“We won the WPIAL championship in 2018 at Highmark Stadium,” recalled Perry. “We were losing to Peters Township the whole game, scored with three second left in regulation and buried the game-winner in the first two minutes of overtime for the win.”

In his career as a coach, Perry has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in 37 of 39 years with four WPIAL championships, five WPIAL runner-up finishes and two PIAA championships: the 1990 Hampton boys and 2013 Central Valley girls.

He also won the WPIAL Coach of the Year Award in 1995 while coaching Fox Chapel, an award his father won at the same school in 1990.

“That award is voted on by the coaches,” said Perry. “Winning the WPIAL and having the best team helped. It was nice to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”

Perry was also named the section coach of the year 17 times and was bestowed the Western Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association Honor Award in 2014.

Perry never married, saying he is married to the sport of soccer and evidence can be found in the soccer clubs, camps, and indoor arena he has been involved with since 1987.

He has been a soccer camp director since ’87 directing the Fox Chapel Booster Camp, the Seneca Valley Youth Soccer Camp, Stars United Soccer Camp, Tri-County Soccer Camp and School and the Central Valley Soccer Camp.

Since 1995, Perry has been the manager of the Tri-County Soccer & Sports Center. He is responsible for day-to-day decisions, scheduling games, assigning referees, accounting, maintenance — pretty much anything to do with the center.

In 2006, Perry became the director of soccer operations and player development while coaching the Stars United Soccer Club. He is currently the head coach for the U-12 and U-14 girls squads.

“It seems like a lot,” Perry said. “But a lot of the times, I can get my club team work done at the indoor arena. It’s a lot of hours and dedication, but it’s something I’ve chosen and loved to do these 35-40 years.”

In his spare time, Perry enjoys anything sports-related. Anytime he can find the time to step away from all of his soccer responsibilities, he likes to watch and attend any sports event he can.

On Monday, he and his father are taking a golf trip to Pinehurst for the week.

As a man with a real passion for soccer, Perry has enjoyed many trips to England and Scotland to take in a match at some of the renown stadiums in the UK, such as Wembley and Liverpool as well as Celtic in Scotland and New Castle.

“Gene Klein, who recently passed away, was the coach at Quaker Valley and always put those trips together,” said Perry. “It was a group of retired soccer coaches, and I was the youngest. We’d go for 10 days and see six or seven professional games. The last time we went was before covid in 2020. I’m hoping we can go at least one more time.”

Soccer has taught Perry so much about life and given him more rewards than the accolades he’s been recognized for.

“It taught me that if I worked hard and put the time in, I would reap the rewards,” said Perry. “The reward for coaching is winning, but the biggest reward I got was seeing my players grow from young ninth graders into mature seniors who have gone on to be successful in their own lives.”

Before being inducted into the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame, Perry will be inducted into the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame on April 27.

But he looks at the A-K induction as his first because they called him first.

“I was nominated many years ago by Dave Meloni,” said Perry. “But they didn’t want to put me in back then because I was still an active coach. But when they saw I was nowhere near retirement, they called me up this year saying they’d like to put me in with this class.”

It’s an honor that is both exciting and special for Perry.

“It’s a part of my hometown and I follow all the Alle-Kiski Valley schools,” said Perry. “I can relate to a lot of people I’ve seen who have been inducted. It’s a great honor and means a little bit more knowing I’ll go in the same sports hall of fame that my dad is in.”

If you’re going

What: 53rd A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame induction

When: 7 p.m., May 4

Where: Pittsburgh Shriners Center, Harmar

Tickets: $40

Contact: Larry Lutz, 724-822-3695; Fred Soilis, 412-736-1809; Bill Heasley, 724-882-3079

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