CW North Catholic blanks Springdale to claim WPIAL boys soccer title
By: Michael Love
Friday, November 3, 2017 | 9:57 PM
The Springdale boys soccer team's run to Friday's WPIAL Class A championship game was fueled by upsets against higher-seeded playoff opponents.
The No. 7 Dynamos toppled No. 2 Freedom in the quarterfinals before outlasting No. 3 Seton LaSalle on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
Springdale hoped to make it three in a row as the underdog, but No. 1 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic didn't waver in its quest to bring home WPIAL gold at Highmark Stadium.
A pair of second-half tallies lifted the Trojans to a 2-0 victory over the Dynamos.
“The guys should be very proud of themselves and not at all ashamed of what happened here,” Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said.
“North Catholic is No. 1 and a very, very good team.”
The Dynamos played in the WPIAL finals for the first time since 2009 and were seeking the program's first WPIAL title since 1973.
Springdale had hoped to flip the script from the regular season where it suffered a pair of losses to CWNC in Section 3 play. In the second meeting, the Dynamos took the Trojans to overtime before falling 1-0.
Despite the loss, Springdale's season is extended in the PIAA playoffs.
The Dynamos will take the field for a first-round matchup Tuesday against District 5 champion Windber at a time and site to be determined.
“We emphasized that even before this game,” Sanchez said. “No matter what happened, we knew we still were playing. We're going to states and possibly have as many as four games left. We might see (CWNC) again. It was hard to take this loss, but we have to recover and start again Tuesday.”
The WPIAL title is the first for the CWNC boys program. The Trojans returned to Highmark Stadium after last year's 1-0 loss Sewickley Academy.
The win was a sweet one for first-year coach Aaron Kelly.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “I feel so happy for the boys. They worked so hard. Obviously, it was a bummer last season when they didn't complete the championship. They worked their tails off this summer and worked hard in every practice. They deserved to be here.”
The Trojans improved to 20-1 and won their fifth in a row since a 1-0 loss to Class AAAA Pine-Richland toward the end of the regular season.
CWNC will face District 9 runner-up Port Allegany on Tuesday in the opening round of the state playoffs. Three Class A teams from the WPIAL will compete in the PIAA playoffs. Seton LaSalle earned the No. 3 spot with a 2-0 win over Winchester Thurston on Wednesday in the third-place contest.
“I think the WPIAL will do very well in the state tournament,” Sanchez said.
The game was scoreless into the second half. Springdale keeper Mike Zolnierczyk and the defense in front of him did their part, turning away a number of dangerous Trojans chances during the first 40 minutes.
Senior striker Mike Drambel gave CWNC all it would need with a header goal off a cross from sophomore Bryce Kopchak with 34 minutes, 50 seconds left in the second half.
Kopchak then found Joe Kearney for an insurance goal at the 18:37 mark.
“We played well defensively, but two small mistakes were the difference,” Sanchez said. “We just weren't able to get enough chances to match their scoring.”
The Dynamos generated a strong chance with about seven minutes left in the first half as senior midfielder Zach Liberati boomed a shot from about 40 yards that skimmed just high of the crossbar and out of play.
Sophomore midfielder Michael Mitchell also got a good look early in the second half, but his attempt from 25 yards sailed high of the CWNC net.
Springdale came into the game battling an injury bug. Sanchez said the team's leading scorer, senior forward Jared Demore, was playing at about 70 percent from a leg injury suffered in a first-round victory over Serra Catholic two weeks ago.
Mitchell returned to the lineup after going through concussion protocol, but fellow sophomore Michael Krason missed the game because of an injury in the quarterfinals against Freedom.
Then senior midfielder Brogan McCutcheon and senior defender Logan Panza left Friday's game with leg injuries.
Despite the ailments, Sanchez was proud of the way his players fought. He also was pleased and encouraged by the support from the school and the Springdale community as a whole.
The school celebrated the team's accomplishments with a send off earlier in the day Friday, and the stands were filled with several hundred fans cheering on the players.
“I think 70 percent of the fans were for Springdale,” Sanchez said. “The team really appreciates the support.”