Deer Lakes’ Michael Sullivan named Valley News Dispatch Boys Soccer Player of the Year

Saturday, November 30, 2019 | 6:26 PM

Valley News Dispatch Boys Soccer Player of the Year

Michael Sullivan

Deer Lakes, Junior, Forward

When the Deer Lakes Lancers needed a goal in 2019, it normally came from fleet-footed Michael Sullivan. He netted a total of 18 goals, added 18 assists and scored in every round of the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs but one as he led the Lancers through another historic season as a junior.

During Deer Lakes’ WPIAL first-round match with Steel Valley, Sullivan netted one goal, then he scored a game-winner against North Catholic in the quarterfinals before recording a hat-trick against South Park in the semis.

The junior captain capped off his team’s WPIAL run by scoring his sixth goal of the tournament against Quaker Valley in the championship game, where the Lancers came up just short of their ultimate goal.

Their WPIAL runner-up finish didn’t stop the Lancers from trying to make a run back to the PIAA Class AA state championship. In the first round, Sullivan came up big again for the Lancers, scoring a game-winning goal in the first overtime period of their matchup with Juniata.

The Lancers came up just short in the PIAA quarterfinals with a 3-2 loss to Mercyhurst Prep as the Lakers held Sullivan in check for the entirety of the game.

Over the past two years, Sullivan has been one of the key contributors to the rise of the Deer Lakes program.

They’ve captured the past two Section 2-AA titles and have reached both the PIAA championship and the WPIAL championship for the first time in school history.

He earned All-WPIAL honors for the second straight year and earned the Section 2-AA Player of the Year award as well. Sullivan looked back on a successful junior season.

How do you feel like this season went for you guys?

I mean that season we just had was a blast, spending every single day on the field outside with the boys. We did end up a little short of where we wanted to finish, but I have to credit everyone on the team, the coaching staff, everyone. We worked our butts off all year and it was great.

You reached the WPIAL finals for the first time in school history. How does that feel?

It was great. It was a great experience for everyone on that team and the community. The year before we went to Hershey for the first time and the support we got from the community was absolutely amazing. Again, this year, the atmosphere at Highmark was electric. It was spectacular to see and I was glad I got to experience that with the boys.

Does reaching that level motivate you to come back next year even stronger?

Of course. We got to the WPIAL championship, but we didn’t finish first. We got knocked out of the state playoffs earlier than we wanted too, so we have to come back with that fire next year.

You had 18 goals this season. Is there a certain one that sticks out for you?

I think all of my playoff goals are really up there. I can’t just pick one. The goal in the WPIAL final was great, the one against North Catholic was outstanding, and South Park, that was just a fun game to be a part of. I can’t rank one higher than the others. They were all really up there.

Is there a certain game that sticks out to you?

I mean, the most fun I’ve ever had in a soccer game was the WPIAL championship game. That atmosphere was electric and the passion shared by both teams was absolutely amazing.

You scored two game-winners in the playoffs. Do you feel the need to perform in those pressure situations?

It’s not just me. When it comes down to crunch time, everyone steps up. If it falls to me and I’m the one who scores the final goal, or if someone else does, all that matters is the ball goes in the net and we’re on top in the end.

Coach Dan Yates came in and brought his own style. What was it like adapting to his style?

That new style changed a lot of things for us, and I think how fast the boys adapted to it and embraced that new style really gave us a lot of the success we had this year. It opened up the field for us, and we knocked the ball around teams, and it gave us a new sense of confidence.

With one year under your belt, how dangerous do you guys think you can be next year?

I think the sky is the limit for us. I think with the young core we have around Devin (Murray), Colton (Spence) and I, I think it will be absolutely amazing to see what we can do.

Any areas of your game you want to improve on?

I think the most important thing is striking the ball over distance with my left foot. I’ve improved on it a good bit this year, but I still think there is a lot of room for improvement.

Any big plans for the offseason?

For Deer Lakes, we’re going to do some futsal tournaments indoor and we’re just gonna get touches on the ball.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?

It’s gotta be the mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes are killer.

With or without gravy?

Oh, it has to be with gravy.

What’s the one thing you want for Christmas?

I’d have to say an Apple Watch.

First team

DD Flowers, Plum, jr., F: The third of Plum’s three All-WPIAL selections, Flowers was another anchor of a strong offensive attack. He scored 16 goals and tallied six assists. In a big 4-2 win over Norwin, he scored three goals and had an assist.

Hunter Hardin, Freeport, Sr., MF: Freeport’s only All-WPIAL selection and a two-time All-Section pick, the senior midfielder scored 19 goals and tallied 13 assists this season.

Andrew Haus, Springdale, so., GK: He stepped into big shoes and went beyond his coach’s expectations. The sophomore stalwart allowed just 16 goals and produced 11 shutouts while making 157 saves.

Zane Ingram, Fox Chapel, sr., MF: The all-state and WPIAL Class AAAA player of the year was a key contributor to Fox Chapel’s cause in 2019. He scored eight goals and tallied nine assists.

Cole Kelly, Plum, sr., D: The Mustangs center back anchored a stingy defensive line that limited opponents to 12 goals all year. He also scored two goals and tallied an assist.

Tyler Kolankowski, Plum, sr., F: The Section 3-AAAA Co-Player of the Year paced Plum’s offensive attack with 21 goals and 13 assists, leading the Mustangs to a undefeated regular season and their first playoff win since 2005.

Mike Mitchell, Springdale, sr., MF: The Dynamos central midfielder did a little bit of everything. He scored 19 goals, dished out 22 assists and helped Springdale reach the PIAA Class A quarterfinals for the second time in three years.

Devin Murray, Deer Lakes, jr., MF: The two-time All-WPIAL midfielder held down the middle of the pitch for the Lancers this season. On the way to Deer Lakes’ 17-6 overall record and second straight section title, Murray scored 18 goals and tallied 12 assists.

Gabe Norris, Highlands, jr., MF: The Golden Rams midfielder led his team with 10 goals and 11 assists and had them on the verge of a WPIAL Class AAA playoff appearance.

Colton Spence, Deer Lakes, jr., D: The All-WPIAL selection made a move to center back for Deer Lakes this season and anchored a defense that only allowed 21 goals and produced 12 shutouts.

Matt Taliani, Springdale, sr., D: For the second straight year, Taliani receives All-VND honors. The senior sweeper held down the back line for a Springdale defense that only allowed 17 goals all year. He tallied two goals and one assist.

Second team

Ephrain Duku, Springdale, sr., F

Luke Gildea, Plum, sr., MF

Jake Guerrini, Burrell, jr., F

Nicholas Kariotis, Burrell, jr., MF

AJ Koma, Plum, jr., MF

Gabe Kuhn, Plum, jr., GK

Josh Miller, Fox Chapel, sr., D

Chris Mitchell, Springdale, fr., F

Anthony Shin, Fox Chapel, sr., D

Eli Yofan, Fox Chapel, so., F

Ross Ziemianski, Kiski Area, sr., D

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

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