Encouraging signs for Yough boys soccer

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Thursday, August 29, 2019 | 9:04 PM


The numbers in boys soccer are up this season at Yough, where coach Chris Duda is encouraged by increased interest in his playoff-starved program.

There were 22 players in camp preparing for the Cougars’ opener Tuesday at Waynesburg Central.

“We’ve been lacking in numbers, but we’ve got 22 this year and that’s high for us,” Duda said.

The Cougars, who have endured back-to-back one-win seasons, have been to the WPIAL playoffs just twice in roughly the past two decades and have enjoyed one winning season during that time.

“We’re getting more involved with the youth,” Duda said. “We started four years ago with a youth camp, and we had 20 kids the first year. The last one we did, in July, there were 70 kids. We’re starting to see that involvement beginning to make a difference.”

Unlike the Yough girls program, which has sustained a stretch of successful seasons and annually entertains playoff aspirations, the boys program has been lagging.

Duda hopes the trend can reverse and believes maintaining a positive environment is paramount to the process.

“We scrimmaged Greensburg Salem, and I felt the starters moved the ball well and everyone made contributions,” he said. “Last year, I had no freshmen on the team. We have eight this year, so this is a chance to see what they can do.”

Duda became amused at the thought of his players’ reaction when he asked who among them was “scared” or “nervous” when the teams lined up for that recent scrimmage.

“Probably four or five of the young players said they were,” Duda said. “We tried to explain that it’s going to be physical, and the speed might seem overwhelming at times. But we’re serious about this, and we definitely want to be competitive.”

But not since a 9-7-2 record in 2014 has Yough been above the .500 mark — and that’s the only time in recent history. The Cougars advanced to the WPIAL playoffs in ‘16 with a 6-10 record and in ‘13 with an 8-9-1 mark, losing both times in the first round.

Seven starters return from last season’s 1-10-1 team. They are seniors Brandon Childers, Anson Newell, Cameron Pitts and Nick Sandin, and sophomores Wyatt Fender, Jakob Krumenaker and Parker Lilliock.

Sophomores Logan McQueen and Nick Gunther and freshman Joseph Obeldoebel are projected as top reserves for the Class 2A Cougars, who compete in Section 3.

No. 4 Charleroi is the only team from the section appearing in the Trib HSSN preseason rankings. Those Cougars, unlike Yough’s Cougars, are coming off a highly successful year that saw them roll to 18-2 record after losing in the WPIAL semifinals and third-place game.

While Yough has enjoyed little success, two of its former players are entering their sophomore seasons at Division II schools — Slippery Rock forward Alexander Vilchek and Cal (Pa.) midfielder Riley Jupin.

Duda and his coaching staff, which includes Vilchek’s dad, Dave, were excited upon Alexander’s return to his roots, where he has spoken to the team in a gesture of inspiration.

They’re hoping the players get the message.

“I try not to discourage the kids at all,” Duda said. “If we lose games, I tell them it’s a learning experience. The kids want to stay positive. As long as they don’t get frustrated on the field, and as long as they’re happy and not fighting, we’re still improving.”

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