Freeport boys soccer in thick of playoff conversation
Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | 6:44 PM
With just four games remaining on its regular season schedule, the Freeport boys soccer team is in the thick of the playoff race.
And they have every intention of staying there.
The Yellowjackets (9-4-1, 7-3-1) are fresh off a 13-0 win over Derry, which came at the back end of a two-game losing streak. But before that stretch, which is their only losing streak of the season, Freeport put together a five-game winning streak that launched them into the playoff conversation.
“Right now, were in the thick of it and we’re very excited about that,” Freeport coach Dave Terosky said. “This team has been working really hard throughout the whole season.”
During the stretch where they played Knoch, Valley, Leechburg, Burrell and Mt. Pleasant, senior goalkeeper Luke Heider was a stalwart in net and commanded a back line that strung together five straight shutouts.
“The back four — the back five, if you count me — we just shut down everything,” Heider said. “Teams were throwing their best players at us and we would somehow keep the shutout. I think that is part of our whole chemistry on the back line.”
It wasn’t just the defense that was clicking on all cylinders. The offense was as well. Led by senior midfielder Hunter Hardin and freshman attacker Isaac Wetzel, the Yellowjackets produced an effective attack that outscored their opponents, 14-0. In total, they’ve outscored opponents 49-14 this season, and they are just starting to hit their peak.
“It’s just been us talking to each other, us communicating on the field, telling someone if they can turn or dribble or pass and really keeping possession and connecting the lines,” Hardin said.
Last year, the Yellowjackets just squeaked into the playoffs, beating out Burrell by one game to secure the fourth playoff spot in the section. This time around, the Yellowjackets are feeling a little different.
Heider said they are more cohesive as a unit, they are communicating constantly, executing game plans like they should, and are heading into matchups against top teams in their section with confidence.
They played to a 2-2 draw the first time they faced Mt. Pleasant this season, then scored a 1-0 victory in the second meeting as part of their five-game winning streak. They also have played Deer Lakes close, holding a one-goal advantage during their first meeting before conceding a 5-2 loss. During their second meeting, they suffered a 2-1 loss.
“It’s been our mental game more than our physical,” Hardin said, discussing what’s led to their competitiveness against top teams. “It’s just thinking about what we need to do and executing it. We played the way we know how to play instead of getting nervous and panicking and differing from what we usually do.”
As the regular season nears its end, the Yellowjackets will have a big test in front of them as they take on No. 1 Shady Side Academy on Thursday. The first time around, the Indians got away with a 1-0 win on a penalty kick. But after the top-ranked team lost to Burrell on Tuesday by a 3-2 decision, Terosky and his team knows that on any given night, anyone can be beaten.
“Our section is so competitive throughout, and the teams leading the section certainly have great history, great resumes,” Terosky said. “So we know when we play them, we have to play our very best and bring our ‘A’ game. But conversely, even the teams that are new or are at the bottom of the section, we respect them and when they come to play us, we also have to play well.”
The Yellowjackets are on the right track as the season nears its conclusion and will take on Shady Side Academy, Butler, Valley and Leechburg to close things out.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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