Gateway boys soccer comes up short of playoffs but makes strides

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Friday, October 25, 2019 | 5:18 PM


The 2019 season wasn’t what the Gateway boys soccer team expected.

With 10 returning starters, the Gators hoped the balance of power in Section 4-AAA would begin to shift in their favor. But Gateway ended up with a 4-13 record and sixth-place finish.

“Obviously, we wanted to go farther than we did,” coach Bernie Stiles said. “We believe we were a good enough team to accomplish that. However, we also realized this year that you have to be 100% all the time to beat the top teams in the WPIAL.

“While our record was only slightly better (than last year’s 4-14 mark), we made huge improvements in all four lines of our game. We improved in goalkeeping, defensively, at midfield and in the attack. Our transition to offense was improved. We scored several free kicks from corners and from direct kicks, and as a team our defensive style has thrown off other teams.”

Gateway junior goalkeeper Sam Alexander, with two shutouts, was voted to the Finest 15 in the section.

“Sam made incredibly important saves for us to keep us in games,” Stiles said.

Chris Schneider, a junior midfielder, led the squad in goals with 11 and was named honorable mention all-section.

“Chris is a pure finisher,” Stiles said. “He scored some very important goals for us this year, giving us leads against Chartiers Valley and South Fayette.”

The team captains were Ben Meshanko and Aral Muftuoglu, both senior midfielders.

“Our two captains provided good leadership and made a major impact on the field,” Stiles said, “Ben as an outside mid with incredible speed and Aral with his toughness and ball-winning skill.”

Other leading players were junior forwards A.J. Brown, Alex Guiterrez and junior midfielder Matt Murphy.

“A.J. is a highly gifted technical player who provided us with great leadership and skill as a striker and center mid,” Stiles said. “Alex and Matt provided us with constant threats in the counter attack.

“Alex, in particular, was very effective on the outside mid. Matt helped us in many positions, especially up top as an important target player for us.”

Junior Bilal Mukhtar anchored the defensive corps from his center back position, and Stiles said junior Jon Rathfon “had an exceptional year as right back.”

Stiles also mentioned sophomore defenders Gabe Sha and Cooper Hays were “outstanding” as attacking outside backs.

“Our junior class continues to be the strength of the team,” Stiles said. “However, we had sophomores and freshmen that contributed greatly to this year’s team. Freshman Brendan Strawser made a significant impact as a central midfielder, helping us improve our transition to offense. He partnered with sophomore Dietrich Ziesloft to make an effective central midfield tandem.

“Freshman Daniel Garner played several positions for us and will be an impact player in the upcoming years. Sophomores Jacob Davey and Aiden Colberg aided the midfield with their creativity, while freshman Colton Corrie supported the strikers and looks to have an unique knack for scoring goals.”

Offering hope for 2020 is the fact 30 of the 33 players from this year can return next season. There were 10 juniors, seven sophomores, 13 freshmen and three seniors in the program in 2019.

“Our outlook for next year is to make the playoffs, as it is every year,” Stiles said. “We knocked on the door several times this year only to come up a little short. We now understand it is up to us to break through that door if we are to succeed in 2020.”

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