Gateway boys soccer team confident entering season’s 2nd half

Sunday, September 25, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Gateway boys soccer coach Bernie Stiles has a feeling of confidence as his team enters the stretch run to what he hopes is a WPIAL playoff spot.

The Gators entered last Thursday’s Section 4-3A matchup with Penn Hills, one which opened the second half of the section schedule, in a tightly contested race for a WPIAL playoff spot behind section leaders Plum and Franklin Regional.

Gateway was able to take care of business last Tuesday, topping Obama Academy, 13-1, for its second win in a row after back-to-back setbacks to Franklin Regional and Plum. The Gators improved to 4-3 with the win, tied for third place in the section with Penn-Trafford.

Four teams make the playoffs from the section and Penn Hills and Latrobe both were 3-4 and hoping to make a move.

Gateway and Penn-Trafford were slated to meet for the second time Tuesday in a rematch of a 3-0 Gators win over the Warriors from Sept. 1.

“There are a lot of good leaders and experience on this team, and they understand what it’s going to take over the next couple of weeks in the regular season to make the playoffs,” Stiles said.

“They have shown confidence and resilience, and they know they have the team skills to win some big games.”

Gateway kicked off its season with a competitive matchup against Hampton, which was 7-2 overall and 5-1 in Section 1-3A after a 3-2 win over North Catholic on Sept. 20.

“There were moments in that match where the play went back and forth,” Stiles said. “We would each have a long series of possession. They would break us down and get a shot, and (junior goalkeeper) Jack (Kweder) would come up big. We would break them down, and then hit a post. There was just a lot of good stuff and sophistication from both sides.”

The Gators hoped to bounce back after the loss to the Talbots, but Stiles said his players weren’t able to get untracked in their section debut and dropped a 3-0 decision at Penn Hills.

“That game was a good example of what can happen when you don’t play a full 80 minutes,” he said.

But as frustrating as those first two games were to his players, Stiles said the first matchup with Penn-Trafford was exhilarating.

“Before that game, I, the players, and the other coaches talked about what was our strength and what we worked on in the offseason to help us play well and win games,” Stiles said.

“We both came out really strong. We were able to put a really good team goal in to get started. That game was 1-0 for a while. Then, in the second half, we were able to all but finish it off with a second goal. The third goal came late. We know we can’t take anything for granted when we play Penn-Trafford, especially at their place. They always have a great team and are really well-coached.”

Gateway hosts McKeesport on Thursday before stepping away from section play at noon Saturday at North Catholic.

The Gators raced past the Tigers in the first meeting, 8-0. Stiles said Saturday’s contest with the Trojans will be an interesting one.

Franklin Regional and Plum shared the section title last year, and they are neck and neck at the top of the section.

Stiles said he was pleased with what he saw from his players despite a 5-2 loss to FR on Sept. 8.

Gateway rallied to tie the game 2-2 before FR scored what turned out to be the game-winner early in the second half. When the Gators made a late push to try to tie the game, the Panthers were able to counter with two goals to seal the win.

Stiles said Plum, the No. 1 team in the Trib Class 3A rankings, put all its offensive and defensive weapons on display in a 5-0 victory five days later.

As it did early in the season, bouncing back from an 0-2 start to top Penn-Trafford, Gateway again bounced back from the losses to Franklin Regional and Plum to win a high-scoring game against Latrobe, 7-4.

Senior midfielder Brendon Strawser recorded a hat trick as the Gators rallied from a first-half deficit.

“We got down two goals early, and it could’ve gone either way. We couldn’t afford to lose that game after already losing to Penn Hills,” Stiles said.

“We were able to get a corner-kick goal to get on the board, and then we scored two more quick goals and suddenly had the lead. We made a slight lineup adjustment, and the guys worked hard to get back in the game. It was like a wave of momentum.”

The game was tied 4-4 in the second half before the Gators pulled away late for the win.

“Latrobe didn’t give up and just came at us with everything,” Stiles said. “It was just a tremendous game from both teams.”

Coming out of the win against Obama, Strawser and senior forward Colton Corrie both paced the Gators with a team-best 12 goals.

Sophomore midfielder Nick Lo Coco checked in with seven goals, and he and Strawser lead the way with seven assists apiece.

Stiles credited both sophomore center back James Lo Coco and senior defender Danny Codeluppi with their experience and skill to solidify the back line for the Gators.

“They play very differently, but that helps with matchups,” Stiles said. “We’re able to attack with them and also outthink other attacks when they come at us.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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