High-scoring Strawser leads Gateway boys soccer into 2022 campaign

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Sunday, August 28, 2022 | 9:01 AM


Gateway boys soccer coach Bernie Stiles said championship victories at a pair of winter indoor tournaments — futsal events at Deer Lakes and Penn Hills — were sparks that fueled the team in its offseason preparation for the 2022 season.

“Our second team, too, made it into the semifinals of one of the tournaments,” said Stiles, who welcomes back several starters and other key contributors from a Gators squad which went 10-9 overall last year and 9-5 (third) in a challenging Section 4-3A behind co-champs Plum and Franklin Regional.

“We felt we were a talented bunch, and the way we played and also faced adversity (in the futsal tournaments) gave the guys a lot of motivation to continue to work hard in whatever they were doing on the field and also through workouts this summer. They have so much confidence in their abilities and playing together. That is a huge factor for them, the belief they have in themselves that they can do well and win a lot of games this season.”

A dozen players return who started or received significant playing time in a deep lineup.

Lost to graduation were Finest 15 selections Cooper Hays (defense) and Dietrick Zeisloft (midfield), as well as midfielders Jacob Davey and Aiden Colberg and reserve goalkeeper Gunnar Hayes.

Zeisloft finished his senior season third in points (26), third in goals (9) and second in assists (8), while Davey was fourth in points (12) with five goals and two assists.

Leading the returnees is senior midfielder Brendan Strawser, an All-WPIAL selection last year who led the team in points (51), goals (16) and assists (19).

The consistent presence earned Man of the Match recognition six times last year.

“I may be biased, but I think Brendan is one of the best players in the WPIAL,” Stiles said. “He showed his talents last season, and he’s playing at a high level now.’’

Strawser said that with the returning talent and others ready to step up in high-level games, Gateway should be a serious factor in the race to the WPIAL playoffs.

“We’ve been working a lot on transition, when to press and when not to press, and all of the guys have a really good understanding of it,” said Strawser, who, along with his Gators teammates, put that and other areas of concentration to the test Aug. 24 in a key scrimmage against Allderdice and West Mifflin.

“We have a few new starters this year who got some good minutes last year, and now they are really growing into their roles and are showing good confidence. That is going to help a lot, just building that trust. Training has really been competitive with guys knowing what’s at stake.”

Senior forward Colton Corrie also shined for the Gators last year and picked up Finest 15 honorable-mention laurels. He scored 15 goals, just one off the team lead, and was selected Man of the Match four times.

“We have several guys who are exceptionally good on both ends of the ball, and they can play multiple positions,” Stiles said.

“We got pretty fit in the offseason, and I like how we looked from a fitness standpoint in camp. We had continued to work on some of the same principles, and we just tweak it every year based on personnel.”

Others, Stiles said, who are ready to make an impact include James LoCoco (defense) and Danny Codeluppi (defense).

Codeluppi will move into the center back position to replace Hays.

Senior Daniel Garner (midfield); juniors Will Hansmann (striker), Blake Marsh (forward) and Keagan Kyper (striker); and sophomore Brett Rossi (defense), Stiles said, also have stepped up their games.

“I like how our lineup looks in terms of all three phases of the game — attack, defense and transition,” Stiles said. “We have excellent goalkeeping, and Gateway has been blessed to have several All-WPIAL goalkeepers. I think we have another one in Jack Kweder.”

Kweder, a junior, returns to the starting lineup after making 52 saves in net last year.

Plum and Franklin Regional finished a top the section last year as co-champions with 13-1 records. The Panthers stopped the Mustangs in the WPIAL Class 3A third-place consolation game.

Led by Anthony DeFalco, now a freshman at Duquesne, FR split a pair of games in the PIAA playoffs.

Penn Hills also was a playoff qualifier in 2021.

Section newcomers Penn-Trafford and Latrobe both dropped down from Class 4A. The Warriors qualified for the postseason last year.

“I’m in my sixth year at Gateway, and every year, the section has been a great challenge,” Stiles said.

“We have six to eight playoff games during the regular season, basically. We’ll get to go in there, take our test, see what our score is, work off of that, and hope to improve the score the next time.”

Gateway was scheduled to open its season Saturday at Hampton before its section opener at Penn Hills on Tuesday.

The Gators begin the home portion of their regular-season schedule Thursday evening at 7:30 against Penn-Trafford.

“I think we will have some surprises for some people,” Stiles said. “The guys are really ready to get this season going.”

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

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