North Allegheny boys soccer team living up to standards set by 2nd-year coach
Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM
This is year two for Manuel Montero, and the North Allegheny boys soccer coach says there’s a much greater comfort level for the team this fall, and it shows.
Some of the differences might go unnoticed, but he sees them.
“A perfect example is warm-ups,” Montero said. “I don’t micromanage it anymore. I just oversee it, make sure how the kids are feeling, how they’re moving. I can kind of see the bigger picture.”
A year ago, Montero was a newcomer to the program, taking over a senior-heavy roster that narrowly missed the playoffs last fall.
This season, the team’s lineup is dominated by juniors and a handful of seniors, who’ve had a full year to adopt Montero’s ways. The Tigers opened this season with nine consecutive wins.
“The kids know what you want and how you want it,” he said. “They know the standards. I’m big into standards. Now it’s almost automatic.”
One of the team captains is senior Dante Accamando, a standout goalkeeper, who Montero described as the “complete” player.
“This year, he’s coming out and being aggressive in the air, which is a piece he was missing last year,” said Montero, who called him a great shot stopper. “Before the season, I told him, ‘This is a year where I expect you to have all-conference honors.’ With respect to all of the other goalkeepers, I think he’s leading the charge.”
Junior Zach Nash has emerged as a top scorer and netted nine goals in the team’s first nine games. Also taking leading roles are junior Nathan Katari and seniors Arnav Patel, Luke Brady and Joey Vojtas.
“It’s a good balance,” Montero said. “There are not egos. It’s kids who are open to feedback and talk to one another, asking how can we improve? Everybody is kind of rowing in the same direction.”
The Tigers scored 27 goals in 18 games last season. This year, they’d already scored 25 goals in their first 10.
Their nine-game winning streak included three one-goal victories, before they tied defending state champion Seneca Valley, 1-1, on Sept. 19. A year ago, they’d lost twice to Seneca Valley, and both were one-goal losses: 3-2 in overtime and 2-1.
This time, Accamando made 10 saves against the Raiders.
“We’re all kind of comfortable with a tight game,” Montero said. “We’ve experienced some of those this season. (The team) has kind of built an attitude where we’re learning how to win. Last year, that was a big thing, learning how to win. This group knows how to win.”
Sometimes after a coaching change, it can take a year to build a foundation, said Montero, noting that teams often find their way in year two.
“It’s just knowing the system and what the expectations are,” he said. “It’s always hard that first season when ‘Coach X’ leaves — for any group, not just us here — there are different expectations, different philosophies.
“We were very senior-heavy last year. As players, it can be a big shock.”
The Tigers finished fifth in the section with a 7-7 record last season, one win fewer than Butler. Montero said he was “very, very disappointed,” because he believed that team could’ve made a postseason run.
But this year’s team won’t be satisfied with just reaching the playoffs.
“The expectations are the same: To be competitive each year and challenge for state championships,” Montero said. “Making the playoffs should be expected. We should make a deep run every year.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
Tags: North Allegheny
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