North Hills boys soccer learns from struggles, switches to Class 3A

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Thursday, August 23, 2018 | 10:36 PM


Nearly all of the North Hills boys soccer players are returning from last season’s challenging, injury-plagued campaign.

For the first time in coach Jared Steigerwald’s four-year tenure, the Indians missed the playoffs after starting off season with 15 consecutive losses. And while it would be easy to see the negative in a season like that, Steigerwald instead chooses to find the positive as his team prepares for its 2018 crusade.

“For us, last year was a rough year, obviously. After making the playoffs for three straight years, it was a disappointment. It could be credited to a lot of things — we lost guys to injuries, concussions,” Steigerwald said.

“We took our lumps, but the good thing that came out of it is that a lot of the guys that are coming back as juniors or seniors this year, they got a lot of experience playing at the high school level, where they didn’t have any before. There’s a benefit to that.”

North Hills is determined to come into this season with a clean slate. In some way, it could be the start of a new era for the program as this year marks the team’s first in WPIAL Class 3A after being bumped down from Class 4A in the offseason. The move should help even the playing field for the Indians after, according to their coach, going up against a North Allegheny team that had more seniors (17) on their roster then North Hills had total players (13).

Still, Steigerwald has emphasized with his players the move to the smaller classification does not mean the competition will be easier. That’s why he’s kept his players focused throughout the offseason with a cranked-up workout regimen.

Now, with the extra year of on-the-field experience and an offseason of improvement, he’s expecting better performances and enhanced leadership from his trio of seniors — Josh Kummer, Conner McEwen and Serhan Fidanli.

“Serhan is expected to take on the role of leading our defense, as the center back. Josh is a defensive mid, and he has a role there that will be supporting the back line. Connor is going to be one of our playmakers as a midfielder. We expect him to use his attributes and athleticism to get behind people and challenge the other team’s defense,” Steigerwald said.

“These guys are helping to form a leadership group, and I expect them to lead by example, too, on the field.”

According to Steigerwald, juniors Nick Sciulli and Duncan Kreps have also displayed leadership during offseason workouts.

Other returning contributors include junior defender Nate Saul, as well as sophomores Ryan Osche, Nate Belack and goalkeeper Alex Marencel, each of whom was thrust into playing time because of injuries last season.

Overall, it’s still a very young North Hills team that features just three seniors. However, it’s not an inexperienced group, and their coach expects they have learned from last year’s experience.

“We’ve had some different talks and communication. It started with that leadership group. We all understand last season was last season. It wasn’t very much fun for myself or for them,” Steigerwald said.

“Nobody likes to lose, nobody likes to get beat up. But again, we’re looking to move forward, we’re not looking to live in the past. We want to take everything that happened, learn from it, and build on those lessons so that we’re better for it.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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