Norwin boys soccer team has title run in its sights

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Saturday, September 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Riley Zimmerman played only briefly in the WPIAL Class 4A boys soccer championship three years ago at Highmark Stadium, but the experience resonated with him.

Then a Norwin freshman, Zimmerman recalls Knights coach Scott Schuchert telling him to remember the feeling, the atmosphere, the moment — to take it all in.

“He said we would get back there again,” said Zimmerman, now a senior. “I remember him telling me that. Now, here we are, and we want to make another run.”

Norwin fell to Seneca Valley in that title game, 5-2, but the same teams could contend again in a 2021 season that will get a boost with the return of fans and no covid-19 restrictions — for now.

The Knights, who began the season ranked No. 3 in 4A, won a section title and made the semifinals last year. A number of key players are back, including seniors Caleb Yuricha and Riley Zimmerman, both capable scorers, senior goalkeeper Andrew Yanez and sophomore defender Owen Christopher.

“I’ve been waiting for this year for a long time,” Schuchert said. “We have a strong nucleus back with our three top guys, and we have about 20 players who are interchangeable in our lineup.”

Norwin has had quite a three-year run after finally breaking through in the postseason. The Knights are 44-8-4 in that time with two section titles.

They finished 11-1-2 last year, including a 10-0-2 mark in section.

“We want to make our mark,” Schuchert said. “Win the section title again, get to the semis and roll the dice. We know we’ll probably have to go through Seneca Valley again.”

Yuricha, despite playing quite a bit on the back line out of necessity, had 12 goals and 10 assists last season. Look for him to be a primary weapon this time as he slides up the field.

“Yuricha is going to be more on the attack for us,” Schuchert said. “We want to put players in their strongest positions. Yuricha is going to be able to create more. We’re taking the leash off him. He’s going to fill the net.”

Zimmerman, who had 13 goals as a junior, will be another key scoring threat.

“Riley brings leadership and experience,” Schuchert said. “We have big hopes for him.”

Zimmerman said depth will be a strength for the Knights.

“There has been a change from last year to this year,” he said. “We have improved so much and we’re not selfish. We’re like 10 deep off the bench. Last year, we were maybe three deep.”

Yanez will don his oven mitts and patrol the front of the net again. He has played in a number of pressure-packed games and will bring that experience back.

“Andy has been a staple for us since he was a sophomore,” Schuchert said.

And don’t forget about senior defender Ryan Dimitroff, a three-year starter who will pair with Christopher on the back line.

Junior Jackson Sirianni and senior Ryan Harrington should add to the rotation.

“Ryan is like our flex player,” Schuchert said.

Sophomore Alex Brown is another up-and-coming forward who should score some goals.

“He gained some traction last year,” Schuchert said. “He’ll also be a nice counterpart to Caleb.”

Offense should not be a problem, but don’t undersell the other side of the ball.

“Our defense is so strong,” Zimmerman said. “We lost a lot of guys to graduation, but so many new guys have filled in and they keep improving.”

Norwin was set to open the season Sept. 3 against Chartiers Valley in its two-day kickoff tournament that also featured Seneca Valley and Baldwin.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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