Penn Hills boys soccer team avenges losses to stay in playoff hunt

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Sunday, October 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Results haven’t changed Penn Hills boys soccer coach Ryan Hankey’s message.

Not even a stretch where the Indians won four of five matches, including two victories over Section 4-3A opponents they lost to the first time around.

Their recent success was spurred on by the lessons learned from the team’s early struggles.

“We’re young and we’re learning,” Hankey said. “I try to tell them, ‘If you are going to lose, learn so you don’t keep making the same mistakes.’ ”

Penn Hills’ recent winning streak has the Indians on the cusp of ending a long streak of futility. If they can finish strong, they will play in the playoffs for the first time since falling 5-0 to Hampton on Oct. 25, 2004 in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA postseason.

Making a playoff push this season was always the goal for keeper Landon Hankey.

“We have to finish up strong and fight in the last three games of the season,” Landon Hankey said.

Battling to stay in games has been something the Indians have been more than comfortable with. In Penn Hills’ Sept. 29 home match against West Mifflin, the Indians were hit with a red card in the first 10 minutes. Despite playing down a man, Penn Hills shut out the Titans, who won the first meeting between the teams 3-0. Alinur Zhamaldinov scored with 25 minutes left to give the Indians the win.

In Penn Hills’ second meeting with Gateway, the Indians conceded in the first five minutes and were still behind at halftime.

Josh Lee and Alex Monteque scored for Penn Hills (6-8, 5-6) to give the Indians a 2-1 victory over the Gators.

“We may not have the same skill level, but we have the athleticism to match up with everyone,” Ryan Hankey said. “I think we are realizing we just have to stay in the game. You don’t want to overcommit on defense and get discouraged.”

Penn Hills has shown a steadily building confidence.

Heading into their final three section games against Franklin Regional, Woodland Hills and Greensburg Salem, the Indians thought they had the formula to advance to the postseason.

“We learned that we would have to keep possession, come to the ball and play as a team on defense,” Landon Hankey said. “Everyone needs to play defense together, and we have to attack on offense as a team.”

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