Penn-Trafford boys soccer fights through injuries, stays in playoff chase

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Wednesday, October 5, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Staggered by injuries, Penn-Trafford has managed to stay in the WPIAL boys soccer playoff chase in its first year in Class 3A.

A grind-it-out mentality permeates the program.

“We’re not unique,” Warriors coach Sotiri Tsourekis said. “But our boys will fight.”

Consider: The Warriors started 1-4, including losses to proven winners in Class 4A Pine-Richland and defending WPIAL and PIAA Class A champion Winchester Thurston. But the sluggish start happened with six starters down with injuries.

The Warriors managed to rebound with six wins in seven games, allowing just three goals along the way, two to then-No. 1-ranked Plum in a 2-1 loss.

They only lost 2-1 to rival Norwin in nonsection play, and they tied Gateway, 2-2, after the Gators beat them 3-0.

The Warriors are 7-7-1 overall and 6-4-1 in Section 4 after a 3-1 win over Penn Hills on Tuesday night. In their previous game, they suffered a razor-thin 1-0 loss to perennial power Franklin Regional.

The Warriors had the Panthers playing their style for most of the game.

“We take a lot of enjoyment in the game, and that keeps us going,” senior goalkeeper Cooper Sisson said. “We knew we have to push on.”

A few key losses include senior forward Jake McClintock, senior forward Tyler King and sophomore midfielder J.J. Porter, who recently returned.

McClintock is out for the season, but he suited up and took the opening kick Tuesday against Penn Hills on the Warriors’ senior night.

“TK was an integral part of what we want to do,” Tsourekis said. “McClintock is the fastest kid on the team. He started out on fire. He’s been here all four years. It’s a big loss for him and us.”

Tsourekis said freshman Brennan Neubauer has played well, “like J.J. Porter did for us last year,” and senior midfielder Logan Swartz, who is kicking for the football team, has sparked the offense with nine goals and 10 assists.

Tsourekis said junior forward Daniel Carr also has helped fill the void left by his injured teammates. Others have been thrust into varsity soccer sooner than they might have expected.

“He is ripping it up,” Tsourekis said. “We have some guys who are coming of age.”

Another “loss” was senior Brady Paliscak, who decided to focus on football and did not come out for soccer.

He and Swartz have kicked for the Warriors.

“Brady was a 10-goal, 10-assist dude,” Tsourekis said. “He would have been a key part of our midfielder rotation.”

Sisson also has been a bright spot. The long-armed netminder is drawing attention from Division I schools. He has heard from Missouri State and Syracuse.

He is the cousin of the Warriors’ previous keeper, A.J. Visco, who is now starting in net for Cal (Pa.).

“I will work our with A.J.,” Sisson said. “I played striker last year while he was in goal.”

The Warriors have just five seniors on the roster, so the experience now could pay off next season and beyond.

“We have had some guys step up in big games,” senior midfielder Noah Brobst said. “We have played well despite the injuries. It’s been back and fourth. I think if we were still in 4A, we would be fine.”

Tsourekis, who played professionally, has an eye for formations and strategies that fit opponents, even if that means patch-working a lineup with inexperienced players.

“We see size and speed every game,” he said. “It can be a challenge. You have to reshuffle.”

The Warriors are in fourth place with three section games left. The top four teams make the playoffs.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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