Pine-Richland boys soccer looking to bounce back from pair of tough section losses

Sunday, September 17, 2017 | 11:00 PM

Last week was a challenging one for the Pine-Richland boys soccer team in Section 1-AAAA.

After defeating North Hills, 2-0, on Monday, the Rams (2-2-2, 1-2) dropped two consecutive overtime contests against its rival squads.

First, Butler defeated Pine-Richland, 2-1, on a goal scored with 1 minute, 37 seconds left in the second overtime. Then, the Rams lost their to North Allegheny by the same score when the Tigers scored on a penalty kick with 44 seconds remaining in overtime.

But you won't hear any pessimism from coach Jon Conner. Instead, Conner sees the string of tough-luck losses as an early-season learning opportunity. Plus, he said there are many positives to take away from their most recent loss.

“We went down 1-0 in the first half and scored one midway through in the second stanza,” he said. “Just to extend it into overtime is big, because when you get to that point against a good team, you just want to keep giving yourself chances.

“To come back and tie it up and send it to overtime, they're definitely one of the best teams in the state. We know we can compete with them, and we showed it.”

Midfielder Abhinav Venkatakrishnan scored the equalizer against the Tigers to force overtime. Conner was complimentary of Venkatakrishnan's play as well as the efforts of fellow midfielders Brian McCarthy and Vittorio Orsini.

In addition to the strong play of their midfielders, the Rams received stalwart performances from their defense.

“Tom Fest, our goalie, he's been playing well,” Conner said. “We expect him to make four to five fantastic saves, and he understands that. Our two center backs, Gabe Schoone and Greg Shulkosky, they did a nice job stopping the attack and meeting that first runner. And that's a tough North Allegheny team to stop.

“Steve Gleyze and Vince Sangpachatanaruk were the other guys in the back four that did a great job. We played in our end more then we would've liked, but I thought we were organized.”

While Conner admitted the pair of section losses made this past week a tough one to swallow, he said the players are looking forward to turning the page quickly when they take on Seneca Valley at 7:30 p.m. at home Tuesday.

“The guys understand that they can play with anyone in the state, and we relish the opportunity to get back out there and play again at this level,” Conner said. “We can compete. We just need a break or two.

“We'll work a little bit harder and in different situations, find some tactical things we need to do, and I think it will work out for us.

“They understand that, and they're mature kids. They're up for the challenge, and they are hungry.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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