Playoff berth means progress for Penn Hills boys soccer team

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Sunday, October 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Penn Hills boys soccer team spent 17 years trying to climb out of the wilderness and find the route back to the WPIAL playoffs. A strong second half of the season allowed the Indians to finish fourth in Section 4-3A to accomplish that goal.

In the first round, 15th-seeded Penn Hills drew Section 1 champion and second-seeded Hampton, which also beat the Indians in their last postseason appearances in 2004.

Penn Hills coach Ryan Hankey enjoyed the irony but was quick to note what this season showed for the Indians’ progress as a program.

Penn Hills collected wins over West Mifflin and his alma mater — Gateway — for the first time in his tenure.

“It’s part of our maturity level,” Hankey said. “It’s all about learning and development. We’re always trying to take our game to another level. Our goal has always been to make the playoffs. This year, it was very realistic.”

The Talbots, who went 15-1 in the regular season, only conceding eight goals, were a stout first test for a group without postseason experience.

Penn Hills’ girls soccer team also qualified for the playoffs and drew a tough first opponent. The Indians finished the regular season with a 9-7-1 record, including a 6-5-1 mark in Section 3-3A.

This is the 16th-seeded Indians second straight trip to the playoffs, where they were paired against two-time defending state champion Mars in the first round.

The Planets went 12-0-1 in the regular season, collecting 12 straight victories after drawing with Seneca Valley to open the year.

Both teams are hoping this will set up the programs for sustained interest and success moving forward.

“We are raising the standards and raising the expectations,” Hankey said. “We had to know that we deserved to make the playoffs. That was my saying throughout the end of the year. We deserve to make the playoffs, and we had to earn it. The boys went out and earned it.”

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