Playoff-bound Yough boys soccer makes climb back to respectability

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Sunday, October 10, 2021 | 7:07 PM


Spectators are surprised by what they’re seeing on Cougar Mountain this season: a Yough boys soccer team making a steep climb back to respectability.

“I had some parents come up to me and say, ‘What Yough team is this?’ ” Cougars coach Dave Vilchek said. “We’re playing well. We’re possessing with purpose. We want to outpossess opponents. This is the first team in my six years that has a stud at every position.”

A change in style also has led to a change in attitude for Yough (7-6, 7-4 Section 3-2A), which has clinched a WPIAL playoff spot for the first time since 2016.

The Cougars have eight wins combined over the past four seasons, including five section wins.

“We’re not a dump-and-run team anymore,” said junior forward Joe Obeldobel, who was leading the team with 16 goals. “We’re one big family. Everyone cheers for each other. Our bench energy is insane.”

Maybe that is because the team has young energy across the board. Vilchek, 25, is one of the youngest coaches in the WPIAL. He blends in because he still looks young enough to be an upperclassman.

Vilchek, a director of technology at Hempfield, played at Yough and became an assistant soon after. He became the head coach two years ago.

“I never left,” Vilchek said. “I thought about playing college soccer, but then decided I wanted to stick around. I love it here.”

Yough has not had a winning season since 2014, Vilchek’s junior year. But the prospect exsists with four games remaining, including the Cougars’ Section 3 finale Monday night against visiting McGuffey.

“I had no idea we would be this good,” Obeldobel said. “Everyone took their game to the next level. We’re close. We win as a team and lose as a team. There have been a lot of little improvements. It’s such a good feeling to be winning again.”

Vilchek, whose brother, Alex, was a dynamic goal scorer for Yough about five years ago, seems to have a close connection with his players, a reflection of his age and his knowledge of the game. The younger Vilchek had 41 goals in a season before playing at Slippery Rock.

“I know the guys and have watched them come up through the program,” Vilchek said. “I have known Joe for a long time. Parker’s (Lilliock) stepdad coached me. It’s been fun to watch them grow up — from a different perspective, through different eyes.”

And different setups on the field.

Yough started out in a 4-4-2 formation with two center midfielders, but changed its scheme later in the season when five starters left the lineup because of covid protocols and other reasons, using what Vilchek called a “diamond midfield” with senior Jake Krunemaker moving to a center defensive spot.

Sophomore Austin Matthews took the right outside backer spot, with senior Aidan Aird on the left side, and senior Wyatt Fender also finding a key spot on defense for the Cougars.

“It really worked for us, and everything clicked,” Vilcheck said.

Aird and Lilliock also have been scoring threats on a stat sheet that shows a number of scorers.

Yough played with a full-strength lineup for the first time since the starters went out when it hosted Brownsville last Tuesday (5-1 win).

Vilchek said the team is doing what it can to increase numbers at the youth level to improve the feeder system.

“We had an event at a field in Lowber and had about 80 to 90 kids,” Vilchek said. “About 40 guys came out from the high school to work with them. It was more than a fundraiser.

“The thing with our team is there is a strong sense of community.”

Yough’s girls team is a perennial contender in the WPIAL. While the boys team supports the girls, it would like some of the limelight once in a while.

“We’re really happy the girls are so good, it’s great to see,” Obeldobel said. “But we’re real tired of it. People ask us, ‘Did the girls team win?’ We want them to ask if we won, too. More people are saying, ‘Good game, Joe.’ ”

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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