Playoff hopes still flickering for resilient Mt. Pleasant boys soccer team

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019 | 5:31 PM


Give Mt. Pleasant’s boys soccer players credit: All things considered, they’ll be able to say they stayed in the race until the race was over.

A key injury and some harried schematic changes made out of desperation sent the team sideways but didn’t stop it from chasing a WPIAL playoff spot.

A flickering flame could finally go out Thursday night — the final day for Section 2-AA games — or the Vikings might just play on.

Mt. Pleasant (6-7-1, 6-6-1) needs to beat Derry and have Burrell (9-7, 7-6) lose or tie against seventh-place Valley (to have a shot at fourth place and a postseason spot.

It’s a big ask, but stranger things have happened. Just look at this season for Mt. Pleasant.

“We have gone back to the drawing board a few times,” coach Floyd Snyder said. “But they have been a true team willing to play whatever role we have asked of them in order to help the team succeed.”

Senior defender and captain Arthur Bartlow broke his leg (off the field) earlier in the season and could not return, leaving a midfield void the Vikings could patch but not fix. Their key holding midfielder was gone.

The Vikings sat at 3-0-1 before the injury.

“Our season got turned upside down,” Snyder said. “Arthur was our leader and communicator out there on the field. He also had great vision. He was a great tackler and distributor and anticipated the next play very well, which made us very difficult to play against.”

Seniors Ryan Temple and Luke Hauger had to move into amped-up roles, as did juniors Tyler Salvatore and Lucas Toohey, who leads the team with 19 goals and seven assists.

“This group of young men have been shuffled around and played new positions and formations without any complaints,” Snyder said. “We stumbled for a few games after that but are now starting to get something going again. Unfortunately, in our section, things are so tight between our top five teams, you can’t afford to stumble or slip.”

Snyder reinforced his point with this reminder: Shady Side Academy finished in third and fourth place the last two years and won the WPIAL title each of those years.

Mt. Pleasant reached the WPIAL quarterfinals the last two years. Before that, it had not won advanced past the first round since 2001.

This year, lineup changes meant a switch from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-5-2 to crowd the midfield and try to get potential scorers wide. The move may have been rehearsed before, but Snyder never thought he’d actually have to use it in games.

“That took some time for the whole team to get used to since the defenders were put in a spot they never played before,” Hauger said. “We needed someone who could play similarly to Arthur, who was an aggressive ball player, to take his position. … After the injury, we knew we had to play harder than we ever have before to make it to the playoffs. The whole team was on the edge since the matchups in our section were all very close and games could have gone either way had we done things differently.”

If nothing else, this season will be remembered as a lesson in adversity. The resilient Vikings kept it close when things changed on a dime.

“We dealt with those issues by doing our best to give 110% to make up for section games we could have possibly won,” said Hauger, the kicker on the football team “We had to come together and try to make up for it.”

Floyd figured he had a playoff-caliber team at the start of the season and will look for the program to build for another postseason run next year.

“If things work out for us, we definitely will make the most of the opportunity,” Snyder said. “This group of young men takes a lot of pride in their school and community and would relish a chance to play in the postseason.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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