Plum boys soccer passes tests in 1st round of section play

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Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM


It wasn’t easy — Raf Kolankowski would be the first one to say it never is — but the Plum boys soccer team passed all of its tests in the first cycle of Section 4-3A play and sits at the top of the standings in its quest for another section championship.

New faces and some familiar ones teamed up to lift Plum to eight victories in a row since a season-opening loss to Upper St. Clair.

The Mustangs pitched five shutouts and outscored all seven of its section opponents by a combined 27-2 through a 6-0 win over Penn Hills on Sept. 19.

“The guys have been playing really well and buying into everything that we’re teaching them,” Kolankowki said.

“So far, they’ve been pretty resilient. We’ve gotten punched in the face a few times, but they reacted well and continued playing. Good results came out of that.”

Kolankowski said that despite the strong start and good results, there was no time to rest as the teams they defeated in the first half of the section — they tallied one-goal wins in regulation over Franklin Regional (1-0) and Latrobe (2-1) and needed overtime to defeat Penn-Trafford — would be coming out in the second half looking for payback.

Plum was to begin the second half of section play last Thursday against McKeesport before a nonsection game at West Mifflin two days later.

Those led up to a rematch at Franklin Regional on Tuesday.

The Mustangs and Panthers, co-champions in the section last year, played down to the wire in a game Aug. 31 at Plum that got a little chippy before it was all said and done.

Senior forward Zach Mauro stepped up for his team and capitalized on one of several scoring opportunities the Mustangs had in the first half.

He possessed the ball wide inside 20 yards, dribbled in, and fired a ball to the lower-right corner of the FR goal that beat Panthers’ keeper Aryan Selokar.

The Plum defense — senior keeper Owen Zalewski, center backs in junior Garrett Chandler and senior Tyler Yurisinec, junior right back Noah Smith, and junior left back Zach Carnahan — then helped the lead stand up for a 1-0 victory.

A week later, Plum edged Latrobe, 2-1, on a pair of goals from senior Travis Kodman and followed it up with two goals from senior Tristan Ralph and an own goal in a 3-0 shutout of Obama.

After the win against Obama and a 5-0 shutout of Gateway, Plum needed overtime to dispatch Penn-Trafford.

The Mustangs scored first 15 minutes in on a goal from Smith assisted by Chandler. The Warriors countered with a penalty-kick score in the 56th minute.

Plum got the game-winner a minute and a half into the first extra period on a goal from senior Brady French.

“We got a cross into the box, and P-T defenders weren’t able to clear the ball,” Kolankowski said.

“The ball found its way to Brady. He was in good position at the right time and did a nice job of finishing it.”

Kolankowski said he and his players had a good idea of what to expect with a number of good teams in the section.

“We also found out a lot of things about the section and also about ourselves,” he said.

“Most of the games in the section have been a dogfight. They’ve been close and competitive which is good. We know it will be an interesting stretch run to the playoffs. All of the teams, I’m sure, will be better the second time around. We have to be ready for everything and be better, too.”

Riverview doubles win total

The Riverview boys soccer team won just one game last year.

Through eight games this fall, the young Raiders players already doubled that 2022 victory total and played competitively, coach Mickey Namey said, in a number of other contests.

And they have plans to add on.

Riverview was 2-6 overall and 1-5 in Section 3-A after a tough 4-1 loss to Trinity Christian on Sept. 19. The Raiders gained a 1-0 lead with 20 minutes left in the second half on a goal from junior captain Chris O’Toole.

But injuries and tired legs, Namey said, caught up to the team. Trinity scored four times down the stretch to claim the win.

Namey credited Quinn Fischer with several key saves to keep Riverview in the game.

The Raiders achieved happier outcomes early on with a pair of 5-4 wins, one against section rival St. Joseph, and another against Chartiers-Houston.

Riverview needed overtime to take down the Spartans, but junior Simon Meals made the most of the opportunity with the game-winner.

Sophomore Eben Ulrich scored twice, O’Toole had a goal and two assists, and freshman Carson Bodnar also tallied a goal.

O’Toole scored four goals as Riverview rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to top Chartiers-Houston. Bodnar tallied the game-winner with less than four minutes left in regulation off an assist from freshman Liam Ulrich.

Meals and fellow senior captain Drew Hunter assisted on goals, and freshman goalkeeper Kyle Schuetz picked up his first varsity win.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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