Plum leads A-K Valley contingent into boys soccer playoffs
Friday, October 11, 2019 | 6:20 PM
For the first time since 2005, the Class AAAA No. 1 Plum boys soccer team captured the Section 3-AAAA section title and will go into Monday’s nonconference regular-season finale against Allderdice with an undefeated record of 15-0-1.
The Mustangs have turned in one of the best seasons in program history. They’ve recorded eight shutouts and have produced a goal differential of 68-11.
“It’s been a good feeling with the team this year and basically everyone knows their roles and they’ve accepted them,” Plum coach Raf Kolankowski said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do moving forward.”
Tyler Kolankowski leads the team with 19 goals and 12 assists and his little brother Luke has commanded the midfield for the Mustangs, tallying 11 assists this season. Juniors DD Flowers and AJ Koma have also contributed greatly on the offensive side this year, scoring 14 and 11 goals respectively.
“The kids are excited. They know they have pretty much made history with the season that they have had,” Raf Kolankowski said. “Some of the goals that we set, they have met them. So now we have to set new goals coming into the playoffs and everyone is focused and looking forward to it.”
In his first season at the helm, Deer Lakes coach Daniel Yates has returned the No. 2 Deer Lakes Lancers to the Class AA playoffs, led them to back-to-back Section 2-AA titles and, after a 1-0 win over No. 3 Shady Side Academy, he has boosted their confidence to a new level.
“I’m new to high school soccer, I’m new to the boys, I’m new to this team, but they’ve taken what I’ve given them,” Yates said.
The Lancers (13-1, 13-3) still have #UnfinishedBusiness, a hash tag they created at the beginning of this season to signify their determination to build on the success of last year’s postseason run, which ended with a trip to the state finals. For now though, the Lancers are set on making their way to the Class AA WPIAL championship.
Last year, they fell just short, dropping a 1-0 decision to Shady Side Academy in the semifinals, but rebounded in the PIAA state tournament and ousted the Indians, 2-1, to punch their ticket to the state championship for the first time in school history.
“I told the boys, ‘Every single game from here on out is a WPIAL final,’” Yates said. “That’s how we have to treat it and that’s the mentality we’ll go forward with.”
Strong and Steady
For the past few years, the Springdale Dynamos have been working their way toward a Section 3-A title. This season, they finished tied with Carlynton after both teams produced a record of 10-2.
“It was great,” Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said. “The last three years, we have finished second and this year, we are sharing the title. But it’s great, especially with all the seniors out there that have been here for four years and have built up the program to where it is today.”
The Dynamos returned almost their entire starting lineup this season. The only shoes they had to fill were pretty big ones as they had to find a new goalkeeper after the graduation of Mike Zolnierczyk, who only allowed eight goals and recorded 13 shutouts during his senior season.
Insert Andrew Haus. In his first year starting on the varsity level, the sophomore goalkeeper has recorded eight shutouts and has only allowed nine goals, giving the Dynamos a reliable backstop between the posts.
“He’s exceeded my expectations,” Sanchez said. “That makes the entire defense and team confident in him. He’s playing more confident and the team is playing great, not having to worry about what is happening in the back. It’s been a complete team effort.”
In the driver’s seat
Most of the playoff field has been determined, but there are still a few schools left that control their playoff fortunes. The Highlands Golden Rams (6-6-3, 5-5-3) are one of those teams. With a game against section opponent Hampton scheduled for Monday, they are looking for a win or a tie to punch their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The rest of the field
Five other teams from around the A-K Valley area have already secured playoff berths after successful seasons.
Fox Chapel (10-3-3, 9-2-3) is at the top of the list. They finished second in Section 1-AAAA play and are coming off a stretch of games where they tied three times and turned in a 4-1 victory over Butler.
The Kiski Area Cavaliers (10-5-2, 8-4-2) have been steady all season long and are just starting to hit their stride. They’ve won six of their past seven games and have outscored opponents 25-7 over that same period of time.
Freeport (11-5-2, 9-3-2) will make its fifth straight playoff appearance after a year in which it recorded 11 shutouts and consistently played section opponents tough. They finished the season on a two-game win streak, outscoring their opponents, 9-0.
For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the Burrell Bucs (10-7, 8-6) will make an appearance in the WPIAL playoffs. They won five of their final six games, including a 3-2 win over Shady Side, and have a roster littered with young players looking to prove themselves on a big stage.
Riverview (7-6, 6-6) is the final A-K Valley boys soccer team to make a WPIAL playoff appearance. The Raiders are one of the more surprising stories of this season. With a roster made up of around 13 kids on a good day, the Raiders have secured a playoff bid for the first time since 2017.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .