Plum’s Luke Kolankowski selected as Valley News Dispatch Boys Soccer Player of the Year
Saturday, December 4, 2021 | 8:16 PM
Luke Kolankowski has always seen himself as a facilitator in the offense for the Plum boys soccer team.
“I feel that a nice assist and getting a teammate a goal is better than getting a goal yourself,” Kolankowski said. “No matter who scores, the win is the most important thing.”
With Kolankowski in the lineup, Plum won a lot. This year was no exception as the Mustangs went 17-4-1 overall and finished tied with Franklin Regional for the Section 4-3A title at 13-1.
He was second on the team with 14 goals, and for the third consecutive year, he paced the team in assists. Kolankowski provided 17 helpers, including multiple assists in four games.
“From the first day he played varsity, he was always pass-first and shoot later. He was always able to find people,” Luke’s father and Plum’s coach Raf Kolankowski said. “He’s always had that knack. This year, we relied on him a little more to score some goals for us, and he was able to do that in some big games. He had a little more shoot mentality, and that made him more dangerous in creating scoring chances.”
Kolankowski scored twice as Plum dispatched Montour in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs Oct. 23. He then found the back of the net in the Mustangs’ 3-0 quarterfinal win over Thomas Jefferson.
He also had Plum’s lone penalty-kick score in a 2-1 shootout loss to Franklin Regional in the WPIAL consolation game.
“He stepped up and was able to make a difference in a lot of the big games we had this year, whether it was against a very good opponent, a playoff or a game we had to win,” coach Kolankowski said. “There were times he would move up and switch from midfield to forward, and he would play multiple positions for the betterment of the team. His presence gave opposing teams a lot to think about.”
Kolankowski was voted the Section 4 Player of the Year and captured All-WPIAL honors. He was recognized along with 13 others from all four WPIAL classes with all-state honors by the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association.
“I knew I had a good season, but while in the playoffs, I didn’t think anything like all-state,” Luke Kolankowski said. “Then, when we were playing Thomas Jefferson, their coach came up to me and was like, ‘You are a great player, and you’re getting all-state this year. I am telling all the coaches to vote.’ I was like, ‘Wow.’ To receive that, it was an amazing feeling. It’s a great honor.”
Kolankowski is recognized again as the Valley News Dispatch Boys Soccer Player of the Year amongst a field of strong contenders which included Fox Chapel senior standout forward Sean Ahia.
How do you feel your season went personally?
I think it went great. I feel I accomplished a lot. I had a great time again playing with my teammates. It felt great to be a part of all that we accomplished this season.
The team had another great season. How would you rank it in terms of the successes you had?
This was the closest the team has been throughout my years of high school. We did a great job but just fell a little short the last two games. But I think we represented (Plum) really well, and I am proud of that.”
You had three battles with Franklin Regional this year. How intense has that rivalry become?
Last year when we moved to (Class 3A), the rivalry really picked up. Franklin Regional has always been one of our toughest opponents, and a lot of the games have been pretty close and competitive. We know the games are always going to be great.
Who were the most dynamic players you played against this season?
We played Butler in a scrimmage, and they have Landon Mohney. He’s really good. He knows what he’s doing out there and is really tough to play against. In section, definitely (Franklin Regional’s) Anthony DiFalco, the way he led his team to how far they went. He’s just a general out there on the field. Whenever the game is falling short for them, he can take the game into his own hands, do his thing and win the games.
How tough was it to not reach your goal of getting to states? You were so close.
We lost to Franklin Regional the first time, but we won big the second time, so we went into the (Class 3A consolation game) with a lot of confidence, thinking we were going to go to states. I think we were a little tired from the West A game (in the semifinals). But Franklin was also tired. It was tough to end the season that way on penalty kicks.
How tough was it to see teammate Ben Pittman go down with that season-ending leg injury?
Ben was ready to have a great season. It was a tough loss. He was one of our key players in the middle. When he went down in the (first) Franklin game, we thought he was just hurt a little but it ended up being a lot worse. We couldn’t believe it. But he was such an inspiration. We put his name on shirts and wrist tape. He was rolling around in a wheelchair, but he made it to as many things as possible. We played for him.
What do you feel is the legacy you’re leaving with the program?
All the things we accomplished the last couple of years, we did together as a team. I hope future teams can follow that and see how it can lead to wins and championships.
Are you excited to see what next year’s Plum team can do?
I am really excited. I plan to go to some pickup games with the guys and do what I can to help them get ready for next season. There is a lot of talented players coming back, and they should be right there again in the section and in the playoffs.
What was it like playing for Plum and having your dad as head coach?
At the start, when he first became the coach, it was a little weird. I didn’t know whether to call him coach Raf or dad and all that. After a while, it just felt normal, and it was good to have him as my coach. I felt I had the freedom to play my game. It wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling.
Do you have plans set for playing in college?
I am still looking and trying to find the best fit for me. I am talking to Slippery Rock, Cal (Pa.) and Seton Hill. I am leaning towards studying business and finance or mechanical engineering. Academics definitely comes first, and then I am just trying to find a good school for soccer to go along with it.
Do you play another sport, in school or out?
I played basketball my freshman and sophomore year. I was thinking about playing basketball again this year, but with my cup (soccer) schedule this winter, including two trips to Florida, I wasn’t going to be able to be fully committed to the basketball team.
Who is your favorite professional soccer player?
I would say Neymar or Christian Pulisic. Neymar is just so smooth on the ball and shows a lot of skill. Pulisic, to see him go from PA Classics to now playing in the Premier League, it’s just crazy how far he’s come.
Do you have any special Christmas traditions with family or friends?
We just have a Christmas Eve party at my house every year. All my friends and my brother Tyler’s friends come over. We just have a great time.
If you could have dinner with three famous people, alive or dead, who would they be?
Christiano Ronaldo, Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds. It would be amazing to sit down and talk to each one of them. That would be a great dinner.
What is something interesting about you that nobody knows about you?
I design, make and sell shirts for my mom’s shop (Deb’s Threads Embroidery in Plum). We do screen printing, too. I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now. Usually, it is for people in the Plum community. I make Plum shirts for them, and sometimes make them for my friends.
Fox Chapel, Sr., F
An offensive catalyst for the Foxes, he scored a team-best 24 goals to help Fox Chapel post a 15-4-1 record and reach the semifinals of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. Ahia earned All-WPIAL laurels.
Plum, Sr., MF
The All-WPIAL performer helped control the midfield for the Mustangs. Scored to help Plum top Montour in the WPIAL first round and assisted on the Mustangs’ lone regulation goal against Franklin Regional in the third-place matchup.
Kiski Area, Jr., MF
The Section 1-3A player of the year and an All-WPIAL selection, Bordoy scored 18 goals and led the Cavaliers in assists with 22. Also a VND first-team selection last year, he helped Kiski Area win 16 games and make the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Leechburg, Sr., MF/F
Earned all-section honors, scored nine goals and added a team-best eight assists for a Blue Devils team that took third in Section 2-2A at 6-3-1, finished 9-5-1 overall and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs. A VND second-team selection last year.
Kiski Area, Jr., MF
Part of a potent Cavaliers offense, Coleman produced eight goals and three assists and helped stabilize the midfield for a Kiski Area team that won 12 section games and earned the No. 6 seed for the WPIAL Class 3A tournament. An All-WPIAL pick.
Burrell, Sr., MF
The veteran performer shined again and tied for the team lead with eight goals as the Bucs earned a berth to the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. Croushore was recognized for his efforts with selection to the All-WPIAL team.
Deer Lakes, Jr., MF
Hanes led Deer Lakes in goals with 15 as the Lancers finished runner-up to Shady Side Academy in Section 2-2A. Made his mark throughout the WPIAL and was honored with selection to the All-WPIAL team.
Springdale, Jr., MF
A second-team VND selection last year, Mitchell made his mark again this season, scoring 12 goals and assisting on four others to help the Dynamos to 11 wins and a berth in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals. He garnered All-WPIAL recognition.
Plum, Jr., MF
Pittman led the Mustangs with 20 goals, was second on the team with 15 assists and was honored with selection to the All-WPIAL team. He scored his team’s only regulation goal in Plum’s penalty-kick loss to rival Franklin Regional in the WPIAL third-place game.
Fox Chapel, Sr., D
An anchor in the back for the Foxes, Schutzman helped Fox Chapel pitch a pair of shutouts in the WPIAL playoffs and limit Seneca Valley to one goal in the semifinals. Also a VND first-team pick last year, he was honored with selection to the All-WPIAL team.
Fox Chapel, Jr., F
Tabor scored a number of big goals for the Foxes, including a first-half tally to help them roll past Penn-Trafford in the WPIAL Class 4A first round. He finished second on the team in scoring with 15 goals and earned All-WPIAL honors.
Nick Braun, Deer Lakes, Jr., GK
Jared Cushey, Knoch, Sr., D
Campbell Curry, Kiski Area, Sr., F
William Lawrence, Springdale, So., F
Owen McDermott, Leechburg, Jr., GK
Chris O’Toole, Riverview, Fr., MF/F
Ashton Redmond, Leechburg, Jr., MF/F
Michael Wesleski, Plum, Sr., D
Colin Westerberg, Fox Chapel, Jr., D
Owen Zimmerman, Kiski Area, Sr., F
Isaac Wetzel, Freeport, Jr., MF
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
More High School Soccer Boys• Trib HSSN Top 21 Stories of 2021: New Castle basketball adds to trophy case
• A-K Valley senior spotlight: Springdale’s Andrew Haus
• Franklin Regional soccer star DiFalco commits to Duquesne
• 4 from WPIAL tabbed state soccer coaches of year
• Westmoreland Senior Spotlight: Norwin’s Riley Zimmerman