Quaker Valley boys add to school’s soccer legacy with WPIAL, PIAA championship appearances

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Sunday, November 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Quaker Valley boys soccer is one of the most renowned programs in WPIAL history, thanks to 10 WPIAL and nine PIAA championships.

The Quakers have won the most state titles in soccer among WPIAL schools.

And the program’s irrefutable reputation wasn’t tainted a bit in 2023 as the Panthers advanced to the championship rounds of both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.

QV’s preeminent coach J.J. Veshio had mixed emotions.

“This was a bittersweet season because we lost Gene Klein this summer,” Veshio said. “I wanted to win a state championship for him and while we came up just short, I know he would be proud of the work we did this year.

Quaker Valley soccer may not always win gold, but I believe we play the best brand of soccer, and I think we did that this year. It was another fantastic season. Our standards are very high, so it can feel ‘less than’ when we do not win gold, but our players have improved the game in how we played this year and it’ll only benefit future QV players.”

Quaker Valley (20-5) lost a gut-wrenching 2-1 decision in double overtime to District 3 runner-up Camp Hill (21-2-2) in the PIAA Class 2A finals Nov. 17 at Eagle View Middle School Field in Mechanicsburg.

The Quakers had advanced to the championship round by beating Bedford, 7-0, Shady Side Academy, 2-1, and Central Columbia, 1-0.

Junior forward Jack Karwoski scored the winning goal against Central Columbia, lifting QV to the PIAA final for the 15th time.

“I am very proud of our players and staff in our pursuit of PIAA gold,” Veshio said. “I feel we played a fantastic brand of soccer that helped elevate the game and soccer in general in the WPIAL and PIAA.

“While I am very sad that we were unable to win after going ahead by a goal (against Camp Hill), I am not disappointed in our effort. Our boys battled until the last second and just came up short.”

Quaker Valley captured state titles in 1985, ‘91, ‘93, ‘95, ‘96, 2000, ‘17, ‘19 and ‘21.

The Quakers edged Lewisburg 1-0 (5-4 penalty kicks) in 2021 in a classic. Nick Allan, then a promising sophomore defender, cashed in on the winning goal.

Now a well-established senior midfielder, Allan netted QV’s lone goal against Camp Hill just 3:50 into the first half.

With a free kick from about 30 yards out, Allen lofted his shot above the reach of goalkeeper Mac Sarff and into the top right side of the net.

QV protected the 1-0 lead until Camp Hill tied it with 22:35 left in the second half as Cole Nelson set up Ty Kirchoff for a goal.

The game’s winning goal was scored by Richard Lutkins on a corner, assisted by Jack Kennedy.

The Quakers enjoyed an advantage in scoring chances in the exciting game’s extra sessions until Lutkins’ heroics in the eighth minute of the second OT.

Camp Hill, which moved up from Class A last year, captured its third PIAA crown in its fifth finals appearance. The Lions won their first two in 2016-2017.

Another WPIAL championship also wasn’t in the cards for Quaker Valley as South Park edged the No. 2 seed Quakers, 1-0, to win the title Oct. 2 at Highmark Stadium.

It was No. 1 South Park’s first WPIAL championship in boys soccer since 2014.

The Quakers were district champs in 1985, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’96, ’99, 2012, ’16, ’19 and ’21.

“I was very proud of our team,” Veshio said. “We played soccer the right way and did everything right but score. Ultimately, that’s what matters most, but I take pride in knowing that our players tried their best to elevate the game and engage in a brand of soccer that is proper.”

QV gained a spot in the finals by defeating No. 15 Jeannette, 9-1, No. 10 Elizabeth Forward, 7-0, and No. 6 Shady Side Academy, 4-3.

“We had a great run in the WPIAL playoffs,” Veshio said, “and I believe our style of play set us up for the PIAA tournament.”

South Park remained unbeaten at 22-0 and kept its goals-against total at just nine. It was the 13th shutout for the Eagles, who outscored their opponents 89-9 and the seven other Section 1 teams 67-4 prior to the state playoffs.

South Park defeated No. 16 Yough, 2-0, No. 8 Keystone Oaks, 3-1, and No. 4 Avonworth, 4-2, in reaching the WPIAL finals.

During the regular season, QV and Avonworth tied for first in Section 4 with 11-1 records.

The Quakers were one of the highest-scoring teams in western Pennsylvania during the WPIAL season and playoffs with a 109-14 advantage in goals scored.

Karwoski accounted for two goals and two assists in the WPIAL semifinal round, then recorded a hat trick against Bedford in QV’s first-round PIAA playoff win.

Senior forward Kiril Grin (14 goals) and Allan (13 goals) proved to be an imposing one-two threat offensively in the regular season.

Allan collected two goals and three assists against Bedford. Grin and junior defender Carter Turk chipped in with a goal apiece.

“I thought we played well,” Allan said following the WPIAL playoffs. “We started off strong with (two) big wins. In the semifinals, we played a very tough team in Shady Side Academy. We won in a very emotional 4-3 game, and we were playing great at the right time.

“We knew it was going to a very tight game against South Park. Even though the result doesn’t show it, I thought we played great. We had a good number of chances but just couldn’t finish.”

Allan repeated as an All-WPIAL selection and was joined as WPIAL stars by QV senior forward Bennett Haas and senior midfielder Matteo Castellini.

“There have been a lot of great players honored with this achievement, and I’m grateful to be alongside them,” Allan said. “I found out I was selected after a practice. J.J. announced that Matteo, Bennett and I made it, and I think we all had the same reaction: We were all happy for each other.”

Junior goalkeeper Nathan Pribik posted both clean sheets in the PIAA tournament — the Quakers’ 14th and 15th of the year.

“Nathan has been wonderful for us,” Veshio said. “He’s very composed in goal, and we can rely on him to help organize the defense end of the team, which is always helpful.”

QV’s postseason lineup consisted of Grin, Haas and Karwoski as strikers; Allan, Castellini and senior Cameron Diggins at midfield; sophomores Sutton Hoehl and Tanner Schultz, junior Andrew Vescio and Turk on defense; with Pribik at goalkeeper.

The 6-foot-1 Pribik started 20 times this season; sophomore Xander Vescio was QV’s starting goalkeeper for five games.

Top subs included junior MF Colin Benge, sophomores Levi Carter (D), Isaac Williams (F) and Liam Miller (MF) and freshman Charlie Pyle (MF).

Grin, Haas and Allan were chosen to play for Class 2A at the Western Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association all-star games Nov. 25 at Pine-Richland.

Allan, Castellini (second year), Grin, Haas and Diggins were chosen all-section. Allan was an all-section pick for a third time and was a two-time section player of the year. He also was a team captain for two years.

Allan finished with 18 goals and 16 assists this season, giving him exactly 100 points (63 goals, 37 assists) for his career.

“Nick has been a versatile player for us and was asked to do a lot throughout his high school career,” Veshio said. “He played right wing his freshman year and center and right back his sophomore year. He played right back, center back, center midfield and striker last year. This year, he again played right back, center back and center midfield.

“It’s a lot to ask of someone, and he did it without hesitation.”

Veshio has been named section coach of the year three times and was honored as the PIAA Class 2A Coach of the Year in 2021.

QV racked up a 120-17 scoring advantage this season, averaging 4.8 goals and allowing 0.6 goals per game. The Quakers gave up just four goals in 12 section games.

After starting out with two close losses in the East-West Classic, QV won 17 of its next 18 in a stretch that included eight- and nine-game winning streaks.

The Quakers were 18-2 against WPIAL opponents in 2023, outscored their WPIAL playoff foes 20-5 and held an 11-3 scoring edge in the PIAA tournament.

Karwoski (20 goals, 13 assists), Haas (19, 17), Allan (18, 16) and Grin (17, 13) led the squad offensively. Benge also finished in double figures with 10 goals and 7 assists.

“I want to thank all of our players, parents, administrators, fans and alumni,” said Veshio, who was assisted by Sean Ryan and former QV players David Lipton and Dom Lagnese.

Veshio competed at QV and for Klein from 1999-2002 on squads that won PIAA and WPIAL titles and added a state runner-up finish.

As the Quakers’ coach, Veshio won WPIAL and PIAA championships in 2021, beating Lewisburg in the state tournament after Allan’s dramatic game-winning goal.

Veshio is 72-13-1 in his four seasons as coach starting with the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. His teams have finished 11-1-1, 23-2, 18-5 and 20-5 since 2019.

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