Quaker Valley boys soccer values ‘brotherhood’ more than championships

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Friday, November 16, 2018 | 9:27 PM


Quaker Valley’s soccer program has two annual targets — WPIAL and PIAA championships — but this season’s team might have developed something more special than its traditional trek to the playoffs.

This team became a “family,” according to Quaker Valley coach Andrew Marshall.

“It’s always been a close group, though I think this team in particular really has given us a culture and true sense of family,” he said. “Sometimes that’s more valuable than a number on a sign or a trophy. That’s the legacy they passed on to the next group to make us stronger.”

In every family, there is also tough love.

Marshall benched some of his players, several of them starters on last season’s state championship team, after an uncharacteristic 0-3 start to the season. The Quakers responded with a 17-game win streak before the WPIAL championship game, which they lost to Shady Side Academy on penalty kicks.

“A lot of people were mad, because we were the defending champions,” Will Andrews said. “A lot of us had played well last year, so we expected to have our spots. But after a while we understood that we needed to prove to coach that we were as good as we thought we were. Everyone who lost a spot worked hard and got it back.”

Senior captains Nolan Carver and Dom Lagnese and Andrews agreed with their coach that this was the closest Quakers team in their high school careers.

Their friendships were formed by playing together for 12 years, winning a WPIAL championship in 2016 and a PIAA title in 2017. Their brotherly loyalty to each other was strengthened by adversity and sacrifice.

Lagnese stepped up long before anyone thought about the 2018 team.

He became the goalie, a position he had never played, in his sophomore season.

“He reluctantly said ‘yes’ for three years and played a position he didn’t necessarily want to play, but the team needed it,” Marshall said. “I think Dom Lagnese embodied the spirit of this group. I think he’s someone that other players would do anything for and want to fight for a guy like that.”

That is why no one was disappointed in Lagnese after a fluky goal that went through his hands ended Quaker Valley’s season.

“I flubbed the goal, so that didn’t help our chances in our last game, but they were next to me, not mad at me all,” Lagnese said. “They were really supportive. None of the things they said were them being upset. It was all love, and that’s why I did what I did when I switched to goalie. I’d do it again every time for those guys.”

The Quakers’ first taste of hardship could be traced back to one year ago when Carver broke his leg in the state championship game.

“Nolan’s a man amongst boys,” Marshall said. “We all knew what he went through and how hard we worked to get back. He wouldn’t tell me this season he was injured, but I think some steps he had shooting pain up his leg. He played, didn’t complain and set an example.”

Quaker Valley experienced déjà vu when underclassmen captain Weston Grant — he was responsible for integrating freshmen onto the team — had a similarly gruesome injury in the first half of a 2-1 PIAA quarterfinal loss to Deer Lakes.

At first shaken, the team resolved to play for Grant.

Lagnese called the team’s performance when the game resumed “probably our best soccer all year,” because, “we played for something bigger than us.”

David Lipton scored a goal to tie Deer Lakes before the team’s season ended.

“We were obviously disappointed about the loss, but I knew we all just wanted to see Westy,” Carver, who was brought to tears at the sight of the injury, said. “We wanted to go to the hospital, but he was undergoing surgery. We all visited him as a team the next morning and that definitely helped to talk about the game and not go through it alone.”

That the team felt let down by an early exit in the state playoffs, shows just how successful the program has been in recent years.

“We were undefeated in our section, WPIAL finalists, played in the quarterfinals of states, and we’re disappointed with those results,” Marshall said. “That’s record-setting for most programs. The boys set a high standard and didn’t reach what they wanted in terms of results, but look at the spirit of our group and the culture they’ve formed. We’ve had trophies and awards, but I think they gave us brotherhood.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.

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