Shady Side Academy boys soccer attacking season with championship aspirations
Saturday, September 26, 2020 | 11:01 AM
Just like every year, the Shady Side Academy boys soccer team is considered one of the top teams in WPIAL Class 2A this season and rightfully so.
For the past four years, Shady Side has become a fixture in the WPIAL Class 2A finals at Highmark Stadium. The team won back-to-back WPIAL titles in 2017 and 2018 and also made an appearance in the 2016 finals.
Last year was the first time in four years that Shady Side didn’t make a trip to the WPIAL finals, but coach Ed Ellsworth and company are looking to change their fortunes in 2020 after last year’s 2-0 semifinal loss to Quaker Valley, which went on to win WPIAL and PIAA titles.
“We had a beautiful team last year, but it was an inexperienced team,” Ellsworth said. “We played a really exciting match against a historic team in the semifinals, but the fact is that we feel like we are well poised to win another.”
Zach Conti, who splits his time between the field and the net with Bruce David, midfielders Sam Farner and Joey Anania and senior forward Hazem Hamda are all back for Shady Side. They lead a talented contingent that have been around for a few years and knows what it will take to return to the WPIAL final. Ellsworth believes having that experience will be crucial.
“Our program relies on that experience. Our program is a heritage program, so these kids, a lot of them, have watched us and saw us play in the WPIAL finals and the kids talk about the memory of being there in the stands,” Ellsworth said. “Then you have kids that know what the pressure is like to play in a WPIAL final or a WPIAL semifinal and win a championship. A couple of them have two titles, so yeah, it is important to know that you know how to get there.”
Just like other schools around the WPIAL, Shady Side lost out on crucial training time when the coronavirus pandemic halted offseason activities and canceled spring sports. Rather than resting on their laurels, Ellsworth and his players used the downtime as motivation to train even harder.
“A lot of those guys saw seniors lose out on an entire sports season, so it’s something we talk about,” Ellsworth said. “One of the mantras we talk about is to ‘train like today is the last day’ and that approach I think has helped us. We’ve kept focus on that and never lose sight of the fact that we don’t know where this will take us. We’re optimistic, we’re hopeful, but we don’t really know for sure.”
The pandemic has already affected Shady Side’s season. While some teams started Sept. 14, Shady Side delayed the start of its season until Sept. 24.
With the season in front of them and expectations as high as ever, Shady Side Academy has one thing on its mind and that’s getting back to Highmark Stadium and lifting another WPIAL trophy.
“That’s all we talk about around here,” Ellsworth said. “We never talk about anything other than getting to those championship games and winning them. That’s an expectation around here. It drives us in practice and I’d argue our practices are more competitive than a lot of people’s games. It’s a competitive culture here.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Tags: Shady Side Academy
More High School Soccer Boys• Trib HSSN girls, boys soccer rankings: Week ending Sept. 24, 2023
• Despite challenges, Chartiers Valley boys soccer stays in contention
• Thomas Jefferson boys soccer overcomes injuries to get off to strong start
• Despite graduation losses, Sewickley Academy boys soccer off to fast start
• Pine-Richland boys soccer ramps up defense, gets back in playoff chase