Signal Item boys soccer preview: After playoff seasons, teams look to take next step
Monday, July 29, 2019 | 12:01 AM
The boys soccer teams at Chartiers Valley, Carlynton and Bishop Canevin started the 2018 season with the goal of making the playoffs. Mission accomplished.
But the other thing they had in common was a first-round exit. The teams open 2019 hoping to better that performance. A brief look at each:
The Crusaders finished 7-3-2 in Section 4A under in coach Al Gestiehr’s first season. The team battled through a tough schedule — in terms of having several games rescheduled and in terms of strength of competition.
The biggest change this season might be in Gestiehr’s philosophy. He said he didn’t vary his game plans enough, something he intends to fix this fall.
“I think this year, we need to be willing to change to different systems, try different things,” he said. “Change things to maximize one or two players rather than changing personnel on the field.”
Two of those players who could be featured more prominently are Nevan Crossey and Jack Staley, who scored seven goals each. Because they were asked to take on a lot last season, Gestiehr said, they often played well in spurts then tailed off for stretches.
That was true of the team, but Gestiehr doesn’t think that will be an issue anymore.
“I hope they can just hit the ground running and have that consistency,” he said. “There’s definitely a physical improvement and maturity in terms of the game I am seeing with several guys.”
Seniors Luke Kaupinis, Riz Saldanha and Jack Jenkins, mainly role players last season, will look to fill more significant minutes.
In coach Nick Showman’s second season, the Cougars went 7-4-1 in Section 3A. Carlynton will try to make it two consecutive playoff berths but must make up for the graduation of six starters.
Showman has the luxury of returning striker Carnel Kerr, who was among the top goal-scorers in Class A with 29. Also back is sophomore Lucas Prepelka, whose brother, Gabe, was one of the graduation losses.
“(Lucas) didn’t have the stats like we thought he might, but he did everything we could have asked from a freshman,” Showman said.
Ryon Fagon missed much of last season with an injury, but he is healthy and, after adding muscle, should be a stalwart on the Cougars’ back line.
“They started buying into what me and my assistants put in place, and we’ve seen it throughout the summer that they’re starting to expand on it,” Showman said. “Soccer IQ, that’s kind of what I’m talking about. They are playing soccer how I want them to play, and they’re doing it on their own.”
Coach Garrett Mackenzie knew last season would have its share of ups and downs. After two years of graduating most of the key players from their 2016 WPIAL title team, the Colts were looking for new players to fill key roles.
As inexperienced players do, they performed in fits and starts. The Colts made the playoffs (6-5-1 in Section 4-3A), but Mackenzie is expecting more this season.
“I think I definitely see some maturity,” he said. “I see some guys who now have a year under their belts. Most of them didn’t practice with the varsity until last year.”
Leading the way will be senior captain Anthony Chiurrazi, an all-WPIAL selection last season. He is the last of the players who were regular contributors to the WPIAL title team.
Mackenzie also is expecting Harry Eckenrode and JR Figura to be cornerstones of the team.
“What I think I am more confident in is we have a bit more depth,” Mackenzie said. “Guys are challenging for positions. I know where two or three guys are going to play, and the rest of the positions are up for grabs.”