Southmoreland boys soccer team expects bigger things

Wednesday, August 28, 2019 | 8:46 PM

Last season was a learning experience for Jeremy Niemiec in his first year as Southmoreland boys soccer coach.

Niemiec has made some adjustments going into his second season.

“Our biggest goal, as it has been in prior years, is to contend for a section title,” Niemiec said, “as well as securing a spot in the WPIAL playoffs. With that being said, we are taking a different approach at this season.

“In the past, it has always been looking at things that are so far out of reach in that time frame. We are going to focus solely on the task at hand, whether that be practice or a game. We aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves. That is when things start to get away from us.

“By no means did we have the season we wanted and expected last year. But ultimately, we grew as a team and accomplished the majority of goals that we set. I expect bigger and better things this season now that we have our feet underneath us.”

The Scotties took third in Section 3-2A, advanced to the WPIAL first round and finished 8-10 overall in 2018.

“My expectations for this group are very high,” said Niemiec, a former Southmoreland player. “Last year, we all experienced a ton of growing pains with having new first-year coaches and trying to promote a whole different style of play.”

A major reason for Niemiec’s optimism is the return of 10 starters from last year’s playoff squad, including senior midfielder/defender Kevin Barnhart and senior midfielders Hunter Fletcher, Noah Kinter and Kullen McCoy.

The other returning starters are juniors: midfielders Tyler Dunn, Brandon Mehall, Brendan Moore and Jake VanArsdale, defender Andrew Rodriguez and goalkeeper Matt Rodriguez, who also can play midfield.

“Noah Kinter, Jake VanArsdale, Hunter Fletcher and Kullen McCoy are our team leaders,” Niemiec said. “All they want to do is win. They are always at the head of the pack, pushing guys who may be struggling.

“We all lead in different ways, and that remains true for these four. But at the end of it, the common denominator is the level of care and passion they have.”

The versatile Kinter is a fourth-year starter. He can play outside midfielder, center midfielder or center forward.

“I expect the team to do well,” Kinter said. “We have a lot quality (players). If we are mentally strong, we are ready for a winning season. The quality we have means nothing if we don’t bring our best every day, collectively as a group.”

Niemiec has been experimenting at the goalkeeper position.

“(Rodriguez) has been our starting keeper in the past seasons,” Niemiec said. “He is a tremendous goalie and is also a great field player. So we are trying something new. We’ve been able to mold one of our other players into a goalie to allow Matt to see the field more.

“I know you don’t hear that too often, taking your legit starting goalkeeper and moving him to the field. The plan is to run a two-keeper system all season and play it game by game. This gives us more options moving forward. Our second keeper, (junior) Alec DeWitt, is making great strides in his new position.”

Southmoreland returns to Section 3-2A this season, with the same opponents as last year: Beth-Center, Brownsville, Charleroi, Washington, Waynesburg and Yough.

Charleroi posted a 12-0 section record and was a WPIAL semifinalist last year. The Cougars went 18-2 overall.

“We have lost very little going into this season compared to what some other teams have lost,” Niemiec said.

The Scotties host Charleroi on Tuesday in their section and home opener.


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