State playoffs familiar territory for Franklin Regional boys soccer team but a 1st for its coach

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Sunday, November 7, 2021 | 3:39 PM


Thomas Louisy hasn’t experienced the PIAA soccer playoffs as a high school coach. His Franklin Regional boys are teaching him something new with each step they take in the postseason.

A couple of his players have plenty of playoff experience as the Panthers (16-4) get set to open the state tournament 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Cathedral Prep (17-1-1) in the Class 3A first round at Dollinger Field at Hagerty Family Events Center in Erie.

Those who have been through the November grind — the frigid nights and road trips to the middle of nowhere — are trying to pass on what they’ve learned to new coaches and young players.

Take Anthony DiFalco, the all-everything senior forward who has won two WPIAL championships and helped lead the Panthers to PIAA semifinal appearances in 2018 and ‘19.

Rand Hudson coached those teams before he resigned last year.

“Me and (junior Colton) Hudson have been there before, so we can tell the other guys what to expect,” DiFalco said. “We’ll get down a formation and watch film and get ready for (Cathedral Prep). Hopefully, we can make a run and keep this season going.”

Juniors Jake Kimmich (MF), Billy Christofano (F/MF) and Sam Dawson (MF/D) also bring some postseason experience.

Franklin Regional had to replace its entire back line and goalkeeper.

Franklin Regional was as exhausted as it was invigorated after a 2-1 shootout win over section rival Plum in the WPIAL third-place game. The Panthers outlasted the Mustangs through two overtimes and a shootout, of which they won 4-1 with DiFalco, Hudson, junior Jake Kimmich and freshman Joe Bayne converting penalty kicks.

“I am happy for our players,” Louisy said. “They wanted to get to states, and that was important for them.”

A more offensive-minded team, Franklin Regional doesn’t rely on possession soccer like it has in the past.

Louisy wants his team to create scoring chances in waves because he knows he has the talent to play that style.

Louisy, who is from St. Lucia, came to the U.S. in 2003. He played on the St. Lucia National U17 team and in the Caribbean Cup three times.

He was a standout at Baruch College (N.Y.).

The coach hoped to win a third WPIAL title in four years with the Panthers in his debut season, but his focus is now on a state championship.

Why not? With DiFalco, an All-American selection who has 117 career goals, and a supporting cast that boasts speed and skill, Franklin Regional has the potential to start another run.

“I told them, the last four teams in the WPIAL semifinals were all very good teams,” Louisy said. “That’s whey every game was very close. Both teams that lost, lost on a PK in the last three minutes and six minutes. It’s going to be about who plays better. We’ll need a little bit of luck.”

This will be the Panthers’ third state-playoff meeting with Cathedral Prep. The last two came in the quarterfinals with Franklin Regional winning 1-0 in 2018, and 2-0 in ‘19 before getting stopped by West Allegheny and Lower Dauphin in back-to-back semifinals.

“I think we’re going to go in strong,” Panthers sophomore goalkeeper Aryan Selokar said. “We’re going to go in with our heads held high. Plum lost to West A by one goal. I think we can compete with West A at this point. This states run is going to be really good.”

Selokar is playing with some hot oven mitts. He was solid in a 1-0 loss to Hampton in the WPIAL semifinal and made an impressive save in the shootout against Plum.

“I give credit to Selokar and our goalkeeper coach, Josh Zimmerman,” Louisy said. “Selokar was not as confident in the last three games before we played Hampton. Coach Zimmerman has been working with him, giving him tips and helping to boost his confidence. Since the Hampton game, he has taken a serious U-turn. I am really happy for him and his performance.”

Surprisingly, Franklin Regional had not played in a shootout game in DiFalco’s career.

Still, Selokar said he and his teammates were prepared just the same.

“In practice, they always score their PKs on me,” Selokar said. “I always get good practice, obviously. It was a great opportunity, a great situation to be in.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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