Strong senior class helps Bethel Park boys soccer have year to remember

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Saturday, October 22, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Offseason workouts have paid big dividends for the Bethel Park boys soccer team.

After losing their first three games of the season, the Black Hawks won 12 in a row and 13 of 14 to finish as the Section 3-3A runner-up with an 11-3 record.

With one game remaining on its regular-season schedule, Bethel Park had outscored the opposition 58-17, posted seven shutouts, held six other teams to one goal and stood at 13-4 overall.

“I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect coming into a new section, but the boys now have a sense of confidence about them,” coach Doug Fink said. “I also attribute our team’s success to our assistant coaches, Jay Zeminski and Josh Kicinski. These two gentlemen put in a lot of work in the offseason with various training sessions and weight-lifting sessions. All of this preparation has made us stronger as a team.”

Midfielder Jake Zeminski, forward/goalkeeper Miles Jackson and forward Lucas Varley are team captains.

“They are all seniors and they are respected by the coaching staff and by our players,” Fink said.

Zeminski explained part of the captain’s role on the team.

“As a captain, I try to push the guys during training and games,” he said. “I help, explain and encourage when someone’s confused or in a slump. I don’t just try to lead the guys. I try to be there for them even if it has nothing to do with soccer. I’m willing to help in the classroom or outside of school and soccer.

“Most of us have been playing for years together and the chemistry on the field correlates. This season has had many ups and downs. I still don’t think we’ve reached our peak. With the many injuries and some key people being out most of the season, each game is a battle. Many boys are stepping up and playing positions they’ve never played for the good of the team and that’s what makes us more than a team; we are a family.”

Two top freshman players who joined the lineup in 2022 are striker Xavier Jackson and goalkeeper Luke Rubican.

“These ninth graders have made a tremendous impact for our team both offensively and in the goal,” Fink said. “I feel we have a well-balanced team of both attacking players and defenders. Our lineup has changed throughout the season. Every guy has played and contributed to our team’s success.”

There are 30 players listed on the varsity roster and nearly half that total are seniors. There are 14 seniors, six juniors and sophomores and four freshmen.

Along with the three captains, other members of the senior class include forward/midfielder Carter Kicinski, forward/midfielder Forrest Shaw, forwards Chase Waterman and Josh Woodman, midfielders Caden Flanigan, Cody Hendrych-Bondra and Owen Newman, defenders Tim Jones, Jack Molli and Nate Uselman and goalkeeper Cole Shughart.

The Black Hawks’ leading scorers as of Oct. 17 were Miles Jackson with 12 goals, junior midfielder Henry Gaston with 10 and Xavier Jackson (8).

“Our strength has been our ability to score off of set pieces (corner kicks, free kicks, throw-ins, etc.),” Fink said. “We have played two goalkeepers throughout the season, (junior) Luke Rubican and Cole Shughart, who have combined for seven shutouts

“Many of our seniors have played soccer together since they were young lads. The boys feel comfortable with each other and I believe this shows on the pitch. But I still don’t feel like we have reached our peak.”

Bethel Park finished second in the section, won by Thomas Jefferson with a 13-1 record. The Black Hawks handed TJ its only section loss Sept. 22 in a 3-1 decision.

Prior to the start of the WPIAL playoffs, Fink was hoping to secure a high seed and a home match in the first round.

“Since we’ve qualified for the playoffs, I try to talk to the boys about focusing on one game at a time,” he said. “If we take care of business one game at a time, everything else will fall into place.”

No matter what the outcome is for the Black Hawks in the postseason, Zeminski said his senior year will be one he won’t forget.

“I believe if we played our best and had our full complement of players, we could definitely go far in the playoffs,” he said. “That being said, I don’t think we should expect anything. If our level drops, we might not make it far. It’ll be based off how badly the boys want it.

“No matter how things turn out, I’ll always remember my senior year.”

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