Strong sophomore class acing every test so far for Deer Lakes boys soccer

Thursday, September 14, 2023 | 5:28 PM

Anyone who followed Deer Lakes’ run to the WPIAL Class 2A boys soccer championship last season knew the future of the program was bright.

A pair of freshmen, Peyton Kushon and Jacob Orseno, combined to score the game-winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Beaver in the final.

There was also a big senior class that helped engineer the championship run, including Ryan Hanes, Nate Litrun, Ruger Beer, Mason Metzler, Nick Braun and Michael Butler.

So, the test coming into 2023 was how the now-sophomores would react without having those veteran leaders around.

They’ve answered every question so far.

The Lancers were undefeated in Section 2-2A play entering a match with Greensburg Salem on Thursday and were 6-1 overall.

“When we lost that senior class last year, a lot of people, even some close to me, thought we were going to have a hard year this year, and we have. We’re going to work for it, but these kids have stepped up,” coach Aaron Smith said. “They want to win just as bad. It’s been great.”

There were a half-dozen players who made an impact as freshmen last year. Peyton Kushon led the team in goals and Orseno, Zane Spence and Collin Rodgers were major players in the attack.

They’ve all been contributing this year as well, as has fellow sophomore Wes Boyle, who has taken over for Braun in net. One veteran starter is senior Joey Kushon, who has started since his sophomore season.

An added feature for the Lancers has been some upperclassmen like senior Ethan Alberta and juniors Waylon Schiller and Noah Shurina making an impact at the varsity level for the first time.

“The experience that the (sophomores) got last year helps, because we knew coming in we would be relying on them,” Smith said. “We’ve also had some guys come out of nowhere to help us. We have juniors Noah Shurina and Waylon Schiller, who were not varsity players last year. They knew they’d have a chance to get a lot of playing time and have locked down starting spots. Ethan Alberta, who is a senior, also locked down a starting spot. They know they have things to prove and they’re hungry.”

The biggest win on the Lancers’ resume so far is a 2-1 victory over longtime rival Shady Side Academy. The Lancers and Bulldogs have played some fantastic matches over the years, and the first meeting this season continued that trend.

Spence and Peyton Kushon scored while Artemey Parshyn and Alberta registered assists.

The second meeting between Shady Side and Deer Lakes is scheduled for Sept. 28.

“We knew coming in that Shady Side didn’t lose too many players, and in our eyes, they were going to be really tough to beat,” Smith said. “We ended up getting them the first time, but we know they are going to want revenge when we play them again here in a couple weeks.”

Deer Lakes faces Freeport on Tuesday to finish out the first round of section play. Along with Shady Side, Smith said Knoch proved to be a difficult opponent the first time, instituting a high press. The Lancers play the Knights on Sept. 21.

The Lancers are thrilled to be atop the section standings but know there’s more work to be done as they gear up for another run at a championship, which would be their third in four years.

“We’re happy being where we are with as young of a team that we have,” Smith said. “We’re competing, but we have to keep it moving forward.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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