The Kiski School builds on success, wins 4th straight PAISAA championship

Monday, December 4, 2023 | 10:54 AM

Going into the season, The Kiski School boys soccer team was expected to have a down year.

Seemed surprisingly odd considering the program had won a Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) championship last year, its third in a row.

Losing 14 seniors from the previous year’s team was a reason for doubt in the school’s ability to repeat.

“Six of those seniors went on to play Division I soccer, and seven of them were starters,” said soccer coach and assistant director of admissions Jonty Loukes.

Loukes did a remarkable job getting his younger players ready as the Cougars earned their fourth consecutive PAISAA championship by defeating The Phelps School, 5-4, in a back-and-forth match Nov. 15.

“We played them earlier in the season in the Prep Premier League, and we tied 1-1,” Loukes said. “We knew the finals would be a tough game going in.”

Added right winger Cam Hernandez: “Coming into the season, we didn’t think we’d would make it this far or be this successful after losing 14 seniors. Finishing it off with a state championship was really amazing.”

Added senior left winger Adrian Alvarez: “We had a good coach and teammates that brought a good mentality. We supported each other the whole way.”

After the PAISAA championship, the Cougars were in New Jersey on Nov. 17 for the start of an inaugural prep school postseason tournament Loukes and the other coaches created.

“The Prep Premier League (PPL) was a league we created because we wanted to give our students the best chance for recruitment,” Loukes said. “We wanted to give our players a showcase.”

The tournament also allowed the players one more opportunity to show off their skills to college coaches.

“College coaches are recruiting from prep schools because they know the kids aren’t going to fail out,” Loukes said. “The students prove they can live on their own and study, which prepares them for college.”

Last year, graduates from The Kiski School boys soccer team went on to institutions such as West Virginia, Duquesne, Oakland and Michigan.

“We want to get these boys the exposure to colleges from all over the country, not just the tri-state area,” Loukes said. “Rarely do we send more than one student to the same college or university.”

Hernandez, from Woodland Hills area, is looking at Mount Union to study sports management, with a minor in coaching.

Alvarez, who is from Guatemala, has received interest from Sacred Heart in Connecticut and wants to study business or business engineering.

“Coach Loukes assists with the college opportunities, and he’s always talking to college coaches about everyone on the team,” Alvarez said. “He’s always looking for us and letting us know which coaches are interested.”

The Cougars made it as far as the semifinals in the PPL, which consisted of eight of the top 20 prep school teams in the country, according to Max Preps. Kiski School was ranked second.

“This league was one of the greatest things they could have added to the program at our school,” Alvarez said. “It’s playing against the best of the nation.”

“It’s a big challenge,” added Hernandez. “Most of these league teams have a large number of international students who can really play. Their skills are amazing, and their soccer IQs are very high. It’s so hard to play against them, but to have the opportunity is great.”

The Cougars lost to Northwood School out of Lake Placid, N.Y., in the semifinals and played Phelps School for the third time in the consolation game, emerging victorious.

“The boys were telling me at the end that they had nothing left in their tanks,” Loukes said. “Just too many games in a short period of time.”

As Kiski School looks to go co-ed in the fall of next year, the incoming girls will be held to the same academic standards and principles Loukes set for his boys soccer team.

“When players come in, I lay out the non-negotiables,” Loukes said. “They’ve got to be comfortable with what I’m asking them to do, be willing to work hard both on and off the field. They must be respectful not just of their teammates, but of everyone else in this school because we are a community, a family. Those are the foundations of what we do here.”

Loukes would like to copy the success his boys team has had on the field as well as off of it.

“I’m director of the soccer program as well as being assistant director of admissions,” he said. “Our goal is to give our girls the same opportunities and platform. We’re going to be recruiting players and coaches to emulate that success. It’s, obviously, going to take time.”

If Loukes can mirror the success of the boys program with the girls team, then the school could add more championship hardware to its trophy case.

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