TJ boys soccer returns plenty of experience for another run at PIAA playoffs

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Friday, August 30, 2019 | 8:09 PM


With 16 returning lettermen, the Thomas Jefferson boys soccer team has great expectations for the 2019 season after reaching the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA first round last year.

“As always, our focus will be to qualify for the playoffs and compete for a section championship,” coach Michael Kulish said. “Our defense and goalie play should be our strength. We will need some of our younger players to step up offensively to help fill a void left from the graduation of all-state player A.J. Meshanko.”

Among the players Kulish hopes will help fill that void are Owen Richter, Trystan Alava, Justin Finnegan and Jack Wessel. Richter and Finnegan are senior midfielders and two-year letterman. Alava, a junior defender, also is a two-year letterman.

Wessel is a third-year senior letterman at keeper.

“Jack Wessel is a vocal and knowledgeable leader on the field with exceptional goalie skills,” Kulish said. “Owen Richter is a great leader and smart player who continuously hustles. Trystan Alava is a strong, physical player and also a great leader.

“Justin Finnegan is our most improved midfielder. He has very good skills and excellent throw-ins.”

Dylan Sullivan, a senior defender, is a three-year letterman who, with Alava, will bolster the Jaguars’ defense.

Other returning lettermen are senior defender Will Morano (two years), senior forward Matt Rozanski (two years), junior midfielder Jack Sella, junior defenders Anthony Bekavac and Dylan Rose; plus sophomores Luke Giger, at forward, A.J. Getsy, on defense; and midfielders Jordan Chiprich, Marshal Richter, Michael Ngugi and Aiden Mohedeen.

Marcus Empey, a transfer, also is expected to make an impact on defense.

The affable Kulish is a dean of socer coaches in Western Pennsylvania. He is in his 27th year as TJ’s coach with a career record of 364-167-29.

“My coaching style bears responsibility for teaching our players to strive for success while playing fairly, observing the rules and displaying the highest level of sportsmanship during competitions,” Kulish said. “I treat all my players fairly with respect and dignity. I lead by example, no profanity on or off the field. I treat all officials with respect and dignity.

“All my players are expected to be students first, striving for the highest degree of academic integrity to be eligible to play soccer at Thomas Jefferson.”

TJ went 16-6-1 overall last season. The Jaguars are members of Section 4-3A with Chartiers Valley, Franklin Regional, Gateway, McKeesport, South Fayette and West Mifflin.

After kicking off their section schedule Sept. 3 at Chartiers Valley, the Jaguars will play back-to-back home games against McKeesport (Sept. 5) and Baldwin (Sept. 7).

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