Trio of juniors show Lancers boys soccer team value of chemistry

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Sunday, September 15, 2019 | 12:01 AM


At the center of any successful team is a core group of players that allows the squad to reach new heights on the field and off of it.

As sophomores last year, Michael Sullivan, Devin Murray and Colton Spence established themselves as that core for the Deer Lakes boys soccer team that made a run to the PIAA Class AA championship.

All three were named all-Section, Murray and Spence were named to the All-WPIAL team and the group brought in a bond that was infectious.

“That team last year had that family atmosphere, and I think this year it’s the same thing,” Sullivan said. “I mean with us three, everyone else has seen that bond and they’ve bought into it and I absolutely love it.”

Their friendship on the field was evident on several occasions last year, but one moment stood out the most to them: their PIAA Class AA semifinal victory over Shady Side Academy.

They trailed by a goal with just more than six minutes left in the game. Spence tied it on a header off a Nick Caro free kick, and Sullivan had a throw-in get deflected into the net that put the Lancers ahead with about a minute remaining.

“I just pretended like I scored it, and everyone came running to me,” Murray said with a laugh.

Said Sullivan: “If that doesn’t set the stage, I don’t know what does.”

The trio’s bond started to manifest when they were 4 or 5 years old, when they joined the Arsenal F.C. club soccer program. Although they were in different age groups, they had the opportunity to play and practice together on occasion and traveled to tournaments together.

“The connection between us has been there, on and off the field, for years,” Sullivan said.

It has showed. The Lancers captured the Section 2-AA crown for the first time in school history last year and made their run to the state championship. It was just one piece of evidence their camaraderie has carried over to the rest of the team.

First-year coach Dan Yates has noticed the effect they have on the team.

“They are kind of like the spine of the team right up the middle,” Yates said. “They are great leaders for the team and when they say something, the new guys coming into the team respond.”

Last season, all three spent time in the middle of the field. While Sullivan and Spence played somewhat of an attacking midfield position, Murray played a defensive role and was a major contributor to their success in the back.

This year, with the graduation of Caro from the center back position, Spence has dropped back to play alongside Ryan Butler and shore up the defense. But it pays off in other ways, as well.

“It’s really important for us because we all play different leadership roles on the field,” Murray said. “So, having each of us on a different line on the field helps us a lot. It helps us organize the play more and makes us more efficient.”

The Lancers are undefeated in their section, outscoring opponents 29-3, and their two losses came against Class AAAA North Hills — with less than 10 seconds remaining — and defending District 10 champion Cathedral Prep.

Sullivan, Spence and Murray have brought the team together off the field, as well.

“No matter where they are, whether it’s down on the field on game days or anywhere, they are all together,” Yates said. “They are all leaders in their own sense. It’s a very good trio to have.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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