Under new coach, Seton LaSalle boys soccer remains section title contenders
Monday, September 30, 2019 | 6:45 PM
There is new regime in place in the Seton LaSalle boys soccer program, as Nick Balzer has taken over as head coach.
Balzer, a 2007 Seton LaSalle graduate, served as a captain on the Rebels’ first state championship team during his senior season.
He also enjoyed a productive four-year career at Wheeling Jesuit University (now Wheeling University).
“My biggest coaching influences are my high school coaches, Aaron Panczyk and Mike Thomas,” Balzer said. “Both have had exceptional coaching careers that include Seton LaSalle. I am still very close with them today.
“I’ve had success with all my coaches and have taken a lot from them. I feel I have to coach to the players’ strengths. It’s easy to impose what I personally feel is best from my experience, but we may not have the right guys to play that way. Being adaptable is the biggest strength I can have, in my mind.”
As the WPIAL season developed, Seton LaSalle found itself in the midst of a four-way tussle for first place in Section 4-A.
Brentwood (6-2-2, 6-1-2), Seton LaSalle (5-3-2, 5-1-2), Bishop Canevin (8-3-1, 6-2-1) and Bentworth (7-4-1, 5-3-1) were tangled at the top of the standings, with Chartiers-Houston (6-4-2, 3-3-2) not far behind.
The Rebels defeated Chartiers-Houston and Bentworth, tied Bishop Canevin and lost to Brentwood in the first half of section play.
“We have a very strong core group of players with tons of experience,” Balzer said. “When we couple that with the talent we can add around them, we expect to be one of the top teams in the WPIAL and compete at a high level day in and day out.”
The Rebels’ starting lineup consists of senior goalkeeper Chuck Vojtecky, seniors Louis Maola and Tyler Stack, junior Anthony Newman and sophomore Bobby Bootay on defense; senior Ethan Gardner, juniors Reno Butelli and Josue Ruiz and sophomore Dan Myers at midfield; and senior T.J. Cherry and sophomore Kevin Bian at the forward position.
Top reserves include seniors Matt Battistone, Zach Cicco and Zach Esch, freshman Lewis Kicinski and sophomore Gabe Cipollone.
“I believe we can win the section as we did my first three years,” Gardner said, “although it’s going to be a little more challenging as we graduated a good amount of starters last year. And I think its realistic for us to make a run in the WPIAL tournament and hopefully a bid into the state tournament. Obviously, we want to advance as far as possible.
“We have some guys who can definitely score goals when needed. However, I think our biggest strength is our collective workrate as a team, which allows us to be competitive in any game.”
Seton LaSalle has a long history of success in boys soccer. The Rebels have won six consecutive section titles.
Balzer inherited this year’s squad from Ryan Kelly, who resigned after last season. Balzer was an assistant at Seton LaSalle for eight years.
“My biggest playing influences have been my brother (Tyler), my cousins (in the DelGreco family) and my friends that played,” said the Rebels’ first-year field boss. “They all make up my coaching staff — Tyler Balzer, Mark DelGreco, Dave DelGreco, Tyler Grebur, Pat Vaughan and Mike Vaughan.”
Gardner, Stack, Cherry and Newman are team captains this season, and have helped spark the Rebels to 19-5, 18-4-1 and 22-3 records the past three years.
“Our roles as captain are to help our team win and to make our players better,” Gardner said, “both as a team and as individuals. I try to do this by talking to them and by leading by example.”
Gardner, a four-year starter, said the Rebels haven’t missed a beat despite the coaching change after last season.
“Although I believe Coach Kelly is missed,” he said, “having Coach Balzer on the staff all four of my years at Seton has made the transition very smooth.
“We want to keep improving and learning in every game, which, hopefully, will make us that much stonger in the WPIAL tournament.”
Two recent Seton LaSalle soccer standouts are continuing their careers in college.
Kellen Krebs, a 2019 graduate, is a freshman defender/midfielder at Lycoming. Darryl Daniels, a 2018 grad, is a sophomore forward at Messiah.
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