West Allegheny boys capture 1st PIAA boys soccer championship

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Friday, November 16, 2018 | 8:39 PM


HERSHEY — Nathan Dragisich was paying attention, and he saw Strath Haven’s goalkeeper wasn’t.

West Allegheny’s star striker made sure Noah Atsaves paid for his moment of inattention, and the Indians similarly took advantage of the other opportunities Strath Haven left them.

Dragisich scored a hat trick and assisted on another goal as West Allegheny won its first state boys soccer championship in dominant fashion, blasting District 1 champion Strath Haven, 4-0, Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium.

“I’m so happy right now,” Dragisich said. “I’m so happy I could get this for the team. First ever state title for West A soccer history. I’m just so happy our team was able to fight through it and get this win.”

Strath Haven (16-7-2) was seeking its sixth PIAA championship. West Allegheny was making just its second appearance in the state title game, its only other trip to Hershey ending in defeat in 2013.

This time around the Indians had Dragisich, a Duquesne recruit with a talent for free kicks. He assisted on Antonio Fiordilino’s stalemate-breaking goal midway through the first half, as Fiordilino’s header met Dragisich’s free kick flush and put the ball in the back of the net.

Dragisich then scored the final three goals: the first on a direct free kick when he saw Atsaves talking to the referee late in the first half, the second on a penalty kick after teammate Jonathan Amos got taken down in the box early in the second half and the third when he converted a cross from teammate Gabe Haines with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game.

“He’s just so intelligent,” West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos said. “On that free kick, everyone else is turned around and walking away, and he buries it.”

The chilly night in Hershey saw a physical game that included a pair of yellow cards on Strath Haven. The Panthers lost Emmet Young and Gavin Birch to injury for parts of the game, while West Allegheny’s Jonathan Amos also departed with an injury in the second half.

Frequent fouls meant plenty of whistles, and West Allegheny made Strath Haven pay for its penalties. Three of the Indians’ goals came off of restarts.

“We go over some set pieces and what they see on the field,” Kevin Amos said. “It’s kind of what we run. However they’re going to defend is what we’re going to run against. We’ve been successful all year on free kicks, and tonight we cashed in on them.”

The teams played at an up-and-down pace, a style West Allegheny certainly didn’t mind. The Indians scored 115 goals in their 24 games before Friday, an average of nearly five per game, and Dragisich alone accounted for more than 40.

The fast action provided plenty of scoring opportunities, and West Allegheny converted more than enough.

West Allegheny also got a boost from the return of senior goalkeeper Braden Wurst, who missed the Indians’ semifinal win over Franklin Regional with a concussion.

The four-year starter made six saves, including some high-quality stops: He ventured far out of net to snuff out a potential breakaway with the score 1-0 in the first half, and he leaped to deny a strike by Jacob Zweier in the second half, deflecting the shot off the crossbar and out of bounds.

“I told my teammates (before the semifinals) if you guys finish this game and you send us to the finals, I promise I’ll be back,” Wurst said. “My doctor told me it’d be a miracle if I’d be back, but I worked so hard. It felt surreal. I’m just at a loss for words.”

Two weeks ago West Allegheny saw its bid for a WPIAL championship end with a shutout loss to Franklin Regional in the title game. But the Indians got revenge, beating the Panthers in the state semifinals and then posing at Hersheypark Stadium with the first-place trophy and a giant Hershey bar Friday night.

“We made the finishing touch and won the state title,” Dragisich said. “We did it. We did it.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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