Westmoreland County boys soccer preview: Franklin Regional eyes another title

Saturday, August 28, 2021 | 3:04 PM

Franklin Regional senior Anthony DiFalco has seen just about everything there is to see in high school soccer.

He has won two WPIAL titles, finished as a runner-up and played in the PIAA semifinals twice. He’s been All-WPIAL, all-state and All-American.

But even the best players want more. They always want more.

“You always want that state title,” said DiFalco, who has 85 career goals. “That would be nice.”

Franklin Regional has a new coach, but the top-level program’s goals remain the same, the bar higher than ever.

“Win the section and WPIAL, and go to states,” DiFalco said.

The season opens Sept. 4, and Franklin Regional is one of the front-runners again in WPIAL Class 3A. West Allegheny, a postseason rival of the Panthers, opens the year with the No. 1 ranking.

As for the new coach at Franklin Regional: Thomas Louisy took over in the offseason for Rand Hudson, who resigned to spend more time with his family and see his kids play college soccer.

“Things have been good; I am getting 100% effort from the boys,” Louisy said. “We’re motivated and excited about the season.”

Both Louisy and Hudson are in real estate. Louisy already has a foundation and a couple floors with luxury amenities built into this house. The question is, will he add on?

“They are well-coached and know how to win,” Louisy said. “We want to continue on that path. I want to continue to do what Rand did. I will tweak some things like anybody wants to do. I want to do what is best for our individual players and the team.”

Louisy, who is from St. Lucia and came to the U.S. in 2003, was a talented player. He played on the St. Lucia National U17 team and in the Caribbean Cup three times, and he was a standout at Baruch College (N.Y.).

He is the former director of coaching for the Allegheny Force club and has won multiple Futsal State Cup and regional titles.

Hudson coached the Panthers for 11 years over two stints. He racked up 144 wins, six section titles and two WPIAL titles.

From 2018-20, Franklin Regional went 57-5-2 with 45 shutouts in 64 games. The team scored a WPIAL repeat in ’18 and ’19.

Other regulars back include juniors Colton Hudson (MF/F), Jake Kimmich (MF), Billy Christofano (F/MF), and Sam Dawson (MD/D).

“We’re building our chemistry up this year and finding a new way to play,” DiFalco said.

What that new way will look like remains a mystery — for now.

DiFalco, who had 37 goals and 24 assists last season, hinted at more possession soccer and the Panthers possibly building more from the back.

“The three midfielders will help me,” he said. “I might play back more. It will change a little bit.”

Louisy still was filling out a starting lineup as the second week of practice played out.

“We want to work as a team,” he said. “It’s about improving on our technique and finding the right mix. Someone might start one day and not start the next.”

DiFalco, a team captain, will have an increased leadership role.

“The kids look up to him,” Louisy said. “I know I can count on him to lead with his play and actions on and off the field.

“And our other (key players) are all hard workers and I also expect a lot from them. I expect them to show their experience.”

Junior Jake Zimmerman also should contribute in the midfield, while sophomore Aryan Selokar is getting a long look at goalkeeper.

“We want to be more defensively sound,” DiFalco said. “Losing your whole back line of seniors, and senior goalkeeper, is pretty rough.”

DiFalco, a Division I prospect, said he has multiple schools interested in him, but only has “one or two” offers so far. He plans to make a decision after the season.

“I don’t want to rush it,” he said.

Around the county

• Greensburg Central Catholic is the defending WPIAL Class A champion and finished second in the PIAA. New coach Rob Fabean expects the Centurions to be even more aggressive on the attack, led by junior Carlo Dennis (37 goals) and senior Mason Fabean (24). They are two of eight returning starters from a 17-2 team.

• Norwin won a section title and made the WPIAL 4A semifinals. A number of key players are back, including seniors Caleb Yuricha and Riley Zimmerman, both capable scorers, and sophomore defender Owen Christopher.

• Belle Vernon has one of the top players in the state in senior Daniel Sassak, who had 33 goals and 14 assists as a junior. The Leopards have a new coach, Al Yeschenko.

• Jeannette returns a talented goal scorer in junior Jordan Taylor, who found the net 26 times and made all-section last season.

Westmoreland County players to watch

Owen Christopher, So., D, Norwin

Carlo Denis, Jr., F, Greensburg Central Catholic

Anthony DiFalco, Sr., F, Franklin Regional

Mason Fabean, Sr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Max House, Sr., GK, Greensburg Central Catholic

Colton Hudson, Jr., MF, Franklin Regional

Kyler Miller, Jr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Daniel Sassak, Sr., MF, Belle Vernon

Nathan Schlessinger, Sr., MF, Penn-Trafford

Jordan Taylor, So., F, Jeannette

Caleb Yuricha, Sr., MF, Norwin

Riley Zimmerman, Sr., MF, Norwin

Preseason rankings

Class 4A

1. Peters Township (13-2-1)

2. Seneca Valley (17-1-1)

3. Norwin (11-1-2)

4. Butler (11-6-1)

5. Fox Chapel (11-4)

Class 3A

1. West Allegheny (15-2)

2. Franklin Regional (13-2)

3. Mars (21-0)

4. Moon (12-4)

5. Plum (13-2)

Class 2A

1. Shady Side Academy (14-3)

2. Quaker Valley (11-1-1)

3. Deer Lakes (17-2)

4. Elizabeth Forward (12-3-2)

5. Charleroi (14-2)

Class A

1. Greensburg C.C. (17-2)

2. Seton La Salle (12-3)

3. OLSH (11-1-1)

4. Winchester Thurston (14-2)

5. Springdale (12-2)

*2020 records listed

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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