WPIAL champion North Allegheny boys look to continue success

Thursday, November 9, 2017 | 11:00 PM

Getting back to the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAAA boys soccer tournament required the North Allegheny boys soccer team outlasting familiar hurdles.

Senior forward Sean Atwater didn't assume moving on would be easy.

“Anything can happen,” Atwater said. “We have to make sure from the first whistle we are focused.”

The Tigers demonstrated their determination during a 5-0 win over Pine-Richland in their first-round match at Fox Chapel. North Allegheny (20-2-1) previously grinded out two one-goal victories — 3-2 and 2-1 — over the Rams in the regular season.

For their reward, the Tigers were scheduled to play Peters Township, which lost 2-1 to North Allegheny in the WPIAL championship Nov. 2 at Highmark Stadium, in the quarterfinals, after deadline for this edition.

During the district playoffs, save a 9-0 win over Canon-McMillan in the semifinals, the Tigers had to fight through three one-goal victories.

North Allegheny was down 1-0 against Peters Township when the Indians scored on an own goal with 7 minutes, 31 seconds remaining. North Allegheny surged ahead on Cam Yurick's 15th goal of the season.

“We have 16 seniors and sometimes there are 11 of us on the field,” Luchini said. “In the last 10 minutes of the game, it comes down to heart. Our team has a lot of that.”

Luchini, a Lehigh commit, entered the postseason with 26 goals and 25 assists. Following a hat trick in the Tigers' PIAA win over Pine-Richland, he's up to 35 this season.

Having to miss time with an injury last year provided Luchini with perspective.

“I'm kind of used to being the scorer and almost like a centerpiece,” Luchini said. “Last year, it was nice to see my teammates around me are more than that. This year that helped because I realized they can do that and they realized that themselves. Winning back to back is a little more impressive and makes you feel better the second time around.”

Not that Luchini hasn't stopped being a playmaker. In addition to his hat trick against Pine-Richland, Luchini tallied four goals against the Big Macs.

“Obviously, Josh is 100 percent healthy is huge,” senior forward Sean Atwater said. “We've had very few injuries. We need everyone if we're going to win a state title.”

The Tigers will look to advance to the PIAA semifinals for the second straight year. North Allegheny last reached the state championship game in 2000, when it beat Emmaus 1-0 to win the championship.

Experience, coupled with determination, is something the Tigers hope will carry them through the playoffs.

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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