Young Burrell boys soccer team made strides during ’21 season
Tuesday, November 2, 2021 | 10:38 AM
The story of the 2021 Burrell boys soccer team could be summed up in one game: the Bucs’ 5-1 loss to No. 2-seeded Quaker Valley in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.
The inexperienced, and out-gunned, Bucs, played Quaker Valley tough for nearly two thirds of the match.
“We trailed 2-1 with 20 minutes left,” Burrell coach Andrew Kariotis said. “We played them as good as we could, and we left everything on the field that day. I’m pretty sure that we’re the only 2A team that scored on them.”
In a nutshell, that was the 2021 season for Burrell, a season where young Bucs had to step in for players who graduated. And there were growing pains.
“We had a really young team,” said senior Ethan Croushore, Westminster soccer recruit. “We only started four or five seniors. It happens in high school, and it happens every year.
“It was tough in the respect where you have kids who haven’t played varsity minutes coming in.”
Burrell (7-8, 5-5) was in just about every section match. But the Bucs’ youth showed up late in matches as they struggled to put teams away.
“We actually played pretty good soccer (this year),” Kariotis said. “Our problem was finishing against some of the better teams.”
Two one-goal losses to Section 2-2A rival Deer Lakes stood out the most for Croushore.
“Versus Deer Lakes, they know how to win, and I think that’s what it came down to,” said Croushore, who is also the placekicker on the football team. “It’s not that we played a bad game; we just ran out of time.”
Croushore tied for the team lead in goals scored (8) with sophomore Jayson Ireland. Sophomore midfielder Luke Guerrini led the Bucs with eight assists.
The Bucs played Class 2A No. 3 seed Shady Side Academy tough, losing their first match 3-1, but took a tough 5-0 loss at home in the second matchup. With youth comes inconsistency.
“We had some young players picking up that slack,” Kariotis said. “Those big games this year, as a team, we just couldn’t get it done. We lost a fair amount of experience in the midfield.”
The Bucs won three of their final five section matches to secure a spot in the postseason. Of those two losses, the 2-1 loss to section rival, Leechburg probably hurt the most. As a result, Leechburg claimed the No. 11 seed and opened the postseason against No. 6 Ambridge.
“The Leechburg match, it just wasn’t our night,” Croushore said. “We came out flat. They got one early on us, and after that we were just kind of chasing the game. That’s just how it goes some days.”
The Bucs were also a product of a top-heavy section where teams such as Shady Side Academy (11-3, 9-1), Deer Lakes (8-5-1, 7-2-1) and Leechburg (9-5-1, 6-3-1) were in the top half followed by Ligonier Valley (4-12, 2-8) and Derry (0-15, 0-10) finishing in the fifth and sixth spots, respectively.
Also, the Bucs weren’t able to string more than two wins together during the season.
“We felt like on any given day that we could play with anybody,” Kariotis said. “We kind of showed that in our last game.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.
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