Marky Bilson | Post Gazette
There’s a problem with winning a state championship … you’re expected to do it again.
Peters Township’s boys soccer team is right in the thick of the Section 5-AAA race with a 5-2-1 record, 8-3-2 overall, after Tuesday’s 5-1 victory against Brashear.
It’s a somewhat remarkable record considering the many injuries the Indians have sustained. A playoff berth is likely, and a section championship is still a possibility if Peters Township was able to post victories against Upper St. Clair last night and Tuesday at home against first-place Canon-McMillan; though the Big Macs would also have to have an additional loss for that to happen.
But no boys soccer team in the WPIAL has higher standards than Peters Township after five consecutive trips to the PIAA playoffs and a state title last year.
“This weekend we have a chance to match up with what I consider to be the best in the WPIAL,” said coach Bob Dyer. “I may be a bit biased toward our section but history says the contenders come out of our section.”
“Our attacking players are younger this season so it has taken some time to adapt,” said senior midfielder Matty Massucci, a team captain. “To repeat as WPIAL champions would be our third in a row. It would mean so much to the program. We’ll leave our mark through that. “In order to do that, Dyer believes the Indians’ future lies in getting healthy to find the right lineup and maturing.
For instance, the week began with midfielder Matt Stuck and defender Jesse Harker out with ankle injuries and Alec Raber and Tommy O’Hare in their respective places.
Sophomore striker Bryce Gabelhart, who scored the winning goal at Chartiers Valley in a 2-1 victory Sept. 17, missed action with knee and ankle injuries, but returned Sept. 24 in the Indians’ 3-1 loss at Canon-McMillan. Fellow strikers Tyler Ulrich and Brady Pike, a senior captain, and goalkeeper Justin Gamble have also missed time with injuries, and to rest Gamble for this weekend Dyer gave backup Phil Davis the start Tuesday against Brashear.
“We’re all over the place with alignments,” said Dyer, who generally alternates between a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2. “I couldn’t begin to tell you where we’ll be.”
“We’re a fairly deep team, so we can deal with it,” Massucci said.
That was shown recently when on Sept. 29 Peters Township beat Moon, 1-0, on an early Luke Kelly goal in a game played in a downpour. Bennett Faloni scored the winner in a 3-2 overtime victory two days later.
“Our attacking players are younger so it has taken some time to adapt,” said Massucci. “The big thing for us is to hit our stride. We peaked at the right time last year and everything fell into place. If we can get that to happen the sky is the limit.”
Dyer believes the keys to beating Upper St. Clair and Canon-McMillan, which beat the Indians, 3-1, on Sept. 24, lies in shoring up their defense and playing with a bit of urgency.
Peters Township only allowed two goals in its eight playoff games last year and final 11 overall, and the coach believes last year’s eight senior starters, including current Saint Francis University starters Nicco and Mario Mastrangelo, helped the other players realize the situation at hand.
“When you have a younger team they see teams ahead of them and don’t necessarily have that desperation,” he said. “But we have five or six seniors on the field now and they are leading in a proper way. “We’re a team that is evolving and will get better in the postseason.”