Josh Axelrod | Post Gazette

Peters Township went 18-3-2 overall, 9-1 in its section, won the WPIAL championship game on an overtime goal by forward Jesse Scheirer, but lost to Central Catholic in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Dyer will have a few challenges in preparing this squad to achieve similar success and beyond. Goalkeeper Parker Ulrich, who recorded 14 shutouts in 23 games last season, graduated. Scheirer has taken his goal-scoring prowess to the University of Vermont.

[Scheirer’s departure] is a big loss,” said Dyer. “Jesse scored a lot of goals for us and he was a leader of our team. I hope someone steps up and takes over as a goal scorer.”

That someone could well be senior midfielder Matt Venanzi, who racked up 13 goals and 25 assists during last year’s campaign. He is among four returning starters, the others being senior forward Zach Partyka and junior defenders Mark Enscoe and Bryan Hall.

“Those four guys have been stepping up [so far],” said Dyer. “A lot of our guys were on our WPIAL championship team and have that experience. We’re also looking forward to having seniors Joe Barbati [midfielder], Mark Murphy [midfielder], and Jake Harriger [forward] step into starting positions and pull their weight.”

Venanzi was named to an all-state team last year. He knows what his talents are, but isn’t interested in individual numbers if they aren’t helping the team win.

“I try to get the ball around and switch the point of attack,” he said. “I’m a good passer, defender, and scorer. [What I do] isn’t about my stats, but about what I can do for the team.”

Venanzi recited his coach’s three goals, showing how effective Dyer has been at drilling the message into his players’ heads. Just like his coach, he wants to take everything step by step and at the very least “would like to return to the WPIAL finals, just like last season.”

Dyer is in the process of trying to solidify his lineup so he can start focusing on fulfilling his three pillars of Peters Township soccer. He also understands the Indians are different enough from last season that the bull’s-eye on his back is unwarranted.

“Because you’re in a situation where you’re losing and gaining new players every year, we don’t have expectations,” he explained. “We’re trying to find a style of play that fits our team, a starting lineup and a team identity. By the start of the season, we want to know who we are.”

They might not have an established team personality yet, but they all understand their eyes should be permanently fixed on the ultimate prize: that coveted PIAA title.