WPIAL Boys 3A soccer final
Montour 1, West Allegheny 0
It was a long time coming for the Montour boys soccer team and head coach Alex Hobbs.
After losing a pair of close matches to section rivals West Allegheny during the regular season, Hobbs’ Spartans earned sweet redemption in capturing its first ever WPIAL boys soccer title, with a 1-0 win at Highmark Stadium on Saturday in the final of eight games played this weekend.
“I really can’t explain it. It’s something I’ve dreamed of as a coach,” Hobbs said, after winning a WPIAL title after 12 years of coaching at Montour. “We’ve seen this program through its ups and downs. We’ve been close. It’s really exciting right now to sit back and watch these guys earn it against a really, really good West Allegheny team.
Late in the first half — in the 39th minute — it was Montour senior forward Seth Schleicher who capitalized on a misplayed ball that came to him as he was pressing high.
Schleicher took a few touches forward, beat both center backs to a spot inside the box, then drove a low shot past West Allegheny keeper Braden Wurst.
“I was holding up the field. The goalie had it and didn’t really get off a good kick. I got the ball up, and I was just glad I wasn’t offside. I turned and saw the two center backs coming at me. I cut it with my left and had a rip and it went in,” Schleicher said.
Immediately after Schleicher’s strike — Montour countered quickly in the final seconds of the first half and nearly doubled the score as Brandon Wagner‘s header hits the crossbar and bounced away from goal.
“We’re the type of team that never wants to sit in,” Hobbs said. “We want to get the next goal. We thought if we could win possession and hold, we could take the game to them.”
Hobbs had seen this story before though — holding a 1-0 lead against West Allegheny. And both times earlier this season, the Indians responded quickly to wipe away Spartans leads.
Perhaps Hobbs was fortunate that they scored right before the half, giving him a chance to prepare his team at the half for a West Allegheny’s response that he knew was coming.
“We watched every single game we could on West Allegheny for a week, understanding their patterns, their runs — and they’re talented so you can’t stop everything that they do,” Hobbs said. “We were organized enough to know their strengths and weaknesses, we were pretty well prepared for their talent, and we did the best we could.”
Trailing by a goal, West Allegheny wasn’t panicking.
“It’s a test of will,” Kevin Amos, West Allegheny head coach, said of playing a quality opponent for the third time this season. “We came back against them both times this year, so we were calm and were confident we could get one back.”
The talented Indians attack, featuring Duquesne commit midfielder Nathan Dragisich, pushed for the next forty minutes for the equalizer, and had some solid chances.
Standing in the way of West Allegheny from mounting another comeback against Montour was senior keeper, Brian Duggan.
In all, Duggan recorded eight saves, and probably none bigger than an extending fingertip denial of a Steven Abbott header in the 77th minutes.
“It’s tough to beat a team three times. We knew it was going to be a good game. Every game we played them was decided by one goal. We were down against them before and came back both times,” Amos said. “It just didn’t happen tonight.”
After speaking about how it was a dream to be able to coach in a WPIAL final a week ago when his team earned a spot to play at Highmark Stadium, Hobbs was overjoyed with seeing his team complete the task in winning a district title that had eluded them for many years.
“I’d envision this moment all the time as we’ve come a long way, going back eight years when we weren’t making playoffs, failing to meet expectations,” Hobbs said. “I’m so happy for our seniors. They worked so hard and deserve this.”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Brian Duggan
Under pressure for much of the match, Duggan came up with eight big saves — including one in the 77 minute — stopping a ball heading into the upper right corner from a shot fr
MON – Seth Schleicher, 39′
Both teams will move on to complete in the PIAA playoffs, along with 3A third place finishers South Fayette. The PIAA playoffs begin Tuesday.