PSN’s Featured High School Game
presented by Steel Town Auto Sales and Advanced Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation
South Fayette vs West Allegheny
(WPIAL Boys 3A non-section match)
at West Allegheny High School, Saturday, September 8, 11 a.m.
PSN Coverage team
Matt Gajtka – play-by-play on Facebook Live (on Pittsburgh Soccer Now Facebook page)
Ed Thompson – photography
John Krysinsky – reporting
Clash of 3A Rivals Provides Good Early Season Test
In 2016, when PIAA expanded to four classifications in soccer, it seemed as if most of the top teams in Boys 3A were all neighboring schools around the Parkway West corridor: Chartiers Valley, Montour, South Fayette and West Allegheny.
Each of these schools’ boys programs have been taking turns winning WPIAL titles in recent years.
West Allegheny broke through for its first WPIAL soccer crown in 2013 when still competing in Class 2A.
In 2015, it was South Fayette’s turn.
Chartiers Valley returned to past glory, by winning its first WPIAL title in 15 years when they won Class 3A in 2016.
A veteran Montour squad did the same a year ago, joining the party by beating Chartiers Valley and then West Allegheny along the way to win its first ever WPIAL boys soccer championship.
Once again, in 2018, the battle for WPIAL Boys 3A soccer supremacy likely have to go through this gauntlet of teams.
That’s what will make this Saturday’s first-ever Pittsburgh Soccer Now featured game between South Fayette and West Allegheny a fascinating early season non-section tilt.
And it will be rematch of last year’s WPIAL 3A boys semifinal which West Allegheny rallied with a late second half goal by Nathan Dragisich with 26 seconds remaining, then junior Evan Blunkosky popped home a rebound with less than eight minutes remaining in the second extra frame to give top-seeded Indians a dramatic victory, and the Lions a setback that kept them from playing in the final at Highmark Stadium.
“It was a tough loss, for sure,” Rob Eldridge, South Fayette Head Coach, said. “Plus, we had a goal taken away that would have given us a two-goal lead.”
Both teams enter this early season match expected to be among the top teams in 3A again this year.
The West Allegheny boys were Section Champions and WPIAL finalists, and made it to the Quarterfinals of the PA State Playoffs. South Fayette also were a WPIAL semifinalist and made it into the PIAA tournament in 2017 too.
“They’re going to be even better this year,” Eldridge said. “They’re bringing back 90 percent of their roster, they have experience, a senior goalkeeper, and (Nathan) Dragisich is a handful.”
West Allegheny have already picked up some impressive non-section wins over 4A Fox Chapel (a 2-1 win at the Plum Tournament over the weekend) and defending 2A PIAA champions Quaker Valley.
South Fayette knocked off the defending 3A champion Montour on Saturday, 3-1, but then losing 3-0 on Thursday to a tough Franklin Regional team that has made the drop in classification from 4A.
“We didn’t hold back,” Eldridge said about his team’s tactical approach and performance on Thursday. “Franklin Regional and West A will be two of the best teams in 3A. We’re still learning. We’re still novice in a lot of positions. But I think we’re going to be a team that no one’s going to want to play.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
If you didn’t already figure it out by now, West Allegheny is led by Duquense commit, Nathan Dragisich.
A year ago, the senior midfielder Dragisich led West Allegheny with 21 goals with 14 assists, earning the WPIAL AAA Player of the Year for the 2017 season. It was the first time in West Allegheny’s school history that a player (boys or girls) achieved this honor. Dragisich was also named Section Player of the Year.
Outside of West Allegheny, Dragisich has played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy on the 2001 Boys Team. He has been with the Riverhounds program since 2008, and has recently been selected as part of the Hounds Pathway to the Pros program where some of the academy players train with the pro team. On top of his soccer prowess, he has a 3.8 GPA and plans to major in Business while attending Duquesne.
— West A Boys Soccer (@WestABoysSoccer) September 7, 2018
Braden Wurst is a senior goalkeeper that has been a steadying force for the Indians. He was instrumental in leading West A to a championship in the Plum HS Tournament, picking up a clean sheet in a 8-0 win over Gateway, and then made several key saves in a 2-1 Championship game victory over 4A Fox Chapel.
South Fayette has a younger, more inexperienced squad, but there’s talent.
In the conversation among the top young players in the WPIAL, the Lions boast a pair of battle-tested sophomores in defender Ethan Sanders and midfielder Chad Eldridge. Both are part of the 2003 (current U15) Beadling SC squad that has made it to National Finals in consecutive years. The Lions also rely on the leadership of senior midfielder Colin Martincic and junior midfielder Gavin Eldridge.
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