WPIAL Boys 4A Soccer Final
Seneca Valley 5, Norwin 2
For a number of years, Seneca Valley’s boys soccer program had been knocking on the door.
On Saturday, they finally broke through to win its first WPIAL title, rolling past Norwin 5-1 at Highmark Stadium on Saturday evening. It was a pretty good day for Seneca Valley’s soccer teams, as the girls won earlier in the day, beating Peters Township 2-1 in overtime.
ED THOMPSON’s PHOTO GALLERY
HOW IT HAPPENED
Not even one minute into the match, the Raiders struck.
Building on the momentum coming from the school’s girls team’s dramatic win only twenty minutes earlier, and the crowd still buzzing, sophomore forward Luke Rupert got forward quickly, and deep into the left side of the box, sliding a low shot past Norwin’s keeper Kyle Krotec.
Then things got really crazy, and the matched turned into an open-ended affair.
It wasn’t exactly what was expected from either side.
“It was a great start to the game, but starting early, we knew we had a long road ahead. We knew they beat some really good teams to get here,” George Williams, Seneca Valley’s head coach, said. “But we weren’t expecting what happened.”
“We weren’t planning for that,” Scott Schuchert, Norwin’s head coach, said. “You could plan for almost anything, but to concede a goal in the first minute, that was tough.”
In the 14th minute, the Knights doubled the lead when Anthony Mills got to a ball first after a corner kick — and put it home past Krotec.
The senior midfielder was so excited — he took off to run all the way to the other side of the field, finishing with a knee slide, on the Highmark Stadium field turf (ouch!) to celebrate a two-goal lead with his bench.
“That one probably hurt more than the first,” Schuchert explained. “Coach Williams had a great game plan. Corners would be the difference early before we could make adjustments, and they got us.”
Down, 2-0, Schuchert acknowledged that it would be tough to chase the game against a quality opponent.
Not even a minute later, Norwin responded.
One of the leading scorers in the WPIAL, Carter Breen broke loose on the right side, and buried his shot.
Suddenly the Knights cut the lead in half to 2-1. It didn’t faze Seneca.
Only a minute after Breen’s tally, Norwin couldn’t clamp down defensively, as Seneca Valley’s senior midfielder Jackson Wotus cut into the box put his shot past Krotec to push the Knights back up by two goals.
“That was the biggest goal of the game,” Williams said. “That kind of gave us confidence, that what ever they’re thrown back at us, we can handle it.”
Norwin came right back after that, coming close to scoring another goal during this short span of time. The Knights were awarded a free kick from the edge of the 18, about one foot behind the line.
They turned to Breen again, who ripped a shot that banged off the crossbar, and out of the goal area in the 17th minute.
“You only get so many chances to turn the tide of the match when you’re down by a couple of goals,” Schuchert added. “We know we needed two goals to get back in it.”
After that wild flurry of activity, the game settled down a bit with Seneca Valley staying on top at halftime, 3-1.
In the second half, Schuchert said that “we tried to do everything we could” to get forward and cut the lead.
Instead, in the 50th minute, Rupert did what Breen couldn’t do — delivered a shot that hit the underpart of the crossbar — and bounced past the goal line to give Seneca Valley a commanding 4-1 lead.
The Raiders added another one, as Zach Lavelle made a nice cut back in the box, then left footed finish gave the Raiders a 5-1 lead.
Breen had one more chance in the 75th minute, after Norwin was awarded a rare indirect kick inside the left side of the box.
With a wall lined up over the ball, Breen was fed the first-touch pass, and fired it — you guessed it — off the crossbar and the ball ricocheted out and away from goal.
The Knights did pick up a late tally, in the final minute of the match to close out the scoring as Jake Nebinski with scored from the left side.
It was too little, too late.
At the end of the day, we’ll turn the page and get ready for the next step,” Schuchert said.
Both teams will continue its seasons on Tuesday when they enter the PIAA state playoff tournament. The opponents, dates and times have not been determined yet.
“We came from a section where we had to battle every minute. North Allegheny, Fox Chapel, Pine-Richland, Butler, Central Catholic, a lot of really good teams,” Williams pointed out. “We’re used to having to fight, scratch and battle for everything.”
And suddenly, after years of dominance in WPIAL boys soccer’s highest classification from teams in Pittsburgh southern suburbs, the balance of power has shifted North, as Seneca’s win comes on the heels of back-to-back titles from section rival North Allegheny.
“It’s tilted for now,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of good players coming up everywhere around our area.”
“We’re very, very lucky, blessed to have the group of players we have here,” Williams added. “I give them all the credit. Its a true team. Those guys work together, and that’s how we won it tonight.”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – LUKE RUPERT