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High School notebook: Jumping into the preseason

Photo credit - Ed Thompson

It’s hard to believe, but the opening of the high school preseason begins Monday. 

This provides a good time for us to get started with our coverage for this season too!  So, without wasting any time, we’re ready to jump in to our first edition of the High School Notebook for the 2019 season. 

Coach Kelly’s Corner

During the 2019 season, Ryan Kelly, who coached at Seton LaSalle in recent years and at Century United will be contributing his insights to our coverage.

His first take is on the importance of the first days and week of preseason for high school teams .

“It’s a crucial time to get off on the right foot. The camp week is great because the players aren’t back to school yet, and the schedule allows to help develop that team bond.  It’s important early in the season to establish the foundation of what and how teams are planning to accomplish their goals.  In doing that, it allows to inherently build and set team culture.”

Catching up on coaching changes 

Pine-Richland Boys

Jordan Wiegand helped guide North Catholic to its first-ever WPIAL final and PIAA playoffs in 2016.  He returned to Deer Lakes in 2017, and didn’t waste any time in taking that program further then it’s ever gone, leading the Lancers to the PIAA Final in a very competitive Class 2A in 2018. 

Now, Wiegand will be moving on again, this time up to the top classification, to take over the boys program at Pine Richland. This is a program that lost 16 seniors from last year’s playoff squad, and competes in the same section (Boys 4A/Section 1) as the two teams that have won the last three Boys 4A WPIAL titles: North Allegheny and Seneca Valley. 

“It’s an exciting time to be in the North. We are in a loaded section. It’s a high level of play. There’s lots of fun and creative players. It’s up-tempo. Lots of high pressing. It should be great soccer to watch at this level,”Wiegand said. “This (Pine-Richland’s) program is ready for something new. This has been one of the most eager group’s I’ve ever been around. They’re excited to get started.”

Deer Lakes Boys 

Coming off a run to the PIAA final, with a squad that includes some impressive rising juniors, Deer Lakes now turns to Manchester, England, native and a current Hotspurs coach Daniel Yates to take over the talented group that Wiegand’s guided the past few years.  

Last season, with the Lancers went 21-2-1, won their first section title in 15 years, and made their first PIAA tournament appearance. Not only did they play their way into the state tournament, but they finished just short of capturing the first state championship in school history.

“Just seeing the results from last year and how they did, I was like, ‘wow this team seems real good,’ ” Yates said to Tribune-Review recently. “So, hopefully, I can add to what they did last year and then take them one step further.”

The Lancers return rising senior forward AJ Dorman, who led the team in goals last year with 24. Rising junior midfielders and All-WPIAL selections Devin Murray and Colton Spence also return after holding down the middle of the field.

Spence was the top playmaker, scoring 21 goals and dishing out 24 assists. He also scored the winning goal against Shady Side Academy in the semifinals of the state tournament. Murray found the net eight times and provided an important defensive presence.

Plum Boys

Plum’s program is in good hands, even with the departure of Anthony Russo, who’s moved on to the college ranks to join La Roche’s staff.

Stepping in to take over will be a coach many of the current Plum players are familiar with– Rafal Kolankowski.

Kolankowski, now a member of the Point Park Athletic Hall of Fame, was the men’s soccer program’s all-time leading goal scorer upon completion of his playing days.  In recent years, Kolankowski has coached with Premier Football Academy, Century United, PA West ODP and Hotspurs organizations — and most relevantly, served as Russo’s assistant the previous three seasons.

“I wanted to stay on and help continue what Anthony started,” Kolankowski said. “It’s been a natural transition. The goal this summer has been to keep things moving in a positive direction, and things have gone well. I appreciate being given this opportunity.”

Springdale Girls

After building the Springdale girls program into a top notch contender, Jerry Concannon has stepped down — and another former Point Park University stand out is ready to step in to lead the Dynamo girls.

Liverpool, England native Marc Bentley, who played at Point Park last season, will take on his first head coaching gig in WPIAL.

Concannon coached from 2007-18, leading Springdale to state championship game appearances in 2009 and ‘11, and three berths in the PIAA semifinals in ‘07, 08 and ‘10. The Dynamos won the WPIAL Class AA championship in 2009. Last season, Springdale finished 11-7 and reached the quarterfinals, losing to top seed and eventual champion, Freedom, 5-3.

“I’m really excited about it, and I’m really looking forward to starting the preseason,” Bentley said to Tribune-Review‘s William Whalen.

“I have some big footsteps to follow in.”

Jeannette Boys and Girls

Jeannette’s boys and girls soccer programs which struggled last season, have new head coaches for both its boys and girls programs: Delaney Cortazzo (girls) and Arthur Cicero (boys).

Cicero is a teacher at Adelphoi Education and a graduate of Saint Vincent, where he played soccer for four years. Cortazzo played several sports at Jeannette and began her college softball at Fairmont State before transferring to Seton Hill, where she had a productive career. Another former Jeannette athlete, Sydney Pecoraro, was named an assistant to Cortazzo. Pecoraro played soccer at Waynesburg.

Apollo-Ridge and Leechburg co-op brings together first-time boys program for schools

For the first time in the history of their schools, Apollo-Ridge and Leechburg will have a boys soccer program as the two schools have formed in a co-op agreement.

Heading things up will be Bradley Walker — who also is the Leechburg Area School District business manager. The two schools entered into a co-op for girls soccer in 2018.  Competing in 2A/Section 2, the girls edition of the co-op finished with a 6-7-1 overall record, and earned a playoff berth, losing to Mars, 3-0 in the first round.  

*Editors note –  I have conducted interviews with numerous new coaches, including Wiegand and Kolankowski. Look for more from those in the coming weeks.

If you have any additional news to share regarding coaching changes, feel free to message or email us. 

Belle Vernon girls 

The Belle Vernon Board of Education voted 5-2 in December to look for a new head coach in the upcoming school year, despite Tom Cameron‘s success. Soccer team members and supporters of the coach believed that Cameron was railroaded for the wrong reason, but will now have to turn the page.

It’s a new season — and the new coach will be former assistant coach Tracy Lovett who will succeed Cameron. Last season, the Leopards completed an undefeated section championship, and an overall record of 13-4.

WPIAL defending champions/runners up & 2018 PIAA finalists

  • Girls 1A – Champion: Freedom; Runner-up: Bentworth; PIAA Runner-up: Freedom
  • Girls 2A – Champion: South Park; Runner-up: Hopewell
  • Girls 3A – Champion: Oakland Catholic; Runner-up: Mars
  • Girls 4A – Champion: Seneca Valley; Runner-up: Peters Twp
  • Boys 1A – Champion: Avonworth; Runner-up: Greensburg Central Catholic; PIAA Runner-up: Avonworth
  • Boys 2A – Champion: Shady Side Academy; Runner-up: Quaker Valley; PIAA Runner-up: Deer Lakes
  • Boys 3A – Champion: Franklin Regional; Runner-up: West Allegheny; PIAA Champion: West Allegheny
  • Boys 4A – Champion: Seneca Valley, Runner-up: Norwin

ICYMI – PSN 1-on-1 with Gene Klein

In a new edition of PSN 1on1, I finally caught up with a Western Pennsylvania coaching icon, Gene Klein, and wanted to get his feedback on this issue.

In addition, I did also ask Klein for his thoughts on the announcement that the Riverhounds’ will be building in partnership with Allegheny Health Network, a new training complex at Montour Junction.

PSN 1on1 with Gene Klein

WPIAL / PIAA Schedule & Key Dates

Monday, August 12           preseason begins

Friday, August 30              regular season begins

Wednesday, October 16   regular season ends / WPIAL playoff brackets revealed

Saturday, October 19        WPIAL playoffs begin

Thursday, Friday, Saturday October 31, November 1 & 2          WPIAL Championships (Highmark Stadium)

Tuesday, November 5       PIAA playoffs begin

Friday, Saturday November 15 & 16       PIAA Championships (Hershey)

PSN’s Featured Games 

We will be kicking off our coverage with three featured games that will be played at Highmark Stadium on Saturday, August 31 as part of the Annual East-West Classic.

  • 10:00 a.m.  Wilson-Mt. Lebanon
  • 11:30 a,m.  Exeter-West Allegheny
  • 1:00 p.m.  Fleetwood-Quaker Valley

Additional featured games will be scheduled into the season. Pittsburgh Soccer Now featured games include a Facebook Live Broadcast, on site photographer and reporter.

Here are some samples of our featured games coverage last season:

Blunkosky’s late goal lifts West Allegheny past rival South Fayette again, 1-0

Seton-LaSalle spoils Shady Side’s homecoming with 2-0 non-section win

PSN Nightly Scoreboard and additional coverage

We are planning to include a nightly scoreboard and blog — and look for contributions to come throughout the season from Ed Rosensteel, Ryan Kelly, Matt Harkins, our photographers Ed Thompson, Brad Oskowski and more.

If you are interested in contributing to our coverage, have photos to share or would like to send us updates/information, email us, or DM on Twitter or Facebook.

Recruiting updates: Lucas to Saint Francis (PA), Ulery and Leeder make commitments to Cleveland St and Duquesne

Brooke Ulery and MacKenzie Leeder have made verbal commitments to higher-level programs on the eve of their junior seasons.

Ulery plans to attend Cleveland State, and Leeder pledged to Duquesne. Both are two-time All-WPIAL and all-section selections. Last season, Mt. Pleasant went 10-7 (7-7 in Section 3-AA) but missed the WPIAL playoffs.

Both girls are defenders for Century Soccer Club. Both said they anticipate playing an outside- or center-back position in college.

When initial plans to continue his soccer career at Penn State fell through in the winter, Jeremy Lucas reshaped his post-prep plans.

The recent Franklin Regional grad would take a gap year, keep playing for his club team and take courses at Penn State New Kensington until a larger-scale soccer strategy took shape.

Then, Dayton looked like his landing spot.

“Dayton was my No. 1 option,” he said.

But then St. Francis (Pa.) called and everything changed.

The Red Flash offered the All-WPIAL goalkeeper a scholarship and the sides quickly reached an agreement for Lucas to join the men’s soccer program in Loretto.

Preseason pictures or updates

If you have any preseason pictures or updates from camps or scrimmage information to share, please don’t hesitate to send us your updates via email, DM on Twitter or Facebook.


John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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