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WPIAL Boys Soccer Playoffs: Taking a closer look at Class 4A and 1A semifinal round

File Photo courtesy of Ed Thompson

And then there were four teams remaining in WPIAL Boys Soccer Class 4A and four in Class 1A.

On Wednesday evening, the WPIAL boys semifinal round will conclude with four outstanding matches.  We have a brief preview for each below, as the 4A bracket has gone chalk to this point.

With each of the section champs remaining, plus Fox Chapel being the fourth team coming out of Section 1, could we have an all-North final?

That would be unprecedented in this era in WPIAL boys soccer’s highest classification. Other than 2018 (when Seneca Valley played Norwin), every other championship game played in the past decade plus has included a South Hills (current Section 2) based team.

Meanwhile in 1A, the 5-seed and a 6-seed teams, Sewickley Academy and Springdale, each with some championship pedigree, are playing some good soccer right now. They could make things interesting for the top two seeds, Winchester Thurston and Greensburg Central Catholic, who could, if they meet again in the finals, face each other for the seventh time in the past two years.

4A Boys

#3 Norwin at #2 Seneca Valley

The last time these two teams met in the postseason was in the 2018 WPIAL Final when Seneca Valley pulled away to 5-2 win after a frantic first half which saw six goals scored as they won its first-ever WPIAL title.

This season, Norwin went through Section 3 without a loss (10-0-2) — and started to get healthy as the regular season wound down.

“Playing in the Final at Highmark in 2018, that helped paved the way to help us get to this point,” Norwin’s Head Coach Scott Schuchert said.

With the first-round bye, Norwin welcomed the chance to make sure he has a healthy squad and have all of its main weapons back for another potential run to the Finals.  After securing Section 3 title, Norwin began their run in the playoffs with an impressive, 4-1 win against North Allegheny. It was Caleb Yuricha, who fueled the win with two goals and an assist.  The Knights also boast two four-year starters at center back, Ian Brown and Nate Bown.

“Having them in the back, with that experience and knowing we can count on them, really has helped us this year,” Schuchert added.

Seneca Valley are one of the favorites to win the WPIAL title, after winning Section 1 with just one loss (to Butler) and one tie (to North Allegheny). They had to pass a tough first test against section foe Butler in the quarterfinal, winning 1-0 on Kyle Majeski’s goal off a free kick in the 70th minute along with a solid defensive performance with goalkeeper Adam Davies picking up the shutout.

Seneca’s Head Coach George Williams has a lot of roster depth this year, as he’s been subbing in players in regular intervals to keep his team fresh and has a squad that can bring high energy for 80 full minutes.  When watching Seneca Valley, opposing coaches have noted that when they sub in and out with four or five players at a time, there’s been little drop off.

Will this be as wild, and open-ended as that memorable final two years ago?  Probably not, as both sides are solid defensively.  But, you never know how things will go.

“We definitely don’t want it to be too wide open,” Schuchert said.

#4 Fox Chapel at #1 Peters Twp

The past few years, since becoming part of that tough Section 1, Fox Chapel has remained a perennial playoff contender but have struggled to get back to the finals, where they last played in 2015. Leading the way for Erik Ingram’s squad is senior forward Nate Lazzara, who also received All-State honors last week. The Foxes may also be hitting their stride at just the right time. Over the last month, they’ve only dropped one contest, a 2-0 loss to Seneca Valley, and including Saturday’s 6-0 quarterfinal win vs Upper St. Clair, they have won eight of its past nine games while recording seven shutouts and outscoring teams 36-3.

Ingram’s been touting the fact that his squad is battle-tested after playing a rigorous schedule against the likes of Seneca Valley, Butler, North Allegheny — telling the Tribunie-Review’s Greg Macafee that they play a ‘little faster-paced soccer up here in the North.’

That quote may have already made its way to Peters Township’s bulletin board.

Under Bobby Dyer, (allowed just 11 goals in 14 games) last made the WPIAL final in 2017, when they held a late lead against North Allegheny, but were upended on a golden goal.

While Fox Chapel had an easier time against Upper St. Clair (in Saturday’s 6-0 win), Peters were sluggish from the start on Saturday against Baldwin.

Assistant coach and previous Pittsburgh Soccer Now contributor, Ryan Kelly felt that the time off with the bye week may have done more harm to the squad. Peters were pushed to the limit, winning 2-1 in OT against section rival, upstarts from Baldwin. Andrew Massucci scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime to lift the Indians to the semifinals.

If there’s another slow start for Peters, Fox Chapel’s dangerous attack could make them pay.

“We’ll see how we match-up,” Kelly said.

Either way, this should be a good match-up. Whether it’s about North and South rivalry or simply teams with contrasting styles, one of these teams will be playing in the WPIAL Final on Saturday.

1A Boys

#5 Springdale at #1 Greensburg Central Catholic

These two teams, despite losing a number of players from last year’s teams, will meet again in the playoffs. Last season, on its way to capturing the WPIAL title, Greensburg Central Catholic defeated Springdale, 4-2 in the semifinals. GCC also prevailed,1-0, in overtime in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Top seeded Greensburg Central Catholic opened this year’s playoffs with a 7-5 win vs Aquinas Academy, then were in a battle against 8-seed Eden Christian, as they escaped with a 1-0 victory.  Against Eden Christian with under 15 minutes left in regulation, they were deadlocked in a scoreless tie.  Coming off a throw-in, Ricco Ciccarelli intended to send a cross to the far post area — and somehow — the momentum from the kick spun the ball into the goal.

While the Centurions are a bit battle-tested now, they’ll be facing a tough challenge from the Dynamo, who went undefeated in section play. Their only loss came against Class 2A No. 2 seed Deer Lakes. They recorded four shutouts. Freshman Billy Lawrence leads the team with 17 goals. After a 3-1 win in the first round against Bentworth, then playing Section 4 champs Seton LaSalle to nil-nil score through the first half, they exploded for five second half goals to beat the Rebels going away, 5-0.  Duncan Caltagarone scored a pair of goals to lead the attack.

After losing to GCC twice in the postseason in 2019, could this be the time Springdale reverses the story?

#6 Sewickley Academy at #2 Winchester Thurston (at Graham Field in Wilkinsburg)

Winchester Thurston have gone through this season like a club that is eager to get back to the WPIAL and PIAA finals, as they did a year ago. After losing its only match to section and class 1A rivals Greensburg Central Catholic (a 3-2 loss on Sept. 29), WT have rolled the competition en route to a 12-1 overall record, winning eight straight and surrendering only three goals all season (two came in the loss to GCC).  Thus far in these playoffs, the Bears are clicking in the attack, outscoring the opposition (Riverside & Brentwood) 12-2.

There was a time when Sewickley Academy had, year-in and year-out, a WPIAL and PIAA title contender in Class 1A. They last won the WPIAL title in 2016 and are now back knocking on the door. They controlled its first-round match against Chartiers-Houston, a 3-0 win, from start to finish as Jack Wentz, Michael DiSantis and William Vanella scored, with midfielder Cole Rychel assisting on all three goals, Sewickley then pulled off a slight upset in taking down section rival, Our Lady of Sacred Heart, 1-0, in the quarterfinal and third meeting between the two schools this season.

Previous Results: 

WPIAL Class 4A Playoffs: Quarterfinals
FINAL Seneca Valley 1, Butler 0
FINAL Fox Chapel 6, Upper St. Clair 0
FINAL Peters Township 2, Baldwin 1 (OT)
FINAL Norwin 4, North Allegheny 1
WPIAL Class 1A Playoffs: Quarterfinals
FINAL Sewickley Academy 1, Our Lady of Sacred Heart 0
FINAL Winchester Thurston 6. Brentwood 2
FINAL Greensburg Central Catholic 1, Eden Christian
FINAL Springdale 5, Seton LaSalle 0

WPIAL Class 4A Playoffs: First Round

FINAL Baldwin 2, Central Catholic 0
FINAL Butler 1, Canon-McMillan 1Butler advances by winning Penalty Kick shootout
FINAL Upper St. Clair 5, Latrobe 0
FINAL North Allegheny 5, Allderdice 1

WPIAL Class 1A Playoffs: First Round

FINAL Sewickley Academy 3. Chartiers-Houston 0
FINAL Springdale 3, Bentworth 1
FINAL Greensburg Central Catholic 7, Aquinas Academy 5
FINAL Eden Christian 4, Serra Catholic 2
FINAL Seton LaSalle 2, Beaver County Christian 0
FINAL Brentwood 1, Trinity Christian 0
FINAL Winchester Thurston 6, Riverside 0
FINAL Our Lady of Sacred Heart 1, Carlynton 0

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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