Connect with us

College Soccer

One-time WPIAL stars provide added Western PA flavor at Men’s College Cup

Photo courtesy Indiana University Men's Soccer / Athletics

Not only will be Pitt’s men’s soccer team be representing Western Pennsylvania on College soccer’s biggest stage, when they look over across the way at their opponent on Friday night, among the talented group of high line attackers for the Indiana Hoosiers will include former Greensburg Central Catholic standout, Nate Ward.

Ward was a highly touted high school and youth player who excelled with the Riverhounds Development Academy, with Beadling SC and at Greensburg Central Catholic, where he won a WPIAL title in 2019.

With numerous offers from NCAA Division I schools, Ward chose to play for one of college soccer’s blue bloods, Indiana University, where making the College Cup has become a rite of tradition, making 21 appearances since the program was founded in 1973.

“None (of the other programs) measure up to the history and experience that comes with IU,” Ward told Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after making his commitment.

“They have the most NCAA championships, the most college cup appearances, the most NCAA tournament victories… and more. Coach (Todd) Yeagley and his father, (former Indiana head coach) Jerry Yeagley, form one of the most humble and successful coaching staffs in college soccer.”

Now a junior at Indiana, Ward has been a contstant presence for the program, making 60 total appearances, with 10 starts and picking up two goals and two assists in his collegiate career in Bloomington.

In the previous meeting between the two schools, in the College Cup in May 2021, Ward came off the bench, playing 24 minutes against Pitt, in the 1-0 Indiana victory.  Ward would also play in the National Championship match a few nights later, when the Hoosiers fell to Marshall.

Pitt’s current roster has three players who completed in the WPIAL (District 7 – High School) and for local club programs: Michael Sullivan, Josh Luchini and Eben McIntyre.

Sullivan (Deer Lakes; Arsenal/Century United), Luchini (North Allegheny; North United/Steel Town Magic), McIntyre (Charleroi; Riverhounds Development Academy and Century United) and Ward (GCC; Beadling SC), have each taken different paths to get to the College Cup.

Both Sullivan and Ward, also trained and played in some games together with Pittsburgh Hotspurs of the NPSL this past summer.

In November, Pittsburgh Soccer Now’s Dominic Campbell completed the following feature on the WPIAL players from Pitt.

Pitt’s Josh Luchini and Michael Sullivan show the strength of WPIAL Soccer

Luchini is the most experienced college soccer player, was part of North Allegheny’s back-to-back WPIAL title winning teams in 2016 and 2017, before he moved on to play at Lehigh, where he excelled from 2018-2021, even earning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2019.  With the extra year of eligibility due to the COVID shortened 2020-21 season, Luchini transferred to Pitt as a graduate student for the 2022 Fall semester.

“Pitt was definitely my top choice all the way through,” Luchini said to Pittsburgh Soccer Now.

“Such a big program and being able to come home for the last year. Just be around family and allow them to come to all the games it just kind of meant something special to me.”

Sullivan, who helped lead Deer Lakes to a WPIAL title in 2020, and to a pair of PIAA runner-up finish in 2018 and 2020, is entering his second year at Pitt.

McIntyre, who graduated early from high school in the Fall 2020, enrolled early last Spring to get a head start at Pitt, and has not seen any playing time yet in his freshman year.

Both Luchini and Sullivan have been integral parts of Pitt’s attacking unit rotation, with each earning many starts along the way, or at other times, may beome off the bench as part of the rotation.

Luchini plays on the left wing as a forward, opposite star junior forward Bertin Jacquesson and next to star midfielder Valentin Noel. Sullivan plays in the midfield and serves as an attacking midfielder that bolsters the play of both junior Filip Mirkovic and graduate Jackson Walti.

“I think that there’s something about being from Western Pa. and wanting to be at Pitt,” Pitt’s Head Coach Jay Vidovich said.

“Knowing a little bit about the university and the city. There’s got to be something there playing for your hometown university. I think they bring those type of qualities to it. I think this area’s naturally competitive. It’s something we’ve tried with several players coming in here and those two players (Sullivan and Luchini) have certainly excelled. They bring a quality to the team.”

 

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).

More in College Soccer