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WPIAL Soccer Notebook presented by Glory on the Grass: Key dates to mark down for 2023 high school season plus latest coaching updates

WPIAL Soccer Notebook is presented by Glory on the Grass Soccer Tournaments 

Register a team today for an upcoming 5v5 tournament in Western Pennsylvania this Summer! 

Before you know it, the High School soccer season will be upon us, so it’s never too early to put out a new WPIAL Soccer Notebook.

Heading into the 2023 season, very few changes are expected to come by way of classifications and section alignment within the WPIAL (PIAA District 7), as we are currently between realignment years, as things should hold steady.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of movement as many schools are working to firm up their boys and girls soccer coaching staff hires. There are numerous openings that need to be filled, but a  number of coaching announcements have been made in recent months.

Each school is still in the process of finalizing their boys and girls teams non-conference schedules, and match details for in-section games.

Pittsburgh Soccer Now has been learning about some of the early season ‘tournament’ and ‘classic’ schedules, as we’ll have some more information to share in this edition of the WPIAL Soccer Notebook.

As the high school soccer season is a few months away from really kicking into high gear, PSN will also be working on finalizing our coverage plans for the upcoming season.  We plan on having a schedule of ‘Featured’ games that we will cover, where we include a broadcast on our YouTube channel, photos and a full match report.  For any soccer programs interested in inquiring about featured game coverage or if any vendors are interested in advertising or sponsorship opportunities during the high school soccer season, please reach out to us by email or send a DM to our Twitter account.

WPIAL (PIAA District 7) 2023 Key Dates for Boys and Girls Soccer 

For the monthly calendar format for the key dates on the WPIAL soccer schedules, you can refer to the WPIAL website.

  • Monday, August 14       First Practice Date
  • Saturday, August 19      First Scrimmage Date
  • Friday, August 25          First Game Date
  • Monday, August 28       Section Play Begins (Girls)
  • Tuesday, August 29       Section Play Begins (Boys)
  • Wednesday, October 18     Playoff Selection Committee Announces Postseason Brackets by Classification
  • Thursday, October 19 – Tuesday, October 31    WPIAL Boys & Girls Soccer Playoffs (First Round, Quarterfinal Round, Semifinal Round)
  • Thursday, November 2 – Saturday, November 4       WPIAL Finals (Highmark Stadium)
  • Sunday, November 5      PIAA Announces Postseason Brackets for State Tournament by Classification
  • Tuesday, November 7     PIAA Boys & Girls Soccer Tournament (First Round)
  • Saturday, November 11   PIAA Boys & Girls Soccer Tournament (Quarterfinal Round)
  • Tuesday, November 14   PIAA Boys & Girls Soccer Tournament (Semifinal Round)
  • Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19     PIAA Boys & Girls Soccer Championship Games (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Early Season Tournaments

The JRK Memorial Classic will once again be hosted by Pine-Richland boys, and this year the season’s weekend opening tournament will feature 12 boys soccer programs playing over a three day period from Friday, August 25 through Sunday, August 27.

And, once again, Pittsburgh Soccer Now will feature coverage from the Classic. Look for more details to follow as we get closer to opening weekend.

The JRK Memorial Classic will feature defending WPIAL Boys Class 4A champions, Pine-Richland, joined by North Allegheny, Shaler, Moon, Franklin Regional, Penn Trafford, North Catholic, Ambridge, South Park, Winchester Thurston, Kiski School (Private) and Wheeling Park (WV).

The matches featured at Pine-Richland will feature three of the four defending WPIAL boys soccer champions (Pine-Richland, Moon and Winchester Thurston). In addition, Wheeling Park was the second ranked team in West Virginia in 2022.

The tentative schedule includes JV matches with each school involved, but the featured varsity matches include:

Friday August 25th, 2023
PR Stadium
8pm V – Pine-Richland vs Wheeling Park

Ram Cage
8pm V – Winchester Thurston vs North Catholic

Saturday August 26th, 2023
PR Stadium
12:45pm V – North Allegheny vs Ambridge
4:15pm V – Moon vs Kiski School
7:45pm V – Pine-Richland vs North Catholic

Ram Cage
12:45pm V – South Park vs Penn Trafford
4:15pm V – Wheeling Park vs Franklin Regional
7:45pm V – Winchester Thurston vs Shaler

Sunday August 27th, 2023
PR Stadium
2:30pm V – South Park vs Shaler
6pm V – North Allegheny vs Kiski School

Ram Cage
2:30pm V – Penn Trafford vs Moon
6pm V – Ambridge vs Franklin Regional

Another early season ‘classic’ that will once again be played on the boys side, will be the East-West Classic.  The East-West Classic alternates locations each year, with the matches last year being played at Highmark Stadium.

While the dates/times are still being finalized, the teams will include Quaker Valley and Mount Lebanon (from the West) and Fleetwood and Wilson from the East, with the matches planned to be played in Reading.

Coaching Updates 

As expected in any off season, there will be numerous coaching changes throughout the district.

The coaching carousel really went into full mode this Winter on the boys side.

Ben Fiore, who guided Ambridge to the WPIAL Class 3A championship game at Highmark Stadium last season, has been hired to take over the boys program at his alma mater, Kiski Area.

“It is such an amazing feeling to return home to Kiski,” Fiore told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“I have a lot of love for Kiski, and Kiski is partially responsible for the good parts of who I am. I am very fortunate to say that I went there, and I have some of my best life memories there, including the time with the boys soccer program. The fact that I am able to come back and contribute in some way to the community and the program means the world to me.”

Fiore said while it is an exciting opportunity to come to Kiski, it was tough to leave a Bridgers program that allowed him to grow as a coach.

He arrived at Ambridge in 2021 and helped guide the team to a Section 4-2A runner-up finish (9-3) and a run to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals. The Bridgers finished the season 14-7 overall.

Here’s PSN’s Interview with Fiore after the WPIAL Championship match in November.

The team that defeated Ambridge in the WPIAL Boys Class 3A final, was Moon, and they’ll have a coaching change too.

Tyler Blake will take over as the boys head coach at Moon.

Pannabaker stepped down after a monumental season when he was honored as Class 3A Boys Coach of the Year, but the program will be in good hands with Blake, a Moon alum.

Another well-established and successful program will have a new coach, as one of Fioire’s assistants with Ambridge, Ryan Kanner, will now be the head coach of the Greensburg Central Catholic boys program.

Kanner replaces Rob Fabian, who resigned after two seasons, to take the post at Ringgold.

Fabian went 31-8 and guided GCC to the WPIAL Class A final in his first season. Charleroi upset GCC (15-3), 3-2, in the WPIAL quarterfinals last year.

The Centurions have five WPIAL titles, including back-to-back wins in 2019 and ‘20.

“I’m just honored to be joining such a high-level program that’s had a lot of success in recent years,” Kanner said. “Winning five WPIAL titles since 2003 is no small feat.”

Kanner played soccer at the club and high school levels before attending Penn State.

He was an assistant boys coach at Ambridge in 2022. A key assistant and junior varsity coach, Kanner saw the Bridgers reach the WPIAL Class 3A championship and the second round of the PIAA playoffs.

Steve Pons has been named boys head coach at Jeannette.  He replaces Art Cicero, who was not retained after four seasons.  In 2022, the Jayhawks finished 8-9 overall (5-9 in Class 2A, Section 2).

Pons inherits a talented team that includes All-WPIAL player Jordan Taylor as well as standouts Austin Emery and Jorel Taylor.  Pons, 59, has extensive coaching experience that includes various clubs around Pittsburgh, although this will be his first stop in Westmoreland County. He was an assistant with the Moon boys when they won a WPIAL championship and made the PIAA finals in 2004.

He was the middle school head coach at Moon, where he coached from 2002-05 and also was an assistant at Central Valley (2016-17).

“I have been a goalkeeper all of my life and still currently play in an over-50 league with FC Pittsburgh,” Pons told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“While I don’t know the team well yet, I do have a couple of exciting players returning this year. I look forward to working with them, as well as the rest of the boys, this year.”

Another new hire comes in one of the toughest sections around, where North Hills has hired a new coach, Kyle Boggs, replaced Jared Steigerwald.  North Hills finished 0-14 in section (1-16-1 overall) in 2022.

There’s also been movement on the girls side, and we have a couple of coaching hire updates.

Former Robert Morris University player and current Beadling WPSL team coach, Matt Fonagy, who was on the Sounding Off on Soccer podcast last week, has been tabbed to be the new girls coach at Canon-McMillan.  In 2022, Canon-Mac finished 6-6-2 overall, but narrowly missed out on a WPIAL playoff berth.

Elizabeth Forward has hired Sotiri Tsourekis, who has coached mainly in the Pittsburgh region with club AFFC.

Also, Pine-Richland has hired Alessandro Moreia to lead the girls program.  Last season, Pine-Richland posted an 8-6-1 overall record, squeezing into the WPIAL Class 4A Girls Playoffs, where they lost in the first round, 5-0, to Mt. Lebanon.

Moreia, a former professional player who played primarily in Costa Rica, is currently the head coach for several youth soccer teams and serves at the director of training in local programs.

The Brazilian native coached the Sewickley Academy boys in 2021 and 2022.

Here’s a clip of Moreia scoring a goal in his playing days.

Greensburg Central Catholic will have an opening too, as Kara Batey resigned after one season with the girls. She is going back to Penn-Trafford to serve as an assistant to Jimmy Mastroianni.

Chartiers Valley will have a new coach, as Jason Edwards has left for Clarion University to replace Alexa Ream, who has become an assistant at Bucknell.

There are also a lot more programs still working through coaching hires and we expect to see more announcements to come in the coming month.

Kids on the Pitch will return! 

Look in the coming weeks for new episodes of the Kids on the Pitch Podcast, as we’ll be bringing on WPIAL soccer coaches and some additional special guests.

Introducing ‘Kids on the Pitch’, a soccer podcast devoted to scholastic and youth soccer

Kids on the Pitch Podcast: Libby Mascaro ‘leads with love’ in crusade to promote Mental Health Awareness


WPIAL Soccer Notebook is presented by Glory on the Grass Soccer Tournaments 

Register a team today for an upcoming 5v5 tournament in Western Pennsylvania this Summer! 

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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