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PIAA Boys Class 2A Final Preview: Chasing history, battle-tested Quaker Valley goes for 10th State title vs Camp Hill

PIAA Boys Class 2A Final

Quaker Valley (20-4-0 – District 7 WPIAL) 


Camp Hill (20-2-2 – District 3) 

Friday, November 17 |  1 pm.  |  Eagle View MS, Mechanicsburg



Quaker Valley boys soccer has built a storied program has flourished for decades, and they’re once again in a familiar place — set to play in their 15th all-time PIAA Boys Soccer Championship game appearance on Friday afternoon, when they face Camp Hill in Mechanicsburg in the Class 2A Final.

“We’ve been here before, and two years ago we were here, so a lot of these guys were there, but it’s always special. You have to take a lot of pride in the fact that every single team is playing all year long, high-level players and high-level coaches,” Quaker Valley’s Head Coach JJ Veshio said after beating Shady Side for the second time in as many weeks.

“This is what we play for, to be a competitor and to win at the highest level, and we’re there.”

The Quakers endured a few challenges in the past couple of rounds of the PIAA tournament, beating WPIAL foe Shady Side Academy on Saturday, 2-1, in the quarterfinal, then defeated Central Columbia in a 1-0 nail biter, with Jack Karwoski scoring the lone goal in the semifinal to put Quaker Valley back in a familiar spot with a coach and upperclassman who have grown together and carried on the winning culture which started with Gene Klein, a Pittsburgh soccer icon, who passed away earlier this year.

“We’ve gotten to our positions, and learned what we’re doing at the same time,” Senior midfielder Bennett Haas said recently on PSN’s Kids on the Pitch Podcast.

With a senior laden group, who have carried on the Quaker Valley heritage, thriving when they’re on the attack, using three forwards, and a possession system, looking to wear down its opponents and build-up play out of the back, through the middle of the field and use the width effectively.

Leading the way, Kiril Grin had 14 goals to lead the Quakers in the regular season, Nick Allan with 13 and Haas with 12.

Allan, a senior midfielder, senior defender Matteo Castellini and Haas were All-WPIAL selections.

Even in defeat, whether it was during the regular season, when they lost both matches in the Annual East-West Classic to traditional opponents from Eastern PA, or in the regular season to talented section rival Avonworth, or in the WPIAL Final to South Park when they significantly outshot and outpossessed the Eagles, the Quakers have found ways to bounce back and be even stronger.

“East-West Classic, and other losses, were a kick in the teeth for us,” Haas said, when a guest on the Kids on the Pitch Podcast. “It gave us the realization that teams can beat us when we’re not at our best.  We need to hold each other accountable, and play clean, and good soccer.”

In the WPIAL Final, the Quakers threw everything put the kitchen sink at South Park — were on the front foot for much of the match, but it took a valiant effort from South Park’s keeper Cooper Hochendoner, making 13 saves, and a dangerous set piece that tilted the match.

“Sometimes, that’s the game,” Veshio said to PSN’s Matthew Baldwin.  “You can’t dwell on it. You just have to work on your next chance.”

The Quakers have come back stronger in the PIAA playoffs.

Despite having to start the playoffs on the road, Quaker Valley walloped Bedford, 7-0, in the first round, with a handful of contributions.  But the Quakers were up for the challenges from Shady Side Academy and Central Columbia in the last two rounds.

“It’s playoffs,” Veshio added. “You want the crazy battles. The one-goal games, and we got another one to add to our story.”

In the Shady Side win, Veshio found himself telling defender Tanner Schultz, after missing a chance in the first half, to be ready to make the most of his next chance.

Veshio pointed out that Quaker Valley’s progress has always been a team effort, and that anyone can play a key role in taking them forward.

“You don’t want anyone to do anything that’s out of their wheelhouse, but sometimes you’ve got to be a hero, and sometimes on a play like that there’s a big scramble and somebody like Tanner who doesn’t have a lot of goals this season… but when he found his chance he buried it,” Veshio, on Schultz’s game winner late against Shady Side.

The Quakers have been resilient, but have one more big obstacle standing in the way.

District 3 runner-up Camp Hill is looking for its third state title in its fifth finals appearance. The Lions moved up from Class A last year but have remained contenders in 2A.

Mac Sarff has recorded 16 shutouts this season and had eight saves in the semifinals. Ty Kirchhoff scored the winning goal off an assist from Lorenzo Lici in the seventh minute against Blue Mountain on Tuesday. Camp Hill defeated Quaker Valley’s neighbor, Sewickley Academy, 4-1, to win the 2016 Class A title and the Lions beat North Catholic, 3-2 in overtime, for the championship in 2017.

Veshio, who played at Quaker Valley, and for Gene Klein, from 1999-2002, as a part of successful squads that won PIAA and WPIAL championships and added a state runner-up finish under the direction of his revered coach has done everything he can to keep Quaker Valley tradition going.  He won the WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2021, beating Lewisburg 1-0 (5-4 PKs) to win the 2021 crown after Allen scored the winning goal in penalty kicks.

The next generation has completely bought in and is hoping to add PIAA title number 10.

“I remember being at a camp, when I was younger, and learning from and meeting Gene Klein,” Haas said.

“That guy knows what he’s doing.  He made an impact.  This year, J.J. (Veshio)’s really harped on being successful in the mundane, the little things that will get us across in the end. He always talked about how coach Klein would focus on the simple things. Quaker Valley soccer is a brotherhood, and it is what it is because of Gene Klein.”

Quaker Valley & PIAA History 

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has crowned champions in boys’ soccer since 1976.

Each classification champion and up to four additional schools from the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) have qualified for the PIAA Championships since its inception, with PIAA District VII claiming a total of 38 state champions in the sport.

Of all the WPIAL schools, Quaker Valley boys soccer program has set the highest standard — winning the most State titles with nine.

The WPIAL has produced multiple PIAA boys’ soccer champions six times, and brought home three state titles in 2021.

A total of seven different WPIAL schools have won multiple PIAA titles, with Quaker Valley’s nine being the most in league history. The other schools who have won two or more are: Sewickley Academy (4), Upper St. Clair (4), Hampton (3), Peters Township (3), Seneca Valley (2), Seton LaSalle (2), and South Park (2).

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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