The days of the Seton-LaSalle boys' soccer team scoring six goals a game may be behind it.
Rather than trying to replace the 31 goals scored last year by Anthony Virgara, who has transferred to Keystone Oaks, Rebels coach Aaron Panczyk anticipates his team being more defense-oriented this season.
In eight of its regular-season games last year, Seton-LaSalle scored at least six goals, including reaching double digits twice.
Despite the Virgara transfer, Seton-LaSalle returns a playoff-tested veteran team that includes two returning all-state selections, forward Dave Del Greco and midfielder Alex Fischetti.
"You do not replace 31 goals," Panczyk said. "The way you replace that is by changing the way you play the game, we will shake things up and be more of a defensive team.
"Replacing someone of Anthony's caliber is not easy. We won't beat teams by six goals or more anymore, but we will be just as good as we were last year."
Senior captains Del Greco and Fischetti are trying to reach the WPIAL title game for the fourth consecutive year. Midfielders Michael Liebert and Jeff Cancelmi return this year along with defenders Sean Clark and Mark D'uva. D'uva and Liebert are also captains for the Rebels.
Dave Del Greco's cousin, James Del Greco, and Tyler Trainor will start at forward. Another key position that the Rebels are working to replace is goalkeeper.
The backbone of the team's defense the past two season's, A.J. Smigielski, has graduated and three players, including his younger brother, Cory, are vying to start in net this season.
Seniors Jon Andrews and Michael Zwolinski along with Cory Smigielski are currently rotating at this key position. Panczyk anticipates having a starter named a few games into the season.
The Rebels are ranked No. 2 among Class A teams in the Post-Gazette preseason rankings behind Sewickley Academy.
"I think the team deals with pressure and expectations pretty well," Panczyk said.
"We had the high preseason ranking last year and the guys have become accustomed to having a target on their backs. They know they can't take a game off against anyone because they are getting every team's best game."
WPIAL Class A soccer in recent history has been all about Seton-LaSalle and Sewickley Academy. Since 2000 the two schools have accounted for six out of eight WPIAL Class A boys' soccer titles with back-to-back championships for Greensburg Central Catholic in 2003 and 2004 breaking the stranglehold.
Sewickley ended the Rebels' WPIAL playoff run last year with a 2-1 win in the title game and their PIAA playoff run with a 4-3 win in the semifinals. During the regular season the Section 3-A rivals played to 1-1 ties in both meetings.
The teams will meet for the first time Sept. 10 and again in the section finale Oct. 13.
"I think it will be a great early-season test with Sewickley being the defending WPIAL and state champs," Panczyk said. "Anytime Seton-LaSalle and Sewickley play, it's always a great game."
Panczyk anticipates going about three or four deep to his bench with junior Pat Boland and freshman Tyler Balzer seeing time at outside midfielder.
"For us to get back to the WPIAL title game it is honestly going to have to be all about effort. We have struggled in the past by not providing great effort against weaker opponents," Panczyk said.
"In the past we have played down to [the level of lesser] teams and we haven't been able to grow from those games like we should have. We have to be more mature this year.
"It is not every year that you get a chance to play for a title and with a lot of guys being seniors, they understand that this is their last year."