The first thing Vincentian boys' soccer coach Mitch Riehle noticed about his players upon seeing them in preseason camp was their great conditioning.
That fitness was put to the test in Vincentian's first game of the season, a tough section challenge on the road against reigning section champion Springdale. The Royals were forced to play a man down after receiving a red card 10 minutes into the contest.
That fitness was put to the test even further when Vincentian was able to force double overtime before falling to the Dynamos, 1-0.
"That was a good test and a good challenge," Riehle said. "We essentially played 100 minutes of soccer with 10 players. It was a character builder."
It certainly appeared to be a character builder as the Royals bounced back to win its next nine games, including a 2-0 win at home against Springdale on Sept. 27. That run ended on Tuesday however, as Riverview nipped the Royals, 3-2.
Vincentian is now 9-2 overall and 7-2 in Section 2-A, a game behind Springdale (11-3, 8-1) and tied with Riverview (11-5, 7-2) for second place. All three have one section match remaining.
Now in his third season with the team, this is the most experienced group Riehle has coached. He starts five seniors, three juniors and three sophomores.
Riehle a former grade school coach at St. Alphonsus in Pine for 14 years and the current director of the Pittsburgh Diocesan elementary school league, has coached many of his current players when they were younger.
"I knew the quality of players we had," Riehle said. "The seniors have shown some good leadership.
"Last year we had primarily a defensive strategy. This year we can probably score a few more goals."
Vincentian was boosted this season by the return of forward Mike Haberman. A 6-foot-2 senior, Haberman took a year off from soccer to focus on academics last season. He was an all-section choice as a sophomore. He picked up right where he left off this season with a team-leading 24 goals.
Senior John Michael DiDonato, an All-WPIAL selection last season, plays as a center attacking midfielder. Senior Alec Costa plays alongside Haberman. Alec's younger brother, Corbin, starts in the midfield.
Senior defender Ethan Andolina is a returning all-section starter and one of the team captains. After being pressed into action last year as a freshman, sophomore Michael Falgione returns at goalkeeper.