Despite failing to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs in 2011, the Riverview High School boys soccer team had high hopes this season with the return of star midfielder Cole Quinio.
The Raiders lost five of their first nine games, however, including a 2-1 overtime loss to Springdale in which Riverview led, 1-0, with 40 seconds remaining.
But Quinio said he and the other seniors on the squad were not going to let the Raiders miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
"That hurt pretty bad when we missed the playoffs," Quinio said. "I'm one of four seniors on the team and we weren't going to let that happen again. This is our final year."
The Raiders responded by going on a seven-game winning streak, the first six of which were shutouts.
One of the keys was first-year goalkeeper Sam Gonsowski, who wasn't cleared to play until two weeks into the season because of a knee injury. Gonsowski also plays basketball at Riverview and uses his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage in goal. Quinio said he worked with Gonsowski all summer long in preparation for the season.
Another key was the defense in front of Gonsowski getting acclimated to high school soccer. Three of the four starters on Riverside's defense are sophomores and seeing playing time at the varsity level for the first time because the Raiders don't usually play freshmen.
"I think it took them a while to adjust to the speed and style of play at this level," Riverview coach Mickey Namey said.
An advantage Riverview (11-6, 7-3) has is that it doesn't have to spend much time on the defensive because of Quinio. A senior center midfielder, he was named the Section 3-A Player of the Year by the league's coaches, helps Riverview dominate possession of the ball in most games.
"He takes the pressure off the rest of our team because we always seem to be in possession," Namey said. "He allows the other players to just adapt to how he is playing."
Quinio also is a master distributor, totaling 20 assists already this season after notching 26 last season. His favorite target is Cole Wilson, who leads Riverview with 15 goals.
Now Riverview is looking ahead to the playoffs, after its first goal of winning a section title was squashed last Thursday when Springdale beat the Raiders for the second time this season.
The only time Riverview's senior class made the playoffs was in 2010, when it lost in the first round of the WPIAL Class A tournament. Namey said the goal is to advance further this season.
"Last time we were in the playoffs, we went one-and done and they aren't satisfied with that," Namey said. "We want to take it to the next level and start a tradition here at Riverview."