With nine returning starters from last season's WPIAL quarterfinalist, Fox Chapel is expected to be one of the top contenders in boys soccer this season.
But Foxes coach Erik Ingram is still impressed with how his team has looked in the preseason.
"We look fantastic," said Ingram. "This is probably the strongest camp I've ever seen us have. I'm excited."
Leading the way for the Foxes is 2012 Post-Gazette All-North selection Jack Dickens. A senior who is receiving Division I interest, Dickens will once again man the central midfield spot for Fox Chapel.
"He's a very strong player," said Ingram. "Pitt is looking at him, and they should be. He's that caliber of player."
Joining Dickens in the midfield will be senior Shota Furuhata. Their top target up front will be Cole Ryan, who scored both of the team's goals in a 2-0 win against Bethel Park in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA tournament last season.
In the back, senior goaltender Jacob Henry and senior central back Greg Fiorillo return after helping the Foxes pitch 11 shutouts in 2012.
Fiorillo will also play a big role in building up the team's offense.
"We play a high-level style of soccer for high school," said Ingram. "It's a possession style that we like to build from the back."
It helped the Foxes win 13 games last season and outscore opponents, 60-12.
However, the Foxes combined to go 0-3 against Central Catholic and Upper St. Clair and are now 0-6 against those two teams over the past two seasons.
Upper St. Clair has knocked the Foxes out of the playoffs each of the past two seasons and in three of the past four.
"We're not looking for revenge," said Ingram. "We like to play those teams because we like to play the best. It's nice to face them for the challenge. We always play Central Catholic twice because they are in our section and it's always exciting."
The Foxes won't get their first crack at the Vikings until Sept. 21, which is good because Ingram wants to take the first few weeks to play around with the lineup.
"It's not so much a weakness, but after a strong preseason I want to take two or three weeks to see how well the pieces fit together," he said. "We have a lot of strong players and I want to see how to make the best use of them.
"I'm not saying we don't have a weakness, but we have nothing glaring like in years past."
That puts Fox Chapel in position to be the first Foxes team to advance past the quarterfinals since the 2008 squad that made it to the WPIAL finals.
"Our expectations are high," Ingram said. "We'll be really good."
First Published August 29, 2013 4:00 AM