West Xtra: Graziani's return keys West Allegheny boys soccer

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Last fall, Zach Graziani was pulling double duty for West Allegheny -- playing central back for the soccer team and kicking for the football team.

But a hip flexor injury that was aggravated because of overuse and forced him to miss a few soccer games in 2012 has caused him to focus solely on his play on the pitch this season.

That is great news for the Indians soccer team, but bad news for the rest of the WPIAL.

"He pretty much plays year-round and is a four-year starter for us," Indians coach Kevin Amos said. "His return is huge. We're expecting great things from him this year."

Just as his brother Tyler was in 2011, Zach Graziani was a Post-Gazette All-Area selection last season after playing an integral role for an Indians' defense that allowed just 10 goals all season and recorded nine shutouts.

He also chipped in four goals and three assists.

He helped a young West Allegheny team win 15 games, tie Quaker Valley for the Section 5-AA championship and advance to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals.

Now, with Graziani as one of eight returning starters, the expectations are even greater this season.

The key will be consistency in all aspects of the game.

"Last year, we seemed to have trouble putting it all together," Graziani said. "One game, our defense wasn't at its best, and then the next game maybe the offense didn't play as well. We need to have complete performances."

The defense should be stout with defenders Graziani and Josh Kolarac and goalkeeper Spencer Wolfe returning.

Graziani said the relationship he and Wolfe share is a key to the success of the defense.

"We're good friends and we communicate very well together and know where each other are," Graziani said. "It makes it easy for me to have someone whom I trust back there. I know that if I take a chance and try to clear a ball, he'll be back there to make a big save."

The Indians will have to replace the majority of their midfield, but three players return up top in juniors Collin Wurst and Michael Cummings and sophomore Cooper Amos.

Wurst led the team last season with 20 goals during the regular season.

With the majority of the team returning, it hasn't taken long for the Indians to click during the preseason.

"We've come in and picked up where we left off last season," Amos said. "We're playing pretty well."

Which means Shady Side Academy likely will have its hands full in the teams' season opener Saturday.



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