South/West Xtra: South Fayette uses tight 'D' to win
HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER
September 26, 2013 4:00 AM
South Fayette midfielder Nick McKee, left, presses Obama Acadamey midfielder Ben Eppinger in a typical Lions defensive effort.
By Stephen Catanese Tri-State Sports & News Service
Figuring out why South Fayette is undefeated through its first 11 games isn't a very difficult task: the Lions have yet to surrender a goal this season.
"We've played real solid defensively," South Fayette coach Rob Eldridge said. "We've had a half dozen games where we haven't given up a shot. We take pride in defending all the way from our forwards to the goal frame."
With a similarly suffocating defense in 2012, South Fayette shocked Class AA when it bested undefeated South Park after a shootout in the WPIAL quarterfinals before falling in double-overtime to eventual WPIAL champion Quaker Valley.
This year, at 10-0-1 overall, and 6-0-1 in Section 5-AA, the Lions are tied for first place with perennial powerhouse West Allegheny, which holds the same record. The two sides battled through water-logged conditions to a scoreless tie on Saturday.
South Fayette's success -- and its stellar defense -- wasn't something that developed over night.
"When we first came in here, we knew it was going to be a good four or five years in the making to put this program in a position where we would continually compete each year," said Eldridge, who was hired in 2007 following a successful tenure at Peters Township.
South Fayette reached the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals in 2007 before bumping up to Class AA in 2008. The Lions didn't reach the playoffs again until 2010, before making their most notable mark in the classification last year.
"We're positionally very organized," Eldridge said. "We spend a lot of time on tactical awareness and positional awareness and always putting ourselves in a position to be in every game that we play."
The team's consistency in its training methods and overall message has been felt across the entire roster, from the back line to the attack.
"When I was a freshman our team was really good on paper," junior forward Brian Coyne said. "The last couple years, I feel like we've become more of a team. Everyone moves together, we know who's doing what, who to pass the ball to."
One of seven returning starters, Coyne's gaudy 13-goal total at this stage of the season provides proof that there's more to South Fayette than a stingy defense.
To Coyne, what makes the team's defense strong has allowed him to excel.
"The defense is obviously very good, but if they get the ball, I need to know what's going on so I can get where I need to be to show for them," he said. "Midfield needs to be able to do the same. We need to work together."
That organizational consistency begins on defense, which is anchored by senior goalkeeper Alex Gedrys, an All-PIAA and All-WPIAL selection last year. Dan Pruss returns at center back along with Nick McKee, who operated in midfield last season. Evan Yee is a standout at outside back.
The team is filled with solid players, but no one who's going to win games single-handedly, Eldridge said. Rather than a flaw, he believes this is one of the team's greatest strengths.
"To summarize our team, it's always going to be a collective effort," he said. "There's not going to be a kid whom you're going to want to single out. We pride ourselves in 'collectivisim' and pride ourselves in winning as a team."