Gene Klein knows what a WPIAL championship caliber soccer team looks like.
He coached six of them in the 1980s and 1990s at Quaker Valley High School.
As his 2012 Quaker Valley team worked its way through a difficult section schedule, Klein began to see another one in front of his own eyes.
"We kept getting better individually and collectively," said Klein, who coached Quaker Valley from 1981 until 2005, retired then returned last season. "Our section is so competitive and that gave us confidence going into the playoffs."
The Quakers entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in Class AA, then emerged as the seventh WPIAL championship team in program history.
Quaker Valley finished the regular season 15-3-1. It went 10-2 in Section 5-AA to share the section title with West Allegheny. It was the sixth section title in the past eight years for the program.
What separated this team from Quaker Valley teams of the recent past was what it was able to accomplish in the postseason. The Quakers had gone "one and done" in the playoffs the previous four seasons, not having won a playoff game since 2007 when it reached the WPIAL semifinals.
This season Quaker Valley easily won a playoff game, shutting out Valley, 4-0, in the first round. It edged Hopewell 2-1 in the quarterfinals and shut out section rival South Fayette in the semifinals.
In the WPIAL championship match, Quaker Valley defeated Mars Area, 2-1 in double overtime, to win the program's first WPIAL title since 1999.
In the PIAA playoffs Quaker Valley edged District 10 runner-up General McLane in double overtime before bowing out in the PIAA quarterfinals against District 3 runner-up Lancaster Mennonite on penalty kicks.
"It was a tough way to end it, in a shoot-out loss," Klein said. "It is always pretty painful but I think when you look back at everything these guys accomplished, we are pleased with how the season went."
The Quakers returned seven starters this season but -- as there is any season -- there was plenty of uncertainty entering the year.
"Going into August, we had a lot of question marks," Klein said. "You are always pretty concerned about the beginning of the year. When you have to play South Fayette, West Allegheny and Montour twice each, those are very difficult games. Every game in our section is a tight game."
Quaker Valley's only losses in section play came against West Allegheny and South Fayette. At one point this season Quaker Valley strung together nine consecutive wins, including eight shutouts.
"We had a good core of players, but I also knew we had a very difficult section," Klein said. "Anything can happen. It was important that we stayed healthy and we did, that was important.
"As the season progressed we realized we could play with anybody and they gained a lot of confidence."
Junior goalie Winter Fondi had a strong year in net for the Quakers. He played behind a defense anchored by juniors Matt Delie and Hugh Rice.
The team was led by senior captains, midfielders Nelson Westwood, Dante Piccolo and Matt Regueiro. Piccolo, a Lafayette University recruit, led the team with 19 goals this season.
Senior midfielder Sebastien Pereira and senior forward Levi Bowers also had strong seasons for the Quakers while providing leadership. Sophomore forward Adam Richert scored the game-winning goal in the WPIAL final with less than five seconds remaining in the second overtime.
Sophomore midfielders Matt Rodgers and Landon Narkevic also stepped up throughout the season.
"I am really happy for our players," Klein said. "They worked very hard and I am just happy these kids were able to get a WPIAL title."