East Xtra: Allderdice players believe they can compete in the WPIAL

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS SOCCER


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Some people may think Allderdice High School's move from the City League to the WPIAL in soccer is a big deal. Others don't see it that way.

"A lot of people have been complaining about it, but I don't see why," midfielder and emerging star Jon Munian said. "We beat all of the WPIAL teams we've had to face this season, and I don't see why it'd be any different next season."

A bold statement but Munian has the statistics -- 29 goals and 16 assists this past season -- to back up his words. During the 2011 season, Allderdice was 7-1 against WPIAL competition and 4-1 against WPIAL playoff teams.

"Our distinctive style of short passing and possession was effective against WPIAL teams," Allderdice soccer coach Sam Bellin said.

The move to the WPIAL might mark the end of the Allderdice/Obama rivalry, though Obama -- along with Carrick and Brashear -- will also be making the jump to the WPIAL. It will also officially be the end of City League soccer, which the Dragons have dominated for the past two and a half decades.

Allderdice was the Green Bay Packers of City League soccer this year. Unlike quarterback Aaron Rodgers' squad, the Dragons went undefeated in City competition. They outscored their City League opponents 94-2 on their way to the school's 21st boys soccer City League championship in 24 years.

After beating DuBois Area High School in a play-in game, the Dragons lost, 2-0, to WPIAL champion Upper St. Clair in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs.

As excited as Bellin is to have his team join the WPIAL, he knows his team has some work to do in order to play competitively with teams that probably wouldn't start any of the players from Westinghouse's or Perry's varsity team.

"This is going to be a big challenge," Bellin admitted. "In terms of technique, we were right at their level. Those teams have a physicality [speed, fitness, strength] that we have to match to stay competitive."

Bellin knows that Allderdice needs to improve to keep up with teams of Upper St. Clair's ability, but he is also delighted with opportunity to challenge his players and earn some respect for Allderdice soccer.

"We're leaving [the City League] behind, but on the other hand, we're clearly ready to play on the highest level," he said emphatically. "From a competition standpoint, the only way to get to state championship level is to keep playing those teams."

Allderdice is hoping to ride that confidence to WPIAL success. If it is going to make a name for itself in the WPIAL, Allderdice is going to need Munian, along with juniors such as Aedan Marty and Jonas Portillo, to keep up that high level of performance.

"I think we have three guys coming back who will be as good at their positions as anyone in the WPIAL," Bellin said. "[Jon] was unstoppable against every team we played [thanks to] his combination of speed and technique."

Marty's teammates call him "The Freak" because of his remarkable quickness and determination on and off the field, according to Bellin. Portillo, as Allderdice's sweeper, was a brick wall on defense.

"He wasn't beat for a goal all year," the coach said. "He saves our rear ends out there."

Considering Allderdice will have 16 seniors (including eight starters) graduate, it's going to need its big three to step up in 2012. If the turnout this season was any indication, Bellin shouldn't have any problem filling those roles.

"This year we had to cut a few players because we had 80 kids try out and we could only keep 65," Bellin said. "The interest level is there."

More players would have had to be cut if it wasn't for junior varsity coach Dough Zott, who Bellin called "a huge asset to the team." Bellin knows that if Allderdice wants to keep up with its WPIAL opponents, it will need to continue fostering its young talent with junior varsity and freshman teams.

Munian is cautiously optimistic about this team's prospects going forward.

"We're going to train even harder and hope to be even more ready than last year to compete against these better, tougher teams," he said.

Marty believes his class will rise to the occasion and also believes Allderdice has an advantage that shouldn't be overlooked as the Dragons leave the City League behind and prepare for their future in the WPIAL.

"Our senior class for 2012 is very deep, so I believe we can have immediate success in the WPIAL," said Marty, who finished last season with 15 goals and 16 assists. "Other teams view us as 'Just another city team' with low expectations, but we fully plan to prove them wrong.

"As long as the program can maintain a strong core of [players] and continue to develop the underclassmen and help them realize their full potential, Allderdice soccer can become a WPIAL contender for years to come."


First Published December 29, 2011 5:00 AM


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