South Xtra: Rebels' 'fraternity' gets very selective

SOCCER

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The Seton-LaSalle boys' soccer program is a fraternity that spans generations.

The respect for past program achievements is what motivates the current Rebels' "chapter."

"Guys come back from college to watch," explained Seton-LaSalle coach Mike Thomas. "I never know who's going to be at the games."

The Rebels have won the Class A WPIAL championship the past two years. For the current Seton-LaSalle team, it's not enough.

"They want a three-peat," said Thomas. "The guys are all there for the team ... they don't want to disappoint past players."

Thomas noted that Seton-LaSalle won WPIAL championships in 2002, '06, '08, '10 and '11.

"We were also runners-up two times in that span," Thomas said. "You put that all in, and it weighs on the guys. They know it. It's what we care about -- hard work and respect for the program."

It's only the second full week of the high school soccer season, but Seton-LaSalle's hard work is showing the results. The Rebels are 4-0, 3-0 in Section3-A following their 2-0 victory Tuesday against Eden Christian.

For example, senior center midfielder Tony Pecone is the guy you'll see splitting a defensive back line. Pecone's control pits single defenders against Rebels' leading scorer Rocco Gagliardi.

Gagliardi responded by scoring six goals in the Rebels' first three games. Pecone had nine assists in those games.

"Rocco sees a lot of double-teams and zonal defense," Thomas said. "He's a complete handful for any defender."

Gagliardi's one-on-one advantage is the reason it's so important for players such as Pecone to anticipate the moves of the back line.

"None of [Gagliardi's plays] can be done without Tony," Thomas said. "Tony is the one passing the ball."

Senior defender Eric Albright has been a big part denying the opposition this season.

"He's strong, fast and athletic," said Thomas.

Thomas also credited defender Sam Kostyak, and goalkeeper Nick Parkes, both seniors, for the defensive efforts. Seton-LaSalle's opposition was only able to score on one penalty kick in the first four games of the season.

Thomas also cited junior Kevin Hudson and senior Pat Kist: "They've been in tough games -- they've been around. They're really good at adjusting; they understand their jobs and roles and they help us win games."

The Seton-LaSalle coaching staff is populated by men with a long program history. Thomas explained that assistant coaches Nick Balzer, Bob DelGreco and Mark DelGreco all use Twitter to broadcast the team's latest updates. Sure enough, former Seton-LaSalle players follow these tweets.

"They want to know every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday how the Rebels are doing," Thomas said. "Our seniors meet guys eight, nine, and 10 years older [than the seniors are] who are rooting for them."

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