West/North Xtra: Quakers' strong defense faces a playoff challenge from Hopewell

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS SOCCER

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The WPIAL Class AA boys soccer quarterfinal between Hopewell and Quaker Valley will pit one of the highest scoring teams in the classification against one of the stingiest defensive squads.

The Vikings (14-3) enter the game having won 11 of their past 12 games. During that span, they have tallied 54 goals and have not scored fewer than three in any contest.

Meanwhile, the Quakers (15-3-1) had a streak earlier this season where they shut out 10 opponents in a row. They also blanked their first-round playoff opponent, Valley, 4-0 Monday night.

"We have to stay organized defensively," Quaker Valley coach Gene Klein said. "We also have to try and win as many one-on-one battles as we can. Hopewell has some outstanding players up front, so it will be difficult."

Hopewell has four players it relies on for most of its offense. Jake Lauderbaugh leads the team with 18 goals, but Alex Hamilton, Johnny Brady and Ethan Byrne all have at least 20 combined goals and assists on the season. Byrne had a goal and an assist and Brady added a goal in the team's 3-1 win against Burrell Monday.

"Our success is mostly due to our ability to finish," Hopewell coach Nick Mohrbacher said. "A lot of games, we don't have a lot of shots, but we just finish the ones we have. We don't get a lot of shutouts, so we have needed to score ... and we have."

The Vikings started the season 3-2 after scoring 11 goals in their first five games. But after that, the team has scored at least four goals eight times in 12 games and has scored at least six goals three times. During this span, the Vikings have only lost one game, a 4-3 defeat to No. 1 South Park.

"It was good for us to play a legitimate No. 1 and state-ranked team," Mohrbacher said. "It gave us the opportunity to play a team that fast and strong and that will benefit us as we move forward."

Hopwell is the only team to score more than one goal in a game against the Eagles this year. Quaker Valley has given up more than one goal just three times this season and has notched 14 shutouts.

The key players defensively for the Quakers have been junior goalkeeper Winter Fondi and center back and co-captain Nelson Westwood.

"Both have been absolutely outstanding," Klein said. "They have shown they are as good as anyone in the WPIAL."

Offensively, the Quakers haven't been too shabby, either. Led by returning all-state midfielder Dante Piccolo, they are averaging more than three goals per game.

The matchup also pits a team with a long successful history against an up-and-coming program.

A win by the Quakers would put them one step closer to their seventh WPIAL title, the last coming in 1999. Meanwhile, Hopewell won its first section title in school history this season.

"[Quaker Valley] has a long history of being a great program," Mohrbacher said. "They are really strong again this year and I expect them to be very difficult."

Thursday's match is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. at Moon.

hssoccer


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