With seven starters returning and 13 with varsity experience, the Burrell High School boys soccer team is poised to add another section title trophy to the case this season.
"We have a lot of guys who know how to play well together," Burrell coach T.J. Trozzi said. "We're scoring more goals than in years past and I think our defense is just as good."
The Bucs (5-2-0, 4-0 in Class AA Section 1 entering the week) have scored 22 goals in their first seven games. Leading the way is senior Tom Spagnolo. Spagnolo led Burrell with 12 goals last year, and has 10 already in Burrell's first seven games this season.
Three other forwards, Ryan Davis, Corey Mazary and Josh Wertkin, split time up front with Spagnolo.
"That depth really helps because I can rotate guys and if we need a goal, I can put all those guys in and get more offense," Trozzi said.
Often setting up the goals the forwards score is junior center midfielder Joey Cox, who started at the same position last season.
On defense, senior sweeper Even West returns, and he is joined by junior Seth Strayer, seniors Marco Ciappetta and Andrew Stewart.
Burrell lost its starting goalkeeper from last season, Alex White. So going into the offseason, Trozzi talked to outside midfielder Justin Schwartz about possibly moving into that position.
Schwartz, a junior, started for the team in net during indoor season and summer workouts, and has worked through some growing pains to be a stable presence at the back of the defense.
"He has filled in tremendously," Trozzi said. "We knew he was a great athlete, but it's his determination that's really been key. He stuck with it even when it was tough in the early going. It's been amazing how fast he's learning the position."
The Bucs are looking to win their fifth consecutive section title this season, and entered the week as the only team in the section without a loss.
The two teams right behind the Bucs in the standings, Mount Pleasant and Indiana, are on the schedule this week. Burrell defeated Mount Pleasant, 5-1, Tuesday and plays at Indiana (8-1, 3-1) tonight.
"I think our section is very interesting this season," said Trozzi. "[Going into last Thursday], everyone in our section except us had one loss. I think Greensburg Salem, Mount Pleasant, Valley and Indiana are all going to be tough. Valley is our rival, so that's always a fun game."
Despite the Bucs' success in the section over the past half-decade, the squad hasn't had the same level of prosperity at the WPIAL tournament.
The Bucs have won just one playoff game over the past five seasons, and haven't advanced past the first round since 2010.
But Trozzi doesn't want his team to look that far ahead.
"We're going to take it one game at a time," he said. "At the end of last season, we started overlooking teams and losing. So we're not going to do that.
"Obviously, our top goal is to win the section [title]. If we just take it one game at a time, the results will take care of themselves."hssoccer