By now, Seton-LaSalle has established itself statewide as a perennial powerhouse in Class A boys soccer.
Since 2006, the Rebels have captured four WPIAL titles and two PIAA championships. They reached the finals of both tournaments on several other occasions over that span.
If there's a program known for making it into the latter stages of the postseason, this is it.
Yet one could be forgiven for thinking 2013 may be a step back for Seton-LaSalle after having a solid but unspectacular campaign in 2012, a season in which it finished second in Section 3-A and fell in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
Eight starters, including the starting goalkeeper and top two goal-scorers, graduated from that team.
"We lost a lot of pieces," first-year coach and Seton-La Salle alumnus Ryan Kelly said. "There were a lot of holes to fill."
But rather than regress, Seton-LaSalle has made a return to its typically dominant form at 9-1-1 overall and sitting in first place in the section with an 8-0-1 record. The Rebels have defeated opponents with a suffocating defense and balanced attack.
Kelly said his blueprint for rebuilding his starting 11 began with the defense, which features two of the Rebels' three returning starters.
"Defensively, we put some of our stronger guys on the back line," he said. "From the beginning of the year, we had a relatively inexperienced team. We started with Christian Vogel in the back and added pieces around him that we thought would really be a handful to play against and a pain to deal with all game."
Vogel, a senior, is flanked by fellow three-year starter Dan Boland and Noah Kaib, both seniors, as well as junior James Mallon. They make up a back line that has combined with senior goalkeeper Sean Reiber to pitch eight shutouts and surrender only four goals to Class A opposition so far this season.
Offensively, a number of players, such as seniors Levi Masua, Kevin Hudson and Matt Wilkie, make important contributions. Masua, a starter for the Rebels basketball squad, stands out as a handful at forward, standing 6 feet 5 and possessing ball skills that belie the fact that he had not played organized soccer for several years prior to this season.
But Kelly typified the Rebels' strength as being its balance in attack, rather than having a single standout. No Seton La-Salle player has reached double-digit goal totals yet, but had six different players score game-winners in the team's first eight wins.
"I wouldn't say we have a particular stud player," Kelly said. "But the number of goal-scorers is a testament to how spread out the talent on our team is."
And that's really a theme for this year's team, he added. While a number of Seton-La Salle teams in the past were known for having individual standout players, this year's team is typified by how balanced the roster is. Solid play from a roster that gets contributions from 18 players.
"I just think it's a different team than years past," he said. "You go back, you have all these guys that you correlate with different teams. I don't think this is one of those teams that'll have that one guy you say, 'OK, that's Levi's team or Hudson's team.' You'll say 'That's the Class of 2014 team,' or 'That's the 2013 team.'"hssoccer