Expectations are running high for schools that contended for last year's WPIAL soccer championships, and that is certainly the case for the Riverview boys team entering the 2014 campaign.
The Raiders finished 12-5-2 overall last year and second in Class A Section 2 to Vincentian Academy with an 8-1-1 record. Riverview went 1-1 in the playoffs, losing in the quarterfinals to perennial small-school power Sewickley Academy.
With nearly their entire team returning, the Raiders have begun this season as the Post-Gazette's No. 4-ranked team in Class A, but they know they have a lot to prove.
"We are honored to have our name out there. [My players] also know that the rankings [are mostly based on] last year's teams," said Mickey Namey, who is in his fifth season as the Raiders coach. "It is nice to get the recognition but it is based on last year. It is nice to have but it is also a little reality check. I tell them right now we are all 0-0."
The Raiders are 1-0 after their season-opening 2-1 non-section victory on Tuesday at Trinity Christian. Their first home match of the season will be tonight against Jeannette.
If Namey had a chance to do over the start of last season he would in a heartbeat. Although they finished hot, they started the season 0-4, something they can't afford to do this year.
"Last year we started 0-4," Namey said. "I was changing up the lineups and trying new formations. I was thinking we were going to win the section [title] but that didn't work out.
"This year we want to hold that ranking. The ranking is good in a way that [it motivates the players] to come out and play hard."
One more aspect a high ranking holds is the target it puts on your back. Whether you are playing a contender or a pretender, everyone is going to give Riverview and the other top-ranked teams their best shot.
"If another team isn't that good, their goal is to upset a ranked team," Namey said. "We know we are going to get everybody's best game. We just need to make sure we play our game."
Coming into the season, Vincentian is the defending section champion and until the Royals are dethroned, Namey believes the road to the section title goes through them.
The Raiders will have their opportunities when they visit the Royals on Sept. 16 and play host to them on Sept. 30.
"Vincentian won it last year and until someone dethrones them, they should be the favorite," Namey said. "Until we actually get on the field and beat them, they are the defending section champs and it still goes through them. We tied them last year and it was the difference in the section. I feel like they are the top team in the section and we are right on their heels if not as good as them."
Leading the way for the senior-laden group is Christian Snyder and Cole Wilson. Both Snyder and Wilson were named to the all-section team last year. Wilson is returning as the team's leading scorer.
Evan Lesnick will be replacing foreign exchange student Ludger Oleck as the goalie.
"The last two years we lost to two senior-loaded teams," Namey said. "We have that now and it showed us what we need to do to get to that goal.
"We need to come back and work harder. It showed too what kind of team it takes to win the WPIALs. We saw the difference in speed and skill if we want to be on the same ranking as the best teams."
With the core group of this year's team being together throughout their high school careers and longer, now is the time for them to make a name for themselves. They have the experience and now they are looking for the hardware.
"We have nine returning starters," Namey said. "Our expectations are high. Obviously, we would like to get to the WPIAL finals. We have faced some pretty good teams over the last couple of years. It helps them train a little harder.
"We need to win our section [title] so we can get a better seed in the playoffs. We would like to set ourselves up better and our goal is to make it down to Highmark Stadium [site of the WPIAL championship matches]."