Boys' Soccer: As usual, Rebels listed with 'A' elite
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The players and coaches on the Seton-LaSalle boys' soccer team have come to expect the unexpected.
As one of the most dominant teams in Class A the past seven seasons, the Rebels have seen teams employ all types of strategy to keep games competitive.
It is not uncommon for teams not to use forwards against Seton-LaSalle and rather play with six defenders and four midfielders, hoping to keep things close and maybe eke out a tie or a stunning upset.
This season an opponent surprised Seton-LaSalle with an early goal and it moved its top player to goalie to try to preserve the lead. Despite that surprising move, Seton-LaSalle won, 3-1.
Playing at the Class A level, where facilities are not always as up-to-date as at larger schools, the Rebels often have to deal with small grass fields where puddles and mud can slow a player down just as much as a defender.
Coach Mike Thomas has to deal with repeated cancellations with non-section opponents dropping out. Three have done it already this year.
But the Rebels persevere. They have won 17 or more games in each of the past seven seasons. They have won at least a share of the section title six of the past seven years. They have played in six of the past seven WPIAL Class A finals and three of the past six PIAA Class A finals.
They won WPIAL gold in 2006, '08, '10 and '11. They won PIAA gold in 2006 and '08. With all the postseason accolades over the past seven years, the regular season may seem like a formality but the Rebels hardly take it lightly.
This season they were 11-1 overall, 9-0 in Section 3-A (before Thursday's game) and ranked No. 2 in Class A behind Sewickley Academy, the only team to defeat them this year.
The Rebels opened the regular season with a 2-0 shutout victory against No. 5 Greensburg Central Catholic. They more than held their own in preseason scrimmages against larger schools such as Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park and South Park.
They are doing this all with only four returning starters, an entirely new midfield and a new goalkeeper.
The defense has been an expected strength of this team with three returning starters, senior sweeper Eric Albright, senior marking back Sam Kostyak and junior marking back Kevin Hudson. Senior Pat Kist, a first-time starter this season, has made an impact at stopper.
"Our defense is big, fast and athletic," Thomas said. "My whole back line [averages] 6 feet [in height], we can defend one on one."
The defense plays in front of senior goalkeeper Nick Parkes, the junior varsity starter a year ago. Parkes has only allowed four goals this season and two came on penalty kicks.
"We have some of our best players on defense," Thomas said. "Nick is doing great in net."
The other returning starter is senior forward Rocco Gagliardi who leads the team with 13 goals. Senior center midfielder Tony Pecone has emerged as one of the top players on the team. He leads the Rebels with 16 assists. Sophomore James Mallon also starts in the central midfield along with Pecone.
Thomas is confident going to his bench -- he has been rotating in about 15 players each game.
After defeating Riverside, 2-0, Tuesday in a non-section match Seton-LaSalle was scheduled to play Thursday at home against Carlynton in section competition.
With the playoffs looming, it is hard not to look ahead at a possible Sewickley Academy/Seton-LaSalle rematch. The Panthers defeated the Rebels, 3-1, earlier this season in a game that was tied 1-1 for the majority of the contest.
"Definitely, Sewickley will be favored," said Thomas, even though his team is the two-time defending WPIAL Class A champions. "They are very well organized and they have a good coach and one of the best players in the league in Steve Munn.
"After Sewickley, I think it would be us and then Greensburg Central Catholic."
First Published October 5, 2012 12:00 am