West Xtra: Blackhawk motivated by playoff failures
Senior midfielder Levi Cuddy is areturning starter for the Blackhawk Cougars.
Senior midfielder Levi Cuddy is a returning starter for the Blackhawk Cougars.
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The Blackhawk boys' soccer program has never won a WPIAL playoff game, but that is not to say the eight trips the program has made to the postseason were all a lost cause.
The disappointment from the past three seasons has served as building motivation for the team's current group of seniors.
In 2009 Blackhawk was denied a trip to the playoffs during the last week of the regular season when a loss forced it into a three-way tie for third place where it would lose the tiebreaker.
In 2010 the Cougars made the playoffs only to drop a 2-1 decision on the road to Keystone Oaks. Then last year, after going 16-0-1 in the regular season and winning the Section 4-AA title, Blackhawk earned the No. 3 seed but also drew a tough Belle Vernon Area squad. Belle Vernon would go on to reach the WPIAL championship game.
Blackhawk would be sent packing in the first round for the third time in four years.
That memory is fresh in the minds of the team's four returning starters and the rest of the players who were a part of the first-round loss.
"The guys are definitely motivated," Blackhawk coach Chris Lantzy said. "They are motivated from postseason disappointment again. It has really kind of lit a fire under them as far as how hard they have worked and their focus.
"The seniors on this team have faced disappointment before. It hasn't killed them, but has certainly motivated them."
Blackhawk (4-0, 2-0) started its season with a 3-0 shutout win at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in a non-section contest. Three days later it blasted New Brighton, 8-2, in the section opener.
The Cougars went on to defeat Ambridge Area, 1-0, Saturday in a non-section match and disposed of Mohawk, 10-0, Tuesday.
"Our goal all offseason and preseason was to play at a level where we can win in the section, qualify for the playoffs and hopefully take that next step," Lantzy said.
Lantzy is his ninth season as head coach at Blackhawk. He has seen his fair share of postseason disappointment too, losing all four first-round games.
Section 4-AA takes on a different look this season with Ambridge moving up to Class AAA and Ellwood City dropping its boys' soccer program. Mohawk and Freedom Area move up from Class A to join Section 4-AA. Hopewell, which opened its season with a pair of section wins against Beaver Area and Freedom, appears to be the biggest threat to Blackhawk's section title defense.
"It is tough to say who will be there at the end," Lantzy said. "Seems like everyone lost players. Hopewell sounds like they are the team to beat, other than that it is pretty much up for grabs."
Blackhawk returns four starters, senior forward John Rebich, senior midfielder Levi Cuddy, senior defender Zach Black and sophomore midfielder Zach Medarac. Rebich moves from midfield to forward this year while Medarac moves from defense to midfield.
Senior midfielders Cam Balzer and Zack Flick started a few games last season. While sophomore forward Steve Sharick came off the bench to score eight goals as a freshman. Sharick led the team with five goals in two games, including a four-goal outburst against New Brighton. Rebich scored two goals against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and added one against New Brighton.
"We are definitely younger than we have been in the past," Lantzy said. "This is the first time in a while we have not had an all-section or All-WPIAL player coming back. We had guys who played key roles last year who are back but they haven't played that leadership role yet."