West Xtra: Riverside bows out in PIAA
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The Cinderella story came to an end for the Riverside boys soccer team Saturday night.
Riverside lost to section rival Sewickley Academy, 2-0, in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals. It was the third time Riverside lost to Sewickley this season, and Saturday's defeat ended what had been a dream season for Riverside.
Riverside made history this season by winning the WPIAL championship, becoming the first public school to win the boys WPIAL Class A championship since the classification was created in 2000. Only three teams -- Sewickley, Greensburg Central Catholic and Seton-LaSalle -- had won the championship prior to this season.
"It's a tremendous feat, especially looking at the pedigrees of Sewickley, Greensburg Central Catholic and Seton-LaSalle," Riverside coach Ben Huth said. "I'm extremely proud of the accomplishment."
Looking at the season statistics, Riverside didn't have the numbers of those other top teams.
The Panthers scored 44 goals this season, while Sewickley and Greensburg Central Catholic have each scored at least 68.
Anthony Meneice and Austin Ridgley led Riverside in goals this season, but neither found their names on the leaderboard of the WPIAL's top goal-scorers.
Yet it was the Panthers who hoisted the WPIAL championship trophy this season.
"Our players put their individual efforts aside for the benefit of the team," Huth said. "We showed a lot of heart, especially throughout the playoff run."
Riverside entered the WPIAL playoffs as the No. 10 seed, but came in on a six-game winning streak. Huth said the turning point for his team came in its last two losses before the winning streak, an overtime loss to Sewickley and a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Seton-LaSalle.
"We were able to see what we could do against some of the better teams and that gave us confidence," Huth said. "Sewickley was sitting at the No. 1 seed, but we took them to overtime. And we lost to Seton-LaSalle, 2-0, but the bigger picture is that we outplayed them in that game and gave up two goals on silly mistakes."
Riverside didn't have to play either Sewickley or Seton-LaSalle on its road to the WPIAL championship.
Riverside opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over Bentworth, then defeated Springdale, 1-0, to reach the semifinals.
In its next three games, the Panthers found themselves down, 1-0. But it's a situation the team had practiced many times.
All throughout the season, Huth put his team in different scenarios during practice to try to simulate what it might face in a game.
For instance, he would tell his starters they are down a goal with 10 minutes left and had to find a way to tie the score.
"It's ironic that in the playoffs it would come down to what we worked on all during the season," Huth said. "Our guys showed a tremendous amount of heart."
The Panthers rallied to beat Serra Catholic, 2-1, in overtime in the semifinals, then came back to beat the Centurions, 2-1, in double overtime to win the WPIAL title on Ridgley's free kick.
Moving on to the PIAA tournament, Riverside again erased a one-goal deficit against Brockway to force overtime, where it eventually won in a shootout to advance to the state quarterfinals.
"These kids just had the will to win," Huth said. "We aren't the highest scoring team, but we took advantage of our opportunities and capitalized. We always believed we were in the match. Even against Sewickley, when we were down 1-0 at halftime, there were no heads down in the locker room. The kids believed they would come back."
But Sewickley proved to be too tough, putting an end to Riverside's dream season.
First Published November 15, 2012 12:00 am