South Fayette boys soccer uses midseason run to get back in contention
The South Fayette boys soccer team was at a crossroads early in the season.
After starting the season 3-4, the Lions had two options -- continue at the same pace or put the work in to get back to the level of play the program has come to expect.
South Fayette chose the latter. The Lions have since improved their record to 7-4-1.
“We had to remind them they needed to roll up their sleeves and get back to work,” coach Rob Eldridge said. “We have a history of success that has been built on a blue-collar mentality. I am happy with how we responded to some early-season adversity.”
During a five-game midseason stretch, the Lions went 4-0-1 and outscored opponents 25-1. The tie was a scoreless stalemate with Franklin Regional, a team that is unbeaten and defeated South Fayette, 3-0, early in the season.
The Lions have made strides across the field. Goalkeeper Dan Rodgers is a senior who has been leading the team’s success on defense.
“It is his first year as the starting varsity goalie,” Eldridge said. “He is one of the hardest working players. He was in the weight room last November and led the charge in offseason training. He is a great leader on and off the field.”
Senior Michael Gates and Zach Weis have both stepped up as defenders.
“Both have been great this year,” Eldridge said. “We have had some defending by committee this year. (Junior) Max Snodgrass has been a surprise for us, too.”
In addition to making position changes on defense, the Lions worked on their transition game. This focus has led to improvements on both ends of the field.
“I don’t think our defending has improved that much,” Eldridge said. “I think what has improved is our ability to keep the ball and transition to offense. Sometimes, a great defense is driven by a solid offense.”
The Lions offense has been led by Eldridge’s sons. Sophomore Chad Eldridge is leading the team with 11 goals while junior Gavin Eldridge has eight.
“It has been great coaching them and something I have been looking forward to,” Eldridge said. “Sometimes, it can be difficult to step out of the coaching role off the field during our free time. It is something I have to be conscious of.”
Senior captain Colin Martincic has also been a major contributor for the Lions.
“We are not heavily reliant on one particular player,” Coach Eldridge said. “We have had a lot of kids step up and score big goals. If you key on one of our players, it won’t extinguish what we do. We score our goals off of tactics and position.”
The Lions will look to continue recent success through the final weeks of the regular season. South Fayette still has to complete a second swing though Section 4-3A with nonsection games against Quaker Valley and Mt. Lebanon sprinkled in.
For Eldridge, the final weeks will be a time for the team to continue to grow. But just not at a tactical level. The Lions will be focus on coming together as a cohesive unit.
“There is a lot of things coaches try to get from their teams from a soccer standpoint,” Eldridge said. “But I want to see them continue to focus on togetherness. By committee we can do some great things.”