Young Deer Lakes girls soccer team remains calm as stakes get higher
Frank Accetta is experiencing the stress of the WPIAL girls soccer playoffs, but when he looks at his Deer Lakes players, he sees calm.
The Lancers, a young team that starts more freshmen than seniors, are going through their deepest postseason run in a decade to cap the best regular season in school history. But in advance of Saturday’s WPIAL Class AA semifinal game against No. 2 Hopewell, the team is going about its business as normal.
“I’m glad they’re not nervous or worried,” said Accetta, in his fourth season as coach. “They’re just going to do what teenagers do in normal routines. They’re not going to go out of their way to put more pressure on themselves. I think as a coach, if that’s what they’ve been doing all year, then why change that?”
It might help that while this Deer Lakes team hasn’t been to the semifinals before, many of the No. 3 Lancers’ key players do know the feel of the postseason. They suffered a one-goal loss to Brownsville in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the sting of that defeat carried the returning players through much of this season.
So when an older, more experienced Quaker Valley team pushed Deer Lakes in Wednesday’s WPIAL quarterfinals, the Lancers (17-1-1) didn’t blink, holding off a late Quakers charge to earn a 2-1 victory.
“You don’t really have time to process it all because you know you have to get ready for a game 48 hours later, but, obviously, it feels good,” Accetta said. “I slept well (Wednesday) night, that’s for sure. It was a hard-fought game. It was kind of the way I expected because Quaker Valley’s well-disciplined and well-coached.
“It feels good, but being that we’ve never been here before, everyone’s excited, but we’re focused on Hopewell now. We’re not going to treasure this victory forever.”
Ashley McAdams, one of three freshmen to start for Deer Lakes, scored for the Lancers against Quaker Valley. Nina Lafko, a team captain as a sophomore, scored the other goal.
Some of the Lancers’ top scorers -- sophomore Lily Litrun, sophomore Abigail Boulos and freshman Madeline Boulos -- are still in ninth or 10th grade, but Deer Lakes also has experience in key spots, such as junior Gabby Weber, a three-year starter in goal.
Accetta believes the team’s experience in close games will help them as well. Wednesday’s win was the Lancers’ fifth by one goal this season.
Hopewell (14-1-1), a 4-2 winner over Burrell in the quarterfinals, will provide the next challenge. The Vikings, whose lone loss came to Class AAA playoff qualifier West Allegheny, carry an eight-game winning streak into Saturday.
Deer Lakes, meanwhile, is 14-0-1 since an early-season loss to North Hills.
“You want so badly for them to do right and, win or lose, play the game correctly and not have any tragic mistake cost them,” Accetta said. “But that’s just the thing: I don’t have to say anything. They just go out and play. And I think that’s the great part of being young.
“Maybe when you’re a senior, and you’ve been there for three years, you know it’s your last chance. But these kids don’t really feel that because it’s the first time they’ve experienced that. They’re just having fun, and that’s the way it should be.”