Quaker Valley boys soccer reloads for another championship run
After reaching the WPIAL and PIAA Class 2A championship games the past two seasons, expectations remain high for Quaker Valley’s boys soccer team.
“Probably the main thing with playing for Quaker Valley soccer -- every single year, you’re expected to win everything. We’ve made playoffs for 36 straight years, and we won’t be happy with the season if we don’t win a championship, if not both,” Quaker Valley senior Will Andrews said.
“It adds pressure, but makes you work harder because you feel like you have to perform super well. We like the pressure, too. If you strive to reach these huge goals, you end up doing pretty well.”
Last year, the Quakers (23-2) reached their second straight WPIAL championship. They fell to Shady Side Academy, 3-2, but rebounded to claim a state title -- the program’s seventh, which is the most for any WPIAL team. In 2016, they won the WPIAL title, but fell to Lewisburg, 1-0, for the state crown.
A lot of players return from those two successful runs.
“It’s huge to get that experience,” Andrews said. “A lot of potential starters have played in two WPIAL finals and two state finals. Playing in big games and under that kind of pressure -- not a lot of people know what it’s like to play in high-stakes games like a WPIAL final or a state semifinal or final.”
However, Quaker Valley realizes this is a new season and every opponent is ready to challenge the team.
“Our coaches do a good job focusing on the fact we were state champions last year, but we aren’t anymore,” Andrews said. “You can’t go into games thinking you’re going to just win because you won a championship last year.”
Added Quakers coach Andrew Marshall, “You can’t replicate the playoff experience they’ve had. They’ve played for an extra month in high pressure games in front of more fans and having to travel around. We were fortunate to have that, but, at the end of the day, no other school will care about it. They are going to mark us on their calendars, and we have a target on our back. Every time we step on field, we’re going to get an opponent’s best game. We want that challenge. Any competitive player or team wants those kinds of games all the time.”
Quaker Valley graduated seven players, which included some key parts. On the offensive end, it lost two of its top players in Landon Grant, who scored a team-high 38 goals and finished with a program-record 57 assists, and Ian Rodgers. The squad will rely on its deep roster to replace that production.
“We have a lot of natural talent in many of our players. We have a very deep squad and many players can step in and perform. We’re really lucky because we have the best of both worlds,” Marshall said. “I think the message is the same as it’s been since last year. In each moment, someone has to step up for us. All across the board, all the players can do that offensively and defensively. I am excited for this group. I think it has a lot of potential. I am excited to see the identity they form this year.”
Andrews, who was voted a captain along with seniors Nolan Carver and Dom Lagnese, believes this year’s squad can be a force, too.
“There are a lot of kids in the lineup this year who want to prove themselves. Our lineup was stacked last year, and we have the same thing this year. I think we’re probably just as talented,” he said. “Even though there might be some different faces out there, we still have a ton of great players throughout the field. I think we all play really well with each other, too. When you lose talented guys like we did, it helps the other guys feel like they need to step up more.”
Marshall, in his fourth year, is excited to see the squad take shape.
“Last year is over. This is a new team and it’ll have its own identity,” he said. “This is the first group of players I’ve seen from their freshman to senior years. It’s kind of like a proud dad moment.”
“The maturity and growth is unbelievable. All the seniors and how they’ve grown and led the group is tremendous. It’s probably the closest and most inclusive group I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”