Southmoreland boys soccer coaches preaching new mentality, culture
Jeremy Niemiec never thought he would come home.
But he is happy he did.
The Southmoreland graduate is preparing for his first season as the Scotties boys soccer coach. Niemiec graduated in 2011 before playing at Pitt-Greensburg in college. Niemiec added another former Scotties player to the staff -- assistant Alex Leonard, who holds the program’s single-season goals record (40) and played at UPG.
“I never thought I would be back,” Niemiec said. “I grew up here, and my parents still live here. I felt some different emotions stepping back onto the field. But it’s home.”
While it is a first-year staff, Niemiec has plenty of experience with the players on the roster. He served as an assistant last season. Two years ago, he was the middle school coach where he worked with this season’s sophomore class.
“As a staff, we want to bring in a new mentality and culture,” Niemiec said. “The staff is a lot younger this year so we feel the players can really relate to us.”
The Scotties will be youth-centered this season. The team has only three seniors -- forward Max Gomez, midfielder Brett Glowacki and defender Zak Holoman. On top of that, the team only has five juniors.
The attack will be led by junior forwards Noah Kinter and Hunter Fletcher. Sophomore midfielder Andrew Rodriguez will have an impact on the team’s offensive production.
Defender Jake VanArdsale didn’t start last season, but Niemiec said the sophomore will play extended minutes and already looks like a difference maker.
“It is going to be a new formation for us,” VanArsdale said. “One of the other defenders is Alec DeWitt. We are in the same grade and talk about strategy. The other defender is (Holoman). He has more experience and is a bigger player.”
Sophomore Matt Rodriguez is set to take over the goalkeeper duties.
″(Rodriguez) is a brick wall,” Niemiec said. “He is someone I can put a lot of trust in. If he gives up a goal, I know he will bounce back.”
One of the biggest changes the staff made is to the team’s style of play. Last season, Southmoreland ran more of a “run-and-gun” style. Niemiec said this season the Scotties will be focused on possession.
“We played a lot of long balls last season,” Kinter said. “This year, we are having to use more skill passing the ball on the ground.”
Niemiec isn’t going into his first season leading the Scotties with low expectations. While he considers getting to the playoffs a top priority, he has bigger goals in mind for a team that finished 5-12-1 overall and 4-7-1 in Section 3-2A a year ago.
On the top of that list is challenging Charleroi and Waynesburg for the Section 3-2A crown.
“It all comes down to our mindset,” Kinter said. “If we believe we can win and put the effort in, we will win games. Even if other teams outclass us, it comes down to the mindset.
“If we are there for each other and fight for each other, we won’t get beat.”