Norwin boys soccer team hitting reset button as PIAA playoffs begin
After a disappointing end to its quest for a WPIAL Class AAAA title, the Norwin boys soccer team is pushing reset on the season.
The Knights walked away from Highmark Stadium as WPIAL runners-up after dropping a 5-2 decision to Seneca Valley on Saturday.
But not all is lost for Norwin. The team still has the PIAA tournament ahead of it. For coach Scott Schuchert, the challenge will be getting his players to refocus and avoid a title-game hangover.
“We have to treat it like another season,” Schuchert said. “That’s how we did it with the section. And we did it in the WPIAL tournament, and our first game was superb. It is going to be tough to get over this one because our expectations were so high.
“But the state championship is the highest achievement you can get. That’s going be easy to get motivated for that.”
Norwin will travel to Bald Eagle Area High School to face District 6 champion State College on the opening round of the state tournament Tuesday at 6 p.m.. The Little Lions (11-4-2) topped Altoona, 5-1, in the District 6 Class AAAA title game Oct. 29. State College then topped McDowell, 2-0, on Saturday in a PIAA subregional game.
The loss to the Raiders was far from the norm for Norwin. The typically stingy Knights defense -- Norwin has eight shutouts this season -- was rocked early as Seneca Valley scored in the first minute of the first half. The five goals the team gave up was a season high. In fact, the Knights haven’t given up more than four goals in a game since the 2016 season.
The Knights got goals from Carter Breen and Jacob Nebinski in the loss.
“We liked to play our game no matter the situation and do what we do best,” Schuchert said. “This group, even at the very end, is not going to fold or just give in. It was one of those games that we couldn’t get two in a row.”
Breen has been the offensive catalyst for the Knights this season. The senior scored 32 goals during the regular season and has a goal in each of the Knights postseason games.
“What he can do off the ball and on the ball, he’s nonstop,” Schuchert said. “I think if you watch an 80-minute performance from Carter, he is the guy that stands out because of his work rate. He’s just not skilled or fast. His work rate is second to none.”
Fellow senior Zach Ullom is also crucial for the team’s offense as he has 17 goals.
Being on the eve of the state tournament, Norwin will look get back to what made the 2018 season a successful one. With a 13-player senior class that led the team to a section title and its first playoff win since 2010, the Knights will begin their trek to Hershey.
“This is a special group,” Schuchert said. “That’s what it kind of takes. It takes a special group with great leadership. We have a great senior core. They have the ‘refuse to lose’ attitude. That was the difference this year.”