Gateway boys soccer looks forward to promising future
Car dealerships and all their 15- and 20-point inspection offers have nothing on the Gateway boys soccer. When second-year coach Bernie Stiles holds his season-ending performance review with his players, it’s enough make a Consumer Reports evaluation look incomplete.
“We have 94-point performance evaluation,” Stiles said. “The objective for (the evaluations) is to show how the coaching staff feels where (the players) are at (that) point in time. They know where they stand.
“We go through a very honest and open process, and we recognize that there’s mistakes made along the way. We have eight months now to make these scores better from me all the way down to the eighth-graders. This is a six-year program, and it s going to be a long process.”
Gateway (4-12, 2-10) just finished Year No. 2 in the “process” with a sixth-place finish in Section 4-AAA. And if there’s one word that the Gators need to get used to hearing and reading the rest of the way through the “process” it’s “intensity.”
Stiles has linked the word to everything and is using it as one more block that needs to drop into place to build the program’s solid foundation.
“Intensity, that’s the word,” Stiles said. “We got to hate to lose in every situation and not just in games.
“We got to hate to show up late to practice. It’s not how fit you are, but there’s nothing more powerful than a properly motivated human. There’s nothing more powerful than that.”
If the Gators weren’t motivated to start the season, they found it in a hurry. Schedule makers did Gateway no favors. The Gators had arguably the most difficult start to the regular season by facing the top three teams in Class AAA at the time in West Allegheny, Franklin Regional and South Fayette. All three teams made it through the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA soccer bracket, with Franklin Regional and West Allegheny earning the top two seeds, respectively.
“We saw the top three teams in the WPIAL,” Stiles said. “Those first few games are all about adjustments. Most likely, I would say that the schedule will remain the same (next season).”
The Gators went through their fair share of skids this season. They picked up a nonsection wins over playoff-bound Kiski Area and Penn Hills and knocked off section rival McKeesport twice to keep out of the basement in the section standings.
Next season, the bandwagon might get a little bit more crowded. Gateway will be returning 10 starters. It should comes as no surprise that the strength in the Gators’ roster is their underclassmen, specifically the sophomore class. And if there’s one thing the coaches look forward to, it’s that transition year from sophomore to junior where players make that leap from wide-eyed underclassmen to experienced veterans.
“We want to establish a culture that wherever we are is never good enough,” Stiles said. “We want everybody to have the right perspective.”
Leading scorers Alex Gutierrez and Matt Murphy, both sophomores, will be back. Junior captain Aral Muftuoglu will return to his midfielder spot, along with up-and-coming freshman Dietrich Zeisloff. Zeisloff’s ability to grasp Stiles’ philosophy had the midfielder earning more and more minutes as the season moved on.
“We knew that (Zeisloff) was going to be good player, and by the end of the year we took him off the field only to get others more playing time,” Stiles said.
Stiles will gain more reinforcements in the form a talented group of eighth graders he has been working with.
“Next year, I told the freshmen coming in that it will be their third year with me, that they’re not going to be freshmen next year,” Stiles said. “It’s going to be fun at Gateway next year.”