Seneca Valley, Norwin boys seek 1st WPIAL soccer title
Despite being among the WPIAL’s most successful boys soccer programs, neither Norwin nor Seneca Valley have captured a district title.
That will change Saturday when the two squads meet at 5:45 p.m. for the Class 4A championship at Highmark Stadium.
It’s the first WPIAL title match appearance for the second-seeded Knights (17-2-1) since 1989.
“It’s been a long time in our history. We had a few runs in the 1980s and about 10 years ago. This program is bound to break through at some point. These boys want to be the ones that do it,” Norwin coach Scott Schuchert said. “The pinnacle of our sport is to hoist that trophy. That’s been the goal since Day 1. We’ll give our best effort Saturday, that’s for sure.”
The top-seeded Raiders (16-2-1) last played for WPIAL gold in 2016.
“We knew we were going to have a good team, but I don’t think anyone picked us to do what we’ve done, so far,” Seneca Valley coach George Williams said. “To get things together and be able to accomplish what we have, I am very proud of the guys.”
It seems fitting that WPIAL play ends with these two teams meeting since they opened the season against each other. Seneca Valley posted a 2-1 win over Norwin on Aug. 31. However, a lot has changed for both teams in the two months since.
“I think both teams have been improving throughout the year,” Schuchert said. “We are slightly familiar with each other; we play each other every season in a tournament. We know it’s going to be a great game.
“I think it’s going to be won in the final thirds. Both teams will get their chances,” he continued. “Our defense is proving to be stifling, at times. They have a great attack. It’ll be a great game both ways.”
Seneca Valley features a balanced offensive attack. Leading scorer Jackson Wotus, A.J. Mills and Tanner Howard all found the back of the net in the team’s 3-2 semifinal win over Canon-McMillan. Five players converted in a 7-0 quarterfinal victory. Austin Myers, Ben Francis, Keegan McVicker and Luke Rupert are among the team’s scoring leaders.
“So far, it’s proven to be a balanced group. We do have a lot of different players scoring a lot of goals at different times,” Williams said. “We don’t have that one player who scores most of our goals. I think it makes you much more difficult to handle and prepare for.”
Meanwhile, Norwin has a big scorer in Carter Breen (34 goals). He tied for third in the WPIAL regular season with 32 tallies. Fellow striker Zach Ullom, who plays midfield as well, has 17 goals.
“If you double team Carter, you leave so much space for Zach, and we get a lot of chances from that. He is a big-time X-factor,” Schuchert said.
Center midfielders Jake Nebinski, Matt Federovich and Jared Crowley contribute, as well.
“Our whole midfield has stepped up. Jake scored in our first playoff game and Matt scored in the semis. Hopefully, Jared will score in the final,” Schuchert said. “You need a strong midfield to win anything. I think that’s where we’ve improved throughout the year.”
Both teams are tough to beat on defense, too. They had eight shutouts apiece in the regular season.
“They have a strong goalkeeper and a good back line; I think that’s going to be something that’s a key matchup for us,” Schuchert said.
“We were very fortunate to be able to beat them the first time. We know they weren’t happy about it,” Williams said. “They defend really well and they are a good, balanced team overall. They are a well-coached team and they are going to be organized and very competitive. It’ll be a very tough task to beat them again.”
Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament, which begins Tuesday.