Senior captains hope to help Penn Hills boys soccer team rebound
If Ryan Hankey wants to continues to change the culture with the Penn Hills boys soccer program, he will need the continued support from his captains to drive home accountability and positive attitudes through tough times.
Last season, the Indians (0-17-1, 0-12) lost every game except when they tied Latrobe, 1-1, in nonsection action in the second to last game.
The senior captains -- defender Matt Lloyd, midfielder Stephen Salah and midfielder Malik Paolucci -- want to make sure their final season doesn’t play out like their junior campaign.
The trio will look to replace the contributions lost by midfielder Evan Weston and defender Jaden Rouse. Weston was a second-team all-section selection, while Rouse received honorable mention honors.
“I believe the boys saw how we struggled without having leadership, accountability or step up and take ownership of the team. A lot of the seniors and younger guys are trying to keep everybody accountable,” Hankey said.
“It’s nice to see people feeling the flow and pushing everybody. The seniors are really pushing everybody to keep the energy level and practice at a high level.”
Even with the disappointing record last season, Salah knows the team can only improve from their overall injury-riddled team performance last season. During the offseason, Hankey established a strength and conditioning program for this players.
“We can only go up from here, and we’re going to prove that. We’re going to prove how high we can go this year. You’re going to lose some, but you got to be versatile and push through it. You can’t hang your head. You have to keep your head high and do what you know to do,” Salah said.
“We have to train hard. It’s not just at games where we go hard. We have to go hard at every practice so when game time comes up, it’s normal to you. It’s just another game or practice.”
The Indians return forward Carlos Jerez and defenders Murad Taha and Shane Myers in the senior class, while the junior class will be led by midfielder Iain Krieger and defenders Jesse Ternent, Mike DeVito and Javon Williams. Krieger earned honorable mention honors last season.
Hankey is looking for contributions from sophomore midfielder Jonah Silverman and freshmen Tyler Stewart, Charlie Rosemeyer and Josh Lee.
Junior AJ Collins will take over on a full-time basis in goal for the Indians. Collins will replace Luke Greenway, who was a second-team all-section selection.
Last season, Hankey recalls the Indians being in many games throughout the majority of the contest before the game would get away.
“We need to stay focused on the field. Almost every game last year, we were in it for 50 to 60 minutes, we would let in a goal and put our heads down. Just like that it was 3-0,” Hankey said.
“We have to stay focused and in the game. We can’t let the game get away from us and try to be positive with our leadership. You have to stay positive and encourage everybody out on the field.”
The Indians will be part of Section 3-4A, which comprises of familiar section foes Plum and Woodland Hills, as well as newcomers Connellsville, Hempfield, Latrobe, Norwin and Penn-Trafford.
Plum, Norwin, Penn-Trafford and Connellsville all qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last season.