Quaker Valley’s 1991 boys soccer squad ushered in decade of dominance

July 21, 2018
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You could call Quaker Valley’s 1991 boys soccer team the tip of the spear.

At the least, that Quakers squad, which won WPIAL and PIAA Class AA championships, was the catalyst to a dominant decade. More success followed, as the program won four other WPIAL titles and three more state titles in the 1990s.

The team will be inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 21, at Sewickley Heights Golf Club.

“It was really exciting to get the news. It’s hard to believe it has been as long as it has. It seems like just a couple years ago,” said Jeff Vorberger, a senior co-captain on that team. “Togetherness was the key. We played for each other. No one played for themselves. It was truly a team in every sense of the word.”

The season didn’t start so well as the squad dropped a 4-0 decision to Wilson at a tournament in State College.

“We got crushed,” Vorberger said. “We had very high expectations going into the season. Losing that first game convincingly brought us back down to earth quickly. From that point on, I think we showed a lot more discipline.”

The Quakers won their next 26 games en route to the program’s second PIAA crown. Coach Gene Klein’s team outscored its opponents 128-15.

“That loss kind of opened our eyes. We made a couple strategic changes and got rolling after that,” said Ben McKnight, a senior co-captain on the team. “Once you start getting confidence and that belief, we were able to get that rolling and have a really exciting season.”

McKnight, who led the team with 40 goals, provided the championship winner. His penalty kick early in the second half was the difference as the team beat Holy Ghost Prep, 1-0.

“That was an all-out battle. It could have gone either way,” McKnight said. “They just missed a shot with two seconds left. When that went wide, it was pretty exciting. We were getting great crowds and had a ton of people there watching. It was a great moment for the school.

Those types of games you remember the rest of your life.”

Junior Kevin Kress and Vorberger anchored the team’s defense. Goalkeeper Mike Birely posted 16 shutouts.

“That state title game was nerve wracking, that’s for sure,” Vorberger said. “In the state semifinal and the final, we didn’t allow any goals. If we could keep the other team off the scoresheet, we knew we could come out on top. If you’re able to hold the other team scoreless, it’s all 11 guys doing it. Our team defense was really, really strong. Our ability to counterattack was so dangerous, too. I think that bought us a lot of respect from other teams. Our offense was good, too. A lot of people chipped in, but every time we needed a big goal, Ben was there. He had a goal in the state semifinal and two in the WPIAL championship.”

While that 1991 team helped usher in a decade of dominance for the program, its players gained inspiration from the first Quaker Valley soccer team to win a state crown in 1985.

“Ben and I were 11 when they won. We all saw them play,” Vorberger said. “I remember one time, we had youth practice, but instead of practice, we walked over to the high school and watched Quaker Valley play Sewickley Academy. That made a huge impression on all of us. That 1985 team was the motivation for all of us to do the same thing when we got to high school.”

Quaker Valley won its seventh PIAA title last fall.

“It is really cool to be an alum of QV soccer and see all the amazing teams they’ve had over the years,” Vorberger said. “It goes back to coach Gene Klein’s legacy and all the years he spent there and building the program to be a juggernaut. He put his heart and soul into it. Everyone who has ever played for him, we’re extremely grateful for his dedication to us, the school and the sport.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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