South Fayette fires blanks at soccer foes
When South Fayette declared its goals for the soccer season this fall, never once did the Lions establish every game a shutout as their objective. Yet, until last weekend, when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Quaker Valley, the Lions had allowed no goals, either in varsity or junior varsity action through 22 games.
Just surviving league play and possibly contending for the section banner were the first and immediate aims.
Of Section 5-AA, which not only consists of the Quakers but West Allegheny, whom the Lions battled to a scoreless tie, Rob Eldridge proclaimed it the section of death. “There is not an easy day,” he said. “Every team is of playoff caliber and every game prepares us for the postseason.”
And, come mid-October, in the WPIAL playoffs is where South Fayette expects to be. Despite the defeat to Quaker Valley, the Lions were 11-1-1 before blanking Seton-La Salle, 4-0, on Sept. 30. They trail West-A in the section by one game with their 7-1-1 slate. The Indians are unbeaten at 7-0-1 in the league and 11-0-1 overall.
The two teams meet at West-A Oct. 10. Four days later, the Lions host defending Class AAA champion, Canon-McMillan, in the regular season finale before the playoffs commence.
“Year in and year out, we have competed in what is the best section in Class AA,” said Eldridge. “We believe it’s the class of AA with West-A and Quaker Valley.”
Yet, since the Lions survived section action and advanced as far as the district semifinals, only to be upset by South Park, last November, they have set their sights beyond a section title.
“Getting to the semifinals was a benchmark,” said Eldridge. “When you reach those, then you reevaluate your program and your goals change.
“Our goals are to win the section, win the WPIAL championship and the state title. If you don’t have lofty goals, then why do it?”
Not too long ago, Eldridge decided to bring titles to South Fayette. After he revitalized Peters Township, he arrived at one of the fastest growing school districts and began to rebuild the program. “I knew when I got here it would be a five-year process,” he said.
The process started with defense, the cornerstone of this year’s team.
“If we have a strong point, it’s our defensive core. Even our forwards are expected to defend and they do that well, too,” Eldridge said. “That’s why we have been in all of our games.”
SF’s success this season starts in the nets with Alex Gedrys. An All-WPIAL performer last year, the senior keeper has recorded 12 shutouts. A junior, Andrew Pine backs up Gedrys.
In front of Gedrys is a strong core of defenders. Evan Yee, Mitch Ford, Dan Pruss and Nick McKee anchor the defensive unit in the back.
The midfield is comprised of juniors Jake Thomas, George Slater and Ben Meindl as well as senior Ed Terrell.
“We pride ourselves on being strong at all positions,” said Eldridge.
Up front there is none stronger than Brian Coyne. The junior ranks among the top scorers in the WPIAL with 13 goals.
“Our success is not contingent on one scorer,” Eldridge stressed. “We do not rely on one player to score. We are a good all-around team.”
Jordan Smith joins Coyne up front. He is a sophomore as is Pershietti Priamo, who also has added punch to an offense that has racked up 42 goals.
“Brian is the creative playmaker,” explained Eldridge. “Jordan is a powerful forward and Pershietti is a hard-working, blue-collar type forward that’s given us a nice lift.”
Coyne has also given the football team a lift. He is the placekicker for the Lions, who are 5-0. Coyne has scored 33 of the Lions’ 261 points this fall.
“We’ve always had a soccer player who has kicked on the football team,” said Eldridge, who is friends with the grid coach. In fact, Eldridge and Joe Rossi are neighbors living in the same housing plan, less than a mile from the school. “Coach Rossi and I work together with scheduling. We make it work.
“Obviously our primary concern is keeping them healthy, body and soul. They have to be able to handle both plus school because academics are the top priority.”
This week, the Lions’ top priority is not just to recover from their first loss and first goal surrendered but to continue improving.
With senior leaders such as Travis Revay, Hunter White, Kevin Chaussard, Tyler Godwin, Ben Kenawell and B.J. Supan, as well as the contributions of juniors Matt Grebinoski, Alex Denison and Tommy Iagnemma, the entire program, from grades 9 through 12, continues to strive for excellence.
SF boasts seven freshmen, including Danny Belkin, Matt Cillo, Anthony Palmieri, Jeremy Zura, Sam Franjone, Matt Thomas and Ryan Vent, not to mention a strong sophomore class that includes: Nick Aul, Andrew Ford, Christian Dedi, Zach Lutz, Jordan Smith, Cory Suppan and Zach Ali; upon which to continue to build.
“We are proud of the system that we have established,” said Eldridge. “We have a receptive and teachable group throughout all the grades but we want to keep getting better and better as a program.”