PREVIEW: #WPIAL Boys 4A Final Pits Section Rivals Seneca Valley-N. Allegheny

seneca-v-na
Seneca Valley and North Allegheny will clash for the third time this season on Thursday at Highmark Stadium with the WPIAL title at stake (Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

# 1 Seneca Valley (18-0-1) vs # 6 North Allegheny (14-2-5).

Highmark Stadium, Friday, 8 p.m.

Live Broadcast – http://www.msasports.net

Head coaches – George Williams (Seneca Valley), Bob Vosmaer (North Allegheny).

KEY STORYLINES

As WPIAL/PIAA high school soccer have expanded to four classifications for the first time this Fall, change has been constant.

For the past decade plus, teams from South of the Liberty and Fort Pitt Tunnels have ruled boys soccer’s top classification.

That will change this year.

Top-seed Seneca Valley and section rivals, North Allegheny will meet for the third time this season, and this time, with the stakes at the highest in any other match between the two longtime, neighboring rival schools in the Northern suburbs.

Seneca Valley is shooting for its first-ever WPIAL title in its first Finals appearance in its history.  Meanwhile, North Allegheny is seeking a return to it’s glory days, as a program that has won seven WPIAL titles, they haven’t made it this far since 2000, when they lost 3-2 in OT to Upper St. Clair.  They last won the title in 1999.

The Raiders last blemish on its schedule came in 1-1 draw vs North Allegheny on Sept. 13. Since then Seneca Valley have been perfect.  The Raiders put a stranglehold on the section lead and the top seed in the coming playoffs by earning a 2-0 win in the rematch at North Allegheny.  They’ve run off an impressive streak of wins and dominance that has included 16 clean sheets in 19 games for goalkeeper Dylan Good.

Of the two teams, Seneca are a bit more seasoned bunch hardened by some deep playoff runs a year ago, as they were a WPIAL semifinalist (losing 1-0 to eventual champ Canon-McMillan) and PIAA finals (beating Canon Mac in the PIAA semifinals) a year ago.   North Allegheny have been a program that have often been seeded high in recent years, but found early round playoff disappointment.  A season ago, as a very high seed, they were stunned by Kiski Area in the first round for an early exit from WPIAL playoffs.

How They Got Here

SENECA VALLEY – beat Kiski 2-1, Canon-McMillan 1-0, Upper St. Clair 1-0

NORTH ALLEGHENY – beat Fox Chapel 2-1 OT, Peters Twp 2-0,  Pine-Richland 1-0 OT

TACTICS, STRATEGIES & KEY PLAYERS

Both teams have been strong defensively –and have relied on some timely goals in the playoffs.   The fact that Seneca has only surrendered three goals all season begs the question, can North Allegheny break-through against the Raiders?

I posed this question to a coach that won the top-tier classification a year ago, and faced Seneca Valley three times in playoff games in the last two seasons.

“Seneca has a very commanding, experienced, tall, and athletic backline with good goalkeeping. They conceded two goals in regular season and have a great overall team,” said Larry Fingers, Canon-McMillan Head Coach.

“I think that anyone can be scored on given the right circumstance and tactics. Certainly a little luck can help or through a special situation, but anything can happen through the course of a game….they will be very sound and difficult to score on.

North Allegheny have shown the ability to score big goals during this post-season run from a variety of contributors, even without the services of potentially its best player – Josh Luchini.

In the first round, against Fox Chapel.Sam Buirge scored the winning goal in overtime by burying a shot from the left side of the box.  The Tigers didn’t waste any time scoring against a strong defensive team Peters Twp, as senior forward James Nolan slotted a shot inside the near post 36 seconds into the game, then junior defender Nick Williams put a loose ball into the net to seal the win in the 2nd half.

And then there was this…

Sean Atwater‘s strike in OT in Saturday’s semifinal from 25 yards propelled the Tigers past section rivals Pine-Richland.

Seneca Valley has its share of dangerous threats on the ball, including Matt Happ, who’s scored three of the Raiders four goals in the playoffs, including the game winners vs Kiski and Upper St. Clair in the late stages.

“Both teams have top notch forwards that can change a game with Happ for Seneca and Luchini at NA. Along with those two guys, they have great players around them as well. Both teams have great size and athleticism,” added Fingers.

Luchini has missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it’s possible the play-maker could return for the final.

The starting keepers, Good, and Grant Glorioso for the Tigers, have both been solid.  While Good has posted a previously mentioned 16 shutouts in 19 games, Glorioso has come up with consecutive clean sheets to get his team to the WPIAL final.

“I think it will be a good game. Being in the same section makes them very familiar with each other. Personally, I am interested to see what changes (coaches) George (Williams) and Bobby (Vosmaer) have in store for this match,” said Fingers.

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

The last non-South Hills team to win the top WPIAL boys soccer classification was Plum in 2005.  North Allegheny was the last team prior to that, taking the title in 1999.  The Tigers are a seven-time champion.   Last year, Canon-McMillan won the Class AAA title with a 2-1 OT win over Fox Chapel.

The winner of this match will get a favorable seeding in the PIAA 4A boys playoff, while the loser may have to travel to Chambersburg or another Central PA location.   Pine-Richland, the third team that made the WPIAL semifinals from Section 1 (4A), earned a trip to the PIAA tournament with a 1-0 win over Upper St. Clair on Wednesday.

You can follow John Krysinsky’s coverage of the Boys 4A  – and all WPIAL Finals at Highmark Stadium this weekend on Twitter @pghsoccerscribe 

 

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