Serra Catholic goalkeeper Teddy Almeter slides to try and block a shot by a teammate Thursday at East Allegheny High School. The Eagles open the WPIAL Class A playoffs against Springdale today at North Allegheny. (Photo by Josh Rizzo, special to Tube City Almanac)
When things go wrong, the Serra Catholic boys' soccer team tries to find the right attack.
The Eagles (9-7-1, 7-5) think that's the proper mindset for this afternoon, when they take on seventh-seeded Springdale (12-4-1) in the first round of the Class A playoffs. Game time at North Allegheny is 1 p.m.
The 10th-seeded Serra High team didn’t point to a signature victory as a point of confidence. Heading into the playoffs, the Eagles are ecstatic about a scoreless draw that capped a 1-4-1 slide to end the regular season.
Serra Catholic stayed together on Oct. 17 on the road and tied a Keystone Oaks’ team, which finished 12-5-1 and is headed to the WPIAL Class AA postseason.
Serra Catholic senior Brandon Borek turns up field during drill Thursday at East Allegheny High School. (Photo by Josh Rizzo, special to Tube City Almanac)
“We’ve learned to stay in the game,” said senior midfielder Brandon Borek during a practice Thursday at East Allegheny High School. “We lost our composure halfway through our season last year. This year, I believe we are stronger-minded. That will help us out in the playoffs further on, no slip ups.”
Following three straight first-round exits from the playoffs, the Eagles feel the test of their mettle at KO gave them the proper mindset.
Serra coach Chad Bruns can feel a difference.
“I think it’s a different group this year,” Bruns said. “A lot of them were here as part of the effort last year or to watch what was going on the field. It’s made us hungrier for the year.”
Jimmy Moon works on his throw in duuring Serra Catholic's soccer practice Thursday at East Allegheny High School. (Photo by Josh Rizzo, special to Tube City Almanac)
For a team trying to break a string of playoff disappointments, Serra has a good challenge in the Springdale Dynamos. Both teams typically open the season with a scrimmage against each other.
That meeting let the Eagles know they can’t take Springdale lightly.
“Actually, I feel really good about Springdale,” junior midfielder Chris Salemi said. “We saw them the first game of preseason and we didn’t look good. They beat us. I think we are going to come out a different team and they aren’t going to be ready for us.”
Serra Catholic forward Chris Salemi watches as Josiah Pais puts a shot on net Thursday at East Allegheny High School. (Photo by Josh Rizzo, special to Tube City Almanac)
Serra didn’t appear to be a favorite to make the playoffs at the season’s outset. Juniors Nik Fedora and Chris Salemi, sophomores Joey Salemi and Teddy Almeter, and Borek returned as starters.
They joined a major youth movement. Six of the Eagles’ 11 starters are freshmen or sophomores.
Freshman Joey Folino leads Serra with 17 goals.
Instead of suffering, Serra exceeded its win total from last year by two games. The Eagles snuck into the postseason, placing tying for third in Section 2-A with Trinity Christian.
Now, Serra is in position to reverse its recent playoff woes. This group won’t plan to give any ground.
“This year, we might not be as skilled,” Salemi said. “I think we fight harder. Even if we are down, we aren’t going out. As long as we play as a team, we will be OK."
Originally published October 21, 2017.