Riverview boys reload for another playoff run after hefty graduation losses
Eleven seniors, including eight starters, were lost from last year’s Riverview boys soccer team that went 12-6-1 overall, 9-4-1 in Section 3-A, defeated Sewickley Academy in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs and was one of the final eight in the Class A tournament.
While some might say that losing that much talent -- more than 70 goals were scored among the seniors in 2017 -- would cramp the optimism of the Raiders coming into this season, coach Mickey Namey said he and this year’s group has focused on reloading instead of rebuilding.
“We’ve been through this transition a couple of times where we had a large senior class move on,” Namey said. “We’ve developed a mindset that it doesn’t matter who’s there, we try to win every year. We want to keep plugging into the system, a small version of the New England Patriots, you could say. It’s next man up, and the expectations are there to do well. We feel we have the talent to win every year.”
Namey said the returning players have taken on the same attitude shown by the most recent graduates.
“These guys saw that leadership and how hard they had to work, and now they are providing that same leadership,” Ramey said. “The seniors like Christoph Hudak and Ethan Snyder and others brought in that mentality right from the start of what we wanted to put on the field and how we compose ourselves at practice. We’re pretty impressed with what we’ve seen so far.”
Hudak will bring his talents to the forwad position, while Snyder will return to the midfield.
Namey also is counting on key returnees. such as juniors Jackson Catanzaro (midfield), Nicholas Catanzaro (midfield), Nick O’Toole (defense), Jacob Sullivan (midfield) and Max Willmer (defense).
O’Toole will bring his varsity starting experience to the table.
“We ran a system where several underclassmen got quality minutes last year,” Namey said. “They are champing at the bit to prove themselves in increased roles,” he said. “They’ve worked so hard throughout the preseason practices.”
Of the 18 players on the roster, 11 are juniors, and six of them are new to the team.
“Right now, we’re really excited,” Hudak said. “We have a lot of new faces, but they’re really energetic and ready to be here and contribute. It won’t pose any problems to our formation this year. Everyone’s picking it up really quickly and learning as a whole.”
There is one newcomer among the five members of the senior class -- defenseman Seth Merryman. The other seniors are Sam Dreher (forward) and Clay Solares (forward).
“The (new team members) already have bought into the team-first mentality,” Namey said. “They come in and take care of business.”
In all, nine players are new, and Namey said all of them have soccer experience at younger age levels.
There are no freshmen on the team for the second year in a row.
“The junior high program was discontinued, and that kind of hurt numbers,” Namey said. “But Twin Boros (youth soccer organization) has done a nice job of keeping guys together. We have a nice couple of groups coming up who are in seventh and eighth grades. We’re excited for what they will bring to the team.”
Namey said while a lot of scoring was lost, he is seeing signs of a balanced attack.
“We scrimmaged Valley and got six goals from five different players,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for this year.”
A pair of juniors, Thanny Black and Mark McClelland, have battled for the starting goalkeeper job. Both are new to the team, but they have varsity experience in other sports at Riverview.
“It’s been pretty even,” Namey said. “They split time against Valley, and both did well.”
Riverview will open the season Sept. 5 with a nonsection game at Valley. The Raiders then will begin section play the next night at Carlynton.
The only change in the section from last year -- and it is a big one -- is North Catholic’s departure to Class 2A.
The Trojans went 14-0 in section last year, defeated Springdale for the WPIAL Class A title and lost in the PIAA championship game.
Springdale and Avonworth also qualified for last year’s WPIAL tournament.
“Just as many teams lost good seniors from last year, so it’s kind of the same situation for other teams,” Hudak said. “There’s not many loaded teams as far as seniors go, so whatever system is the best will come out on top.”