Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008
With a momentum-building win over playoff-bound Smethport in the 2007 finale, and 10 returning lettermen on the roster, Port Allegany boys’ soccer coach Aaron Clark is looking forward to the upcoming season.
“The first two years, we had the skills,” he said, “but we had no experience. This year, we have the skills, but we have 11 starters who for the most part can get out there and play and they can stay with anybody.”
Starting a varsity team from scratch, while competing against long-established programs, has had its challenges.
“It’s been frustrating at times,” the third-year coach admitted. “The first two years, you kind of had to temper your expectations – you want to go out and win every game, but then when you play teams like Northern Potter that have been around forever, it’s tough to handle losing to them close.
“This year, we’re probably looking to win more of those games where we were just competitive. We’re trying to improve expectations. We went in telling the kids, ‘No more trying to stay close. No more trying to be competitive. This year, the goal is to win.’”
He continued, “I think we can play with the best teams and challenge them for a playoff spot. This is our year to really make that push.”
Despite losing leading scorer and second-team Big 30 All-Star Todd Mealy (14 goals, 5 assists) to graduation, Clark believes his club will still be strong offensively. Midfielder Tyler Payne (7 goals, 9 assists) joined Mealy on the Upper Allegheny Valley League All-Star team last season; he and fellow seniors Jon Burkart, RayPaul Gascon, and Jason Roush, along with juniors Kirby Elliott, Denzel Middleton and Jonathan Binder, should play major roles in the Gator attack. “I think we should be able to score our fair share of goals this year,” said Clark, who will be assisted by Matt Lawton again this season.
Inexperience is a potential source of concern on defense, as veteran fullbacks James Young and Nick Hults also graduated in June. The two returning back-line starters, sweeper Derek Brookens and fullback Justin Osani, will play a critical role in keeping opposing forwards out of the box.
Behind them, goalkeeper Ryan Sabolcik, who started 11 games last year and earned two of the team’s four wins, returns for his senior season. As the only experienced keeper on the roster, “He’s going to have to be involved in pretty much every game from here on out,” Clark said. “If we didn’t have him, I don’t know how competitive we might be this year.”
Asked if he hopes to make it to the district playoffs, Clark took issue with the reporter’s choice of words. “That’s the goal,” he emphasized. “No hoping. That’s what we expect at the end of the season. We figure that’s a nice jump up. The first year, we won one game. Last year we won four. This year we expect ten wins or more.”