PITTSBURGH — “A two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer. You don't do it consciously, but you tend to feel a little too comfortable.”
Those were the words of Seneca Valley boys soccer coach George Williams, spoken a year ago immediately after his Raiders rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Peters Township, 4-3, in the WPIAL Class 4A championship game.
In a title-game rematch with the Indians Saturday night, it was SV that enjoyed a 2-0 lead in the first half. Peters Township managed to cut its deficit to 2-1 with a goal from Andrew Massucci, Pennsylvania's Player of the Year in 2020, but the Raiders then shut the door in claiming a 3-1 victory at Highmark Stadium.
“We were a little worried there, leading 2-0,” said Williams. “We let one squeaker through, but with a great player like Massucci, allowing just one goal is still really good.”
The Raiders (18-0-1) jumped on top of the Indians with Nathan Prex's goal in the eighth minute of play. His shot came from 30 yards and to the left of the net.
Prex soon set up another score, this time leading teammate Cole Kamarec with a perfect cross in the 21st minute. When the sophomore midfielder received the pass, he was already behind the defense and his shot, taken just yards in front of the net, sailed past Indians' goalie Nico Melograne.
Meanwhile, the Raiders were making things very difficult on Peters Township's attack. The Indians (16-2-1) had scored a combined eight goals in playoff wins over Butler and North Allegheny leading up to Saturday's final.
But against the Raiders, just getting the ball across midfield was often a task in itself.
“Seneca did a good job of pinning us down in our own end and not letting us out,” said Peters coach Bob Dyer. “We were chasing the ball for much of the night and just didn't have the numbers to sustain an attack.”
Massucci's goal, tucked in between SV goalkeeper Ryan Krumenacker and the left post in the 33rd minute, was one of the few reprieves.
Seneca Valley's defense, including starters Ben Hankinson, Luke Simpson, Caiden Oros and Jeremiah Laslavic, was “lights out,” according to Williams.
Prex's second goal, scored in the 71st minute, was a back-breaker for the Indians. It was his 35th of the season, a single-season school record.
“A lot of great soccer teams have that one big scorer, but Nathan has a great supporting cast around him that allows him those chances to score,” Williams said.
Melograne finished the game with five saves while Krumenacker stopped four shots.
“We knew they were really physical and were going to come straight at us,” said Krumenacker. “We contained them for the most part.”
SV now has three district titles to its credit. The Raiders won their first in 2018. They're also defending PIAA champions, though they returned just one starter from last year's team.
“This (title) is just as exciting as the others, especially when you consider we were almost starting from scratch with this group,” said Williams.
New blood has helped the Raiders remain kings of the WPIAL and it extends beyond the starting lineup.
Kamarec is not a starter, but has contributed valuable minutes off the bench. He narrowly missed scoring goals in playoff wins over Taylor Allderdice and Fox Chapel before finding the net Saturday.
“We felt pressure at the start of the season, but we realized as long as we believe in the team and stay together, we can do anything,” said Kamarec.
The Raiders will open the state playoffs Tuesday.