Soccer team vies for state title

The Avonworth High School boys’ soccer team travels to Hershey today for the state championship after defeating Greensburg Central Catholic in the PIAA playoffs earlier this week. Pictured here at the state playoff, junior mid-fielder Jonathon Nicolaus makes a tackle on a Greensburg Central Catholic midfielder, with Aymeric Verdier and Matt Carraway behind him. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By PATRICK GANNON

Avonworth’s boys’ soccer team (23-0-1) defeated Greensburg Central Catholic (21-3) for the second time this year on Tuesday night at Fox Chapel Stadium by a score of 1-0. The win gave the team the opportunity to travel to Hershey today for the chance to bring home the first PIAA title in Avonworth history, going up against the Millville High School Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. at Hershey Park Stadium.

But back to last Tuesday’s win to get there.

The ‘Lopes were looking to score early on the Centurions, and were attacking the entire game. Senior Sam Guzzo scored the lone goal for Avonworth with 23 minutes left in the first half. Unlike in the WPIAL championship, Avonworth continued to attack for the remainder of the game and had many opportunities to score.

On the other end of the field, senior goalie Timmy Stewart played a miraculous game, stopping all 12 of the Centurions’ shots-on-goal.

Speaking of Tuesday’s game and the overall season, Stewart said, “This season has been a dream come true for me. Going undefeated in section and winning the WPIAL title is unreal! I am grateful to be with this team and to be a part of what we have accomplished.”

Offering his views of the game that brought home the title, Coach Tom Angell said, “First about the game. I would like to say that Johnathon Nicolaus is amazing at man-marking top players and is huge for us. And there were so many other highlights. The big goal by Sam Guzzo on a great pass from Matthew Carraway. Timmy Stewart with a big shut-out. I am very proud of the team and their hard work. We're very close and have become a family.

Several players echoed the words of their coach.

Jonah Brandt said, “It’s a very nice payoff. Seeing where it all started and how far we’ve come has made us proud. We are a great team with a lot of heart. Even if we don’t win at states, we have made lots of school history.”

Angell said that much of that history-making can be traced to his coaching staff.

“My assistant coaches have been amazing. Shaun Spencer has the goalkeepers very sharp. Kevin Dexter breaks down video, and Ahmed Affaneh brings expertise and passion. They have all been a joy to work with. We are excited to play in Hershey and to travel and hang out together.”

Even player injuries seemed to have a positive impact on the team over the past few years.

Senior winger Michael Mucha said, “It’s been very special for me to be able to contribute in my senior year after being sidelined for a year with hip surgery. My teammates and coaches have been extremely supportive and motivating.”

And senior outside left winger Matt Carraway speaks for every player on the team and everyone associated with the team, saying, “I don’t think anyone thought we would be in the state final after winning both section and WPIAL, but the team’s hard work and talent have made this season possible. I will remember this season for the rest of my life.”