Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

With Custer Back on Defense, Belle Vernon Should Make a Stand

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

With Custer Back on Defense, Belle Vernon Should Make a Stand

Article excerpt

The Belle Vernon Area boys' soccer team has some fairly lofty ambitions despite not having a big-time varsity goal-scorer.

The Leopards have eight starters back from last season, when they went 11-7-1 and made the WPIAL Class AA playoffs for the second year in a row. None of the returnees scored more than nine goals.

"I think the team is better than last year because we have more experienced upperclassmen," coach Chris Stasicha said. "We want to win the section and win a playoff game, which the team has never done."

Three returnees earned All-Section 3 honors: junior sweeper Craig Custer, a three-year starter; center midfielder Matt Sasko; and junior forward Chris Sillence, a stopper last season.

With Sillence no longer playing in the back, Custer is the leader of the defense.

"He's very solid and rarely gets beat back there," Stasicha said. "Maybe next year, when he's a senior, I could move him up because of his skill level. But this year, he has to be the core of our defense."

Stasicha, in his second year as the Leopards' coach, believes Sillence's position switch could result in the former stopper becoming a high-profile goal-scorer.

"Chris is a talented player with some speed, so I wanted to give him an opportunity to score some goals," Stasicha said. "We needed him to be more defense-minded last year."

Mike McKevitt, a senior forward, and Sasko are the top returning scorers. They had nine goals apiece.

"Everybody chipped in with the scoring last year," Stasicha said. "Most everybody [among the midfielders and forwards] scored five or six goals. Our midfielders and strikers, I could interchange them in the lineup and I would feel comfortable with that.

"Basically, they all know the offensive positions. If our strikers aren't scoring that game, I feel confident I could shake up the personnel a little."

The rest of the starting 11 consists of senior outside defender Kevin McCloskey; senior center midfielder Zak Hruska; junior outside midfielders Evan Henry and Rob Miele; senior goalkeeper Patrick Fletcher; junior outside defender Dave Lash; and senior stopper Mike Skirpan.

McCloskey, Hruska and Henry are three-year starters. …

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