TJ’s Prezioso, Lutz lauded as All-WPIAL selections in boys soccer
Thomas Jefferson’s boys’ soccer team went 54 days without losing a game.
The Jaguars, who finished with an 18-3-1 overall record in 2015, compiled a 16-0-1 mark from early in September to the end of October.
Thomas Jefferson ended up in second place in Section 3-AA with a 10-1-1 record, advanced to the WPIAL semifinal round and qualified for the PIAA playoffs.
The Jaguars fell to South Fayette, 2-0, in the PIAA Class AA first round.
It was the farthest the Jaguars have advanced in the postseason since 2008.
“We met our goals as a team with the exception of winning the section,” Michael “Doc” Kulish, TJ’s head coach, said. “The tie against EF prevented this goal, which hurt us in the standings.
“Going into the WPIAL semifinal game, which qualified us for states, gave our players the opportunity to experience the (PIAA) playoff atmosphere.”
Two TJ players were named to the WPIAL Class AA all-star team in Matt Prezioso, a senior midfielder, and Cole Lutz, a junior forward.
Prezioso also was lauded as the player of the year in the section. He registered 12 goals and 14 assists this season.
“It is very humbling because there are many great players in the section; some of them I played club soccer with,” Prezioso said. “It is an honor to receive this award, and it is because of my teammates and coaches that I was able to achieve such an accomplishment.”
Prezioso competes in club level soccer with Arsenal FC, and in indoor futsal with Barbarian FC.
“I am proud of the performance of the team this year,” said Prezioso, who hopes to continue his soccer career at the collegiate level. “The defense and goalie played outstanding, and the offense played very smart and team-oriented soccer. The coaches got us to work well as a unit and put us in the position to succeed.
“We wish we could have gone farther, but as we look back we are very proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
Lutz, who was named a player of the month by MSA Sports Network, led TJ in goals with 16, to go along with 10 assists.
“I cannot thank my team enough,” Lutz said. “We worked together, and I just happen to be the one representing my accomplishments, but more importantly my team’s achievements.
“This season was amazing. Unluckily, we were plagued by injury late in the season and it clearly showed. Two of our starters were out and it forced us to mess with the lineup and positions, and play with teammates we weren’t as used to. However, I felt we were very successful.”
Lutz also competes for the Steel Town Magic and Jaguars United soccer programs in the offseason.
“I play for a cup team called Steel Town Magic,” Lutz said. “We may not be the best, but I have another great coach (Tamba Marenah), a striker himself, and I enjoy playing with my friends from TJ and other schools.
“In the spring, I play for a Jaguars United travel team, where my career first started. I began the program when I was about 6 and have been with my teammates ever since. This travel team also hosts a camp with TJ graduate Rich Costanza, who really improves us as a team.”
Prezioso, Lutz, Ty Antonelli, a sophomore defender, and A.J. Meshanko, a freshman forward/midfielder, also were selected to the all-section team. Meshanko netted 13 goals and seven assists.
The Jaguars outscored the opposition 68-19 overall and posted 10 shutouts behind the efforts of junior goalkeeper Colin Bucsok, plus a stout defense.
TJ’s defensive corps was led by juniors Brendan Condon, Tom Conley, Antonelli and Shane Barrett, who suffered an early season injury; and sophomore Liam Giger.
“We are a young team with all of our starting defenders returning for 2016,” Kulish said. “Although we lost to South Fayette (in the PIAA playoffs), we played them tough without two of our starters, Owen Haythorn and A.J. Meshanko, who were injured in the semifinal game.”
Haythorn finished with six goals and seven assists this year.
“Colin Bucsok, our goalie, played a tremendous game against South Fayette,” Kulish said. “We are extremely proud of his performance.”
The future appears bright at Thomas Jefferson. Kulish and his staff are expecting 23 returning lettermen next season.
“We are graduating five seniors, (including) four starters,” Kulish said. “We should still be very competitive next year.
“All the players have now experienced the excitement and competitive level of playoff soccer. This has made them determined to work hard in the offseason to improve their strength, fitness and skill levels. I can guarantee it will be very competitive to win starting positions on the varsity team in 2016.”
Three of the five graduating seniors — Conor O’Leary, Falco Meden and Jack Rose — manned outside midfield positions for the Jaguars this season.
“They are three positions that will be difficult to replace,” Kulish said.
O’Leary racked up six goals and seven assists, while Meden clicked for three goals and two assists, and Rose had three assists in a reserve role.
“Jack Rose is a hard-working utility soccer player,” Kulish said.
The junior class, with 15 players, dominated the TJ boys’ soccer varsity roster in 2015. There also were two sophomores and six freshmen in the varsity program.
“While we were proud of what we were able to accomplish, we felt we fell short of what we were capable of achieving,” Prezioso said. “Looking at the kids coming up through the program, I look forward to them doing even better next year.”
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.