Butler soccer team hopes to build on trip to WPIAL semifinals
Faced with the realization that it might not reach the postseason, the Butler boys soccer team rallied in the second half of its season.
Once it got in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament, the Golden Tornado kept it going with a pair of upset victories.
“I am very, very proud of the team, for sure,” Butler coach Troy Mohney said. “The second half of the season, I thought we played pretty well. It was a lot of fun.”
Last season, Butler opened the playoffs with a 1-0 loss at Mt. Lebanon. This year, the Golden Tornado went on the road again and beat Penn-Trafford, 3-1. Butler followed it with a 2-1 overtime win over section rival Seneca Valley.
“We knew we could beat them,” said Butler senior striker Anthony Werth, who led the team with 15 goals and 16 assists. “I think we had the most heart of any team in the playoffs. We just battled and competed in every single game. We were a 12 seed, but we didn’t want to be eliminated.”
The win against the Raiders was especially gratifying considering Seneca Valley posted 5-0 shutout and 3-2 overtime wins in section play against Butler.
“That first playoff win was nice. Going against Seneca Valley, we knew they were a good team. We knew it’d be a close game. We just got the edge that game, and it was the best feeling ever,” Butler senior midfielder John Fleming said.
Butler scored off a corner kick in overtime. Werth launched the ball into the box, and Joel Stutz headed it into the goal for the win.
“I hit the corner in, and I saw Joel get on the end of it. It hit something and looked like it was laying on the goal line. The ref said it was in, and he blew the whistle,” Werth said. “Joel ran to me. A huge student section was there, and we ran over to them. It was one of the best moments of my high school career.”
Upper St. Clair handed the Golden Tornado a 5-2 loss in the WPIAL semifinals. Butler had a chance to reach the PIAA tournament, but dropped a 1-0 decision to Central Catholic in the WPIAL consolation match to end its season at 12-8-2.
“Against Upper St. Clair, we knew it would be a challenge for us. We knew we could compete. It just wasn’t our night,” Fleming said. “Against Central, we knew we were evenly matched. The ball didn’t go our way that game. It was a tough one to lose.”
Butler’s run helped bring awareness to the soccer team.
“Butler’s soccer team hadn’t been that far since 2006. We didn’t have the most exceptionally talented players on the team, but we had heart and a will to compete,” Werth said. “The school got behind us and so did the community. Hopefully, that makes it more popular for younger players coming up.”
Added Fleming, “It was really nice seeing the student section build and build over the year. Local restaurants gave us some nice gestures on their signs and advertisements. I hope it continues for the underclassmen.”
Butler graduates 12 seniors, including five starters. However, freshmen starters Tyler Rankin and Devin Goehring and sophomore starters Jace and Joel Stutz will be back.
“We lose some key pieces. But I subbed in many players this year, so a lot of players got different experiences,” Mohney said. “That’s a good sign going forward. We’ll have a couple of guys playing new roles next year, and some role players will have to step up. Hopefully, these guys keep working in the offseason.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.