Norwin boys ‘building for the end picture’
Anthony Harding is tired of hearing Norwin can’t win in the WPIAL boys soccer playoffs. The senior is well aware that the Knights, although a perennial playoff team, have lost in the first round six years in a row.
But he aims to change the outcome this season.
Harding and his teammates have high expectations — not quite to the magnitude of their nationally ranked girl counterparts — but they’re still thinking big.
“We want to get coach (Scott Schuchert) his first playoff win here,” said Harding, a senior forward. “We want to start out on fire and build from there. We want to show we’re one of the best teams in the WPIAL.”
A Penn State commit, Harding scored 12 goals and dished 15 assists last season as Norwin finished second to rival Penn-Trafford in Section 4-AAAA and fell to Pine-Richland in the WPIAL playoffs.
Schuchert doesn’t mince words when it comes to Harding, who also had offers from Syracuse and St. Francis (Pa.), or what his team wants to accomplish.
“He is a born leader,” Schuchert said. “His determination is what sets him apart from the rest. He is an elite athlete that will always continue to get better.
“Penn State will love this Western Pa. boy.”
The shifty Harding likely will face multiple defenders as he attacks the net, but the coach thinks his best player can still shine.
“We look to build around him and compete for a championship,” Schuchert said. “We have three attackers back in Anthony and juniors Carter Breen and Zach Ullum.”
Breen played up as a freshman and enters the season more experienced.
“We have some kids who have had success and have made big strides from sophomores to juniors,” Schuchert said. “We have a lot of kids ready to meet the challenge. We’ll have a lot of depth.”
Senior Tanner Cook, a two-year starter, is expected to make an impact at center back, and junior Jake Nebinski is a key midfielder.
“John does a lot of the dirty work,” Schuchert said. “He had a superb breakout year last year.”
Juniors Kyle Krotec and Ray Yanez could platoon at goalkeeper.
“They’re both capable of playing at the varsity level,” Schuchert said. “I think we can get a solid 16 guys who can play a part in what we want to do. And we can play fast.”
Norwin scored 40 goals last season, and 36 were assisted.
The schedule will test the Knights’ mettle from the start. They open against Baldwin in the Seneca Valley tournament Friday and travel to North Allegheny Sept. 5 before opening Section 4-AAAA play two days later at Hempfield.
“We’ll have some challenges right away that will show us where we are,” Schuchert said. “But the kids are looking to embrace that. We’re building for the end picture.”