Punxsy boys soccer enjoys best season in school history

With an 18-4 record, 144 goals and a victory in the first round of states, 2019’s squad fared better than any previous Punxsy team


courtesy of boys soccer team page

The boys gather together after their district win. Seniors Andrew Wehrle, Vincent Gigliotti and Zach Reitz hold the plaque.

The Chucks boys soccer team ended the 2019 season with the best record, most goals and highest state playoff placement of any squad in Punxsy history.

Despite starting the season with a 2-6 loss to Hollidaysburg, the team won all but two of the rest of their regular season games. They beat Port Allegany 4-1 in the first round of districts and Karns City 3-0 in the finals, securing the soccer program’s second ever district title and its first since 2011. After cinching a 1-0 overtime win against Somerset in the first round of the state playoffs, the team fell to Quaker Valley 4-2 in the quarterfinals. The Chucks finished the season 18-4, and they scored a record 144 goals while allowing just 25.

“I’m overall really happy with what the guys accomplished,” soccer coach Eric Eddy said. “I’ve been saying for years that they can play with anybody in the state, and this year proved it.”

Eddy said he went into the season expecting to win the AA district title. He added that this expectation never changed, even after Karns City, historically one of the Chucks’s toughest opponents, entered the AA classification midseason. The team’s only struggle, he said, was overcoming their fear that they would lose to Karns City when districts arrived.

Senior Vincent Gigliotti scored 52 goals this season, breaking the former record of 33. He said that although the team “started out pretty slow,” they made adjustments and understood their positions better as the season progressed. He added that this year’s team played well together in the regular season and produced results he did not initially expect.

“In all of my other seasons, we never really connected as a team, but this season, we figured out what we were supposed to be doing,” Gigliotti said. “I thought we would be winning each game 3 or 4-0, but when we started winning each game 12-0, I was pleasantly surprised.”

After a 15-3 regular season with plenty of high-scoring games, the team entered the district playoffs. An early Port Allegany goal and a penalty kick threatened to stop the Chucks in the first round, but after junior Jacob Ebel saved the penalty kick, Eddy said the team got “the spark they needed” and came back for the win. The team then won the finals against Karns City, who had beaten them 1-0 in the regular season.

Last year, the team lost 2-0 to St. Marys in the district playoffs despite beating St. Marys 10-0 during the regular season. Eddy said he did not want to see a similar result this year. After the boys beat Karns City to win the title, Eddy said he was more relieved than jubilated because he “knew they had the talent” to fulfill his expectations of victory.

Next came the state playoffs. Gigliotti said after watching film of first-round opponent Somerset, he expected “to get destroyed.” Gigliotti added that although the Chucks “may not have been the better team,” they secured their overtime win because of their superior stamina and grit.

“We played our hearts out, and they couldn’t keep up with us,” he said. “We went into overtime, and five minutes in, I took a shot from 35 meters out and hit the top right corner. It was the best shot I ever had in my life.”

Beating Somerset advanced the Chucks to the quarterfinals against Quaker Valley, where they fell 4-2. Eddy said he expected to beat them, and he added that his team lost “because of belief.” The players thought Quaker Valley was better, Eddy said, which sealed their fate. He said he intends to help the team improve their mindset next season.

After beating Punxsy, Quaker Valley beat Mercyhurst Prep 3-0 in the semifinals and grabbed the state title with a 2-1 victory over New Hope-Solebury. This was Quaker Valley’s second state title in three years and eighth in school history.

With 36 goals, senior Zach Reitz also broke the former school record. He said the team played well on both offense and defense, and he added that this season was “the best Punxsy’s ever had.” Reitz, along with Gigliotti and juniors Garrett Eddy, Graham Lott and Andrew Young, was nominated postseason to the Upper Allegheny Youth Soccer League’s Central Division All-Conference Team.

Andrew Wehrle split the fall of his senior year between soccer and cross country. Wehrle said juggling both sports presented a challenge at first but became easier as the seasons progressed. He suffered an injury midseason, missing several games and meets, but returned in time to contribute to Punxsy’s cross country and soccer district victories. He said the soccer team had a great season and managed to overcome last year’s “disappointing finish.”

Next season, Eddy said, the team will “have a lot of work to do.” Gigliotti, Reitz and Wehrle graduate this year, leaving next year’s squad three seniors short. Eddy said losing these seniors will require this year’s underclassmen to rise to the occasion and sufficiently fill their vacant spots.

“Vincent and Zach scored a ton of goals, and after returning from a midseason injury, Andrew Wehrle switched to defense,” Eddy said. “Those are three guys you really can’t replace. That means that people will have to step up and make the determination that they want to be that guy.”