The Mt. Lebanon boys soccer team is focusing on the present this season.
“Our section is too hard to look ahead,” said Bill Perz, who is in his fourth season as Lebo’s head coach. “It’s one day at a time.”
So as the Blue Devils prepare to play Canon-McMillan Tuesday and rival Upper St. Clair Thursday, they are cognizant of how pivotal the games can be.
Perz noted a conversation he had with Bethel Park head coach Doug Fink after the Blue Devils edged the Black Hawks, 2-1, in league action last week.
“Coach Fink had to play (C-M and USC) in a week, too,” Perz said. “So if we are not ready to play and we aren’t ready to improve and keep going and competing, the next time we play Bethel we could be tied. That is just what our section is.”
While the league may be the most competitive in the WPIAL, the Blue Devils find themselves undefeated. In addition to wins against BP and Brashear, Lebo also pocketed a 3-0 shutout against perennial playoff contender Peters Township.
Perz said the Blue Devils are off to a “good start” but knows it’s a long, hard road just to earn a postseason berth in the division. C-M and USC are also still undefeated in the WPIAL’s Class 4A Section 2.
“There is never an easy draw in our section,” he said. “If you get through and compete against the teams like CM, USC, PT, BP and Baldwin, you take what you can get after that. Right now, though, you just battle every night because our section is just tough.”
Though early in the season, the Blue Devils are proving they are tough enough.
Before tackling section action, Lebo competed well in the East-West Classic. The Blue Devils played to a scoreless draw with Wilson (West Lawn) and lost to Fleetwood, 2-1, in the annual kick off event that pits the best teams from Western Pennsylvania against teams from the eastern portion of the state.
“Our guys really got tested,” Perz said. “We played two really quality opponents. Our guys saw that they were able to compete and in our first two section matches, that’s what we did. We competed.”
Lebo opened section action with the 3-0 win against Peters. In the win, Giuseppe Croce scored twice, while Zach Nellas supplied the other goal. Danny Simboro and Erich Bosch earned assists.
Against BP, Croce and Joseph Coutinho scored goals. Simboro earned an assist off a corner kick.
Midfielders Croce, Simboro and Nellas are expected to generate the attack. Croce is a four-year letter winner while Simboro is a senior and Nellas is a junior.
“Giuseppe is a guy who has been around the program for four years,” Perz said. “He saw the downtimes and had to play through it. He’s a guy that we look for to be our creator and mature guy on the field.
“With the combination of Danny, Zach and Giuseppe,” Perz added, “we have three really creative guys that we are confident in.”
The Blue Devils also have confidence in their defense. Steven Vines anchors the group in goal. The junior is joined in the back by junior Nick Estabrock and senior Mark Joseph.
Junior Brady Napoleon also solidifies the defense as do starters Bryce Andra and Carter Gannon. Both are seniors.
Perz said filling the center back spots has been critical to Lebo’s success.
“Every year, you kind of look to see who can fill those two spots because, generally, you had two seniors playing there because those are the most physical guys,” he said. “Nick and Mark have really stepped in and have been athletic and organizers for us.”
Perz added those guys along with Vines in goal and Napoleon in the defensive midfield have held the Blue Devils in many games.
“They have locked things down,” he said.
Midfield starters Liam Donald and Kieran McDonough have also enabled Lebo to lock down a serious consideration as a playoff contender. Both are seniors.
The Blue Devils also rely upon Thomas Taucher, Zac D’Alesandro, Christian Polk, Andy Cort, Declan Stewart, Lleyton Slaysman, Joseph Costello, Duncan Auer, Shea Zeidler, John Delvaux, Nate Kirk and Miccio Edorado as well as back-up goalkeeper Joseph Harrington.
“We have the talent,” Perz said of his team’s potential to make a playoff run.
“It’s not if the guys believe they have the talent. It’s whether they are willing to work to meet that ceiling. I think we are as talented as anybody, but it’s about our guys and our preparation as coaches and players.”
Against section opponents such as the Big Macs and the Panthers, the Blue Devils must remain ready to remain in the hunt for a section title.
“In our section, we play a bunch of really solid, tactical teams that know how to play the game,” Perz said. “It comes down to 50-50s so some plays we have to be able to match up. That’s one thing we have to improve.”