The Fox Chapel boys soccer team doesn’t have to look too far into its past to find motivation.
The Foxes’ source stems from the disappointment of walking off a cold, rain-soaked field after a hard-fought, 2-1 overtime loss last October in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs to eventual WPIAL champion North Allegheny.
With a large contingent returning, the Foxes hope to make last year’s difficult postseason exit a distant memory and are aiming at winning their first WPIAL title since 1995.
“Not going to lie: It hurt a lot, but I think it’s a good thing for this year,” said David Sullivan, a senior defensive midfielder. “It gives us a lot of motivation. We have great players, great attacking and great defense. We should be connecting really well, and hopefully we can get the WPIAL title this year.”
Sullivan is one of nine starters who return from a team that graduated only three players. Other returnees include senior forward/back Will Tabor, who was first-team all-section and an all-WPIAL player last year; sophomore midfielder Zane Ingram, an all-section player; senior winger Jake Miller; goalie Jacob Dunn; two-way player Ryan Santilli; winger Alex Mariotti; outside back Theo Faucher; and winger Will Carnevale.
Expectations are high with the wealth of experience dotting the Foxes’ roster.
“These guys are competitors, and soccer has a long, rich tradition here at Fox Chapel,” said Fox Chapel coach Erik Ingram, who is entering his 12th season. “These guys absolutely want to go further in the playoffs this year. The fact that we lost in overtime to the team that won the WPIAL makes them hungry.
“I think one thing that can make us dangerous is we don’t have one or two guys that can score goals. We have six or seven guys that can score goals from all different positions. I think that we can put the complete package on the field, play fast-paced soccer and put on a pretty good show. That’s what we’re hoping for this year.”
Having familiarity with each other has allowed the Foxes to have sharper than normal preseason practices. They are eager to take that familiarity into the season.
“Everybody got along really well at camp, and we have good team chemistry,” Zane Ingram said. “We’re not a team that’s going to push the hard stuff on each other. If someone gets beat, the next guy is right there to try and help them out.”
Miller, who missed last season’s playoff game because of injury, echoed those sentiments.
“I’m eager to get back and help the team get to where we are supposed to be,” Miller said. “We came up short last year, but this year we have a big senior class and a big, talented, younger class with a lot of potential.”
Fox Chapel finished third in Section 2 behind Allderdice and Plum and wants to be two spots higher when this season ends. The Foxes are confident in the group returning, but are mindful of the opponents they will face in section play.
“I think we have to be the favorite based on how we finished last year and who we have returning, but our section is tough,” Erik Ingram said. “It’s a very physical section. It’s not easy to be successful game in and game out, but at the same time once we get into the playoffs, we’re usually pretty prepared. We’re expecting the same thing this year, but we’re expecting to finish first and not third.”