It’s been a long wait for Sun Valley boys soccer. By head coach Bob Chambers’ recollection, playoff soccer has eluded the Vanguards since 2006, a time when his current crop of players was still in elementary school.
The hope is that the wait will only last another day.
It’s out of the hands of Sun Valley and District One’s other teams leading into Sunday morning’s seeding meetings. But the Vanguards at least can feel good about the body of work they are putting before the selection committee.
Sun Valley (11-6-0, 8-5-0) sits fourth in the Ches-Mont League’s American Division and sixth overall, a position that recent history would indicate has a solid chance of making the postseason. If recent performances are of any aid, the Vanguards have won four of their last five games, including a pair of 1-0 wins over Bishop Shanahan and Avon Grove and a 4-3, overtime thriller against Downingtown West Thursday.
It’s a team that has been blown out just once – a 3-0 loss to West Chester Rustin in mid-September – and has won three of its four overtime games.
The mindset of Chambers is to hope, and prepare, for the best.
“We’re preparing like we’re in the playoffs,” said Chambers Friday after putting his team through a practice session. “From what we’ve seen in the past, we feel good. Nothing is ever a lock, but we’re excited and we expect to get in.”
Chambers is especially hopeful given the composition of this group, which includes 10 senior starters and 12 contributors.
“These guys have grown up in the Ches-Mont League,” he said. “They put in the time they needed to get to where they want to be.”
The Central League picture is quite muddled, a factor which could very well work to Sun Valley’s advantage.
Atop the league is Lower Merion, whose undefeated season and 11-0-0 mark in the league puts them in contention for the district’s top seed. Strath Haven and Conestoga, both at 8-2-1, with the Panthers owning the head-to-head edge via their 1-0 win Oct. 1, finished second and third. And Radnor’s late surge, augmented by Max Barish’s overtime winer over Strath Haven last Thursday in a continuation of a suspended game, puts them in good shape.
After that, the gulf is sizeable. Ridley and Harriton each finished with 5-4-2 league records, Harriton earning the honor of being the fifth team off the board due to its overtime win over the Green Raiders (league order is preserved in the selections). That limits the appeal of Ridley’s 12 wins, the profile of which are diminished when you consider five are against Del Val teams.
Nonetheless, Ridley coach Wayne McKinney is confident that his team will earn a districts bid for the first time since time immemorial. The Central League had seven teams in the field a season ago.
“I’m taking a positive attitude,” McKinney said Saturday. “I think what we accomplished will stand up, with a 12-4-2 and how we did in Central League. … It was our goal. We set a goal in the very beginning of the season to finish in the top five, and we achieved our goal with the tie with Harriton.”
The win total for the Green Raiders may be somewhat inflated by a weak strength of schedule that includes a 5-0 record against the Del Val, but McKinney believes that is outweighed by a win over Radnor and the ability to take both Harriton and Conestoga to overtime.
Behind Ridley and occupying the seventh spot is Upper Darby at 5-6-0 in the league, a team whose only nonleague wins are against Academy Park and a Delco Christian team back in late August that subsequently ceased offering varsity. Though they finished on a four-game winning streak, it’s likely a case of too little, too late.
The final Delco spot up for grabs in District One comes via the Del Val. There’s not much drama as to where it will be in the bracket, with the champs almost assuredly slotting into the 32nd and final spot.
The intrigue, however, has come via how the spot was decided.
Penn Wood and Interboro each finished with 7-1 records in the five-team league. For each, the only loss was a one-goal defeat to the other team – a 4-3 Penn Wood win Sept. 17 and a 3-2 Interboro victory Oct. 3. That means they go down as co-league champs. But the districts bid? Per the league bylaws, the right to take part in the District One tournament goes to the team that won the last meeting, that being Interboro (9-9).
It may seem arbitrary – a fact not lost on either coach – but both Penn Wood’s Ed Kramer and Interboro’s Nick Dostellio agree that it’s a rule that would be problematic to change midseason. It may be looked at in the future, but for now, the chips are falling the Bucs’ way.