Although not one of his players has experienced a single second of action in state tournament play, Selinsgrove’s Chris Lupolt isn’t all that concerned.
His Seals roster is flush with youngsters that have been playing soccer for a decade or longer.
Nonetheless, that introduction to the state playoffs is just a lengthy goal kick and one anxious bus ride up U.S. 15.
When the Seals (18-2) step back inside Loyalsock’s Ken Robbins Stadium at 7 p.m. tonight to begin their pre-game routine, they’ll be preparing to make Selinsgrove’s first PIAA Class 3A tournament start since the 2007 club fell to Manheim Central.
Awaiting Lupolt’s bunch will be unbeaten and three-time defending District 2 Class 3A champion Crestwood (18-0-3), which is making its fourth appearance in state play in five seasons. The Comets did not survive the opening round in those earlier visits.
“The kids have to work through dealing with success and that’s a nice place to be, but it’s also a situation where you have to play the next game and give it your best effort and your focus and attention,” said Lupolt, whose squad bested Athens 2-0 in the District 4 Class 3A final last Wednesday at the Balls Mills Soccer Club.
“Our kids have played a lot of soccer over the course of their lives — a lot of them play club — and they’ve been in tournaments and all that kind of stuff so I think they’re handling the success and the importance of the next game pretty well from a psychological standpoint,” added Lupolt, whose Seals also claimed the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I crown, his program’s first league title since 2002.
“Physically, I think we’re ready. … Crestwood’s going to be a challenge (for us).”
Crestwood earned its berth in the 16-team state bracket by edging Wyoming Valley West 1-0 Wednesday night in the District 2 Class 3A final. Payton Glynn netted the lone goal for the Comets early in the second half with an assist from Nick Ruggeri.
Glynn (25 goals, 6 assists), Ruggeri (17g, 7a), Justin Sterling (16g, 4a) and Ben Rossi (7g, 12a) will draw plenty of attention from a Selinsgrove squad that pitched its fifth straight shutout in the win over Athens as Cole Catherman collected seven saves.
Second-half finishes from Owen Magee and Nick Ritter provided the offense.
Magee leads the Seals in scoring (19g, 6a), while Ritter (19g, 4a) is right on his heels. Selinsgrove also will turn to Noah Derr (10g, 8a), Jamison Bohner (9g, 8a), Kyle Ruhl (7g, 5a), Matt Gilfert (5g, 6a) and Ryan Mangels (3g, 2a) to provide offensive punch.
Center backs Mason Beaver and Evan Pickering, along with flank defenders Dylan Watts and Clint Rowe, will need to know where Glynn and company are at all times. Catherman, who played extremely well in the District 4 3A final, will be on full alert as well.
“I also like our balance,” Lupolt said. “We’re across the board, so that’s a good thing.”
Frankly, this is the next step for a Selinsgrove program — Watts is the lone senior — that lost in the District 4 Class 3A semis to eventual champion Mifflinburg in 2017, tumbled in the District 4 Class 3A final a year ago to Athens and finally hoisted a District 4 Class 3A plaque last week.
Athens, by the way, sidelined Crestwood in last year’s opening round.
“It’s a great feeling and I just hope that we can keep winning and go further in the state tournament,” Magee said following last week’s win in the District 4 Class 3A final, when he nodded in Bohner’s free kick at 52:07. Ritter connected some 22 minutes later.
“I’ve said all along that our kids can compete with anybody if we play the way we’re capable of playing,” Lupolt added. “We’re a little younger, but they’ve been through a lot of soccer over the course of their years.
“Pressure situations like this in this kind of state tournament, I’m relishing this and I think our kids are, too. They’re looking forward to it.”