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Boys soccer wins PIAA 4A state title

Lily Chen / The SPOKE
Six-time champs: The boys’ soccer team poses for a team photo after winning the PIAA 4A State Championship. Players held up six fingers as the Nov. 17 win marked the team’s sixth state title. Seventeen of the 31 members of the team will graduate in June.

By Juliana Yao, Co-Sports Editor

In a close 2-1 win against Central Bucks South High School, the boys’ varsity soccer team took home its sixth state championship title in its history. This victory marked the Pioneers as the PIAA 4A boys soccer team with the most state championship titles.

At the end of the season, the U.S. Soccer Coaches Association ranked the Pioneers as the second-best high school boys soccer team in the country, the highest this association has ever ranked the ’Stoga team.

The boys also claimed the 2023 season’s triple crown as they won the PIAA Central League, District 1 and 4A State Championships. They ended the season with an overall record of 24-0-1.

Seventeen of the 31 members of this year’s team were seniors, marking the 2023 team as having one of the largest proportions of seniors in Conestoga’s history. Head coach David Zimmerman said that a significant factor in the team’s accomplishments this season was how strong these senior players were.

“The senior class is certainly one of the best ever, if not the best ever,” Zimmerman said. “Just the talent level was really spectacular — we didn’t lose a game.”

During the first half of the state finals game, both teams held strong at a 0-0 score. In the four previous state finals games under Zimmerman’s guidance, the boys never conceded a single goal. This year, however, Central Bucks South scored first at the beginning of the second half.

“To be honest, I was pretty nervous at that point,” Zimmerman said. “We were very fortunate. Brady Costin — center-back, captain, Central League MVP, all-state, our corner kick taker — kicked the ball, and it went directly into the goal, which is extremely rare. This kind of goal happens maybe once every five years, and he did it right like that in a critical moment in the game.”

Despite the rare accomplishment, both Zimmerman and Costin, a senior, said that a corner kick into the goal was not intentional.

“I was trying to put the ball back post, and then fortunately, it just curled in there,” Costin said.

With the score tied 1-1, the Pioneers shifted into a more aggressive formation to take the lead. The second half of the game and the first round of overtime ended with no change to the score, warranting a double overtime. After a foul by Central Bucks South in the second round of overtime, senior Ryan Zellefrow took the penalty kick.

“In my mind, all I was thinking was to get it on target: up and over the wall and aim for that near post. When it went in, I was so happy,” Zellefrow said. “It was an amazing feeling to be able to share that with my team, friends and my family.”

Zellefrow played for the Pioneers his freshman and senior years, spending his sophomore and junior years at a professional Major League Soccer club. In his final high school game, his penalty kick curved around the wall of players and into the goal, ending the game 2-1 in a sudden victory round and securing the state championship title for the team.

“In the biggest moment, your great players come through for you when it really matters. Here, it was not just game-winning, but a state championship-winning goal, right in one shot,” Zimmerman said. “It was unbelievable. By far our most exciting game of the season and by far the closest.”

While Zellefrow believes that the game was not the team’s best performance, he and Costin viewed it as the perfect end to their season and high school careers.

“People were thinking it was just going to be an easy game for us. And I mean, sure, that would have been nice. But I liked that we had to face some adversity,” Costin said. “It just shows a lot about the heart of our team and the character — that we have 30 people who just don’t give up.”

Juliana Yao can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Juliana Yao
Juliana Yao, Co-Opinion Editor
Juliana Yao is a junior and the Co-Sports Editor of The Spoke. She was previously a Staff Reporter and often writes for the Sports and Opinion sections. Aside from The Spoke, she is a member of the varsity girls’ swim team. As a sports editor, she oversees the writing and journalistic process of reporters in her section.