Deering guides Southwestern to Class B2 title game
Southwestern boys soccer head coach Jason Deering had high expectations for his squad coming into the season. Deering set the goal for his team to win the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West league title and the Section VI Class B2 title.
However, after a slow start for the Trojans, Deering’s expectations were in jeopardy.
“I think we always go in having the high goal of at least winning the B2 championship,” Deering stated. “I try to put it in their heads we have a chance to do it. Things that happened early in the season, those kinds of thoughts started to change. Things weren’t looking so good, but I kept preaching we have to keep busting our butt.”
Southwestern dropped a nonleague contest to Falconer/Cassadaga Valley 3-1, then played two games against Olean and Fredonia where it played poorly in the second half, a nonleague loss to Maple Grove and then a tight loss to Allegany-Limestone 1-0 really put the Trojans’ season goals on hold.
“We had a couple hiccups early in the season that broke our heart,” Deering stated. “Had tough games against both Falconer/Cassadaga Valley and Maple Grove. Against Falconer/Cassadaga Valley not gelled completely, the first few games we did spit and sputter then played Maple Grove in a tough game as always.”
At that point the season could have gone down that path or it could be the turnaround for Deering’s Trojans. Southwestern went for the latter, realizing its full potential in a tight contest with rival Allegany-Limestone.
“It was a normal Allegany-Limestone and Southwestern hard-fought battle,” Deering said. “We proved to ourselves that we were good enough to be playing in the top of Class B2. Playing in that game gave us a lot of confidence.”
Deering’s squad turned it around from that point with a five-game win streak and winning eight of its next nine games, including avenging loses to Maple Grove and then Allegany-Limestone in the Section VI playoffs. Southwestern even put itself in position to clinch a share of the league title on the road at Allegany-Limestone.
“We kind of turned everything around,” Deering said about his team. “Beating Maple Grove was a huge win then coming back into league play we were really focused on not giving up goals. Some of our early goals against in the season were caused by turnovers and not concentrating on quality. We were able to eliminate some of that and that was kind of our turnaround, once we managed to do that we were usually playing from ahead because we had the offense where we could score pretty well.”
That defensive turnaround was led by James Pirrello who was named CCAA D1 West Defensive Player of the Year and Pirello was joined on the league first team by defender Spencer Bell, midfielder Nolan Froah and forward Connor Young. Deering continued to get the very best out of his players with Young earning co-Offensive Player of the Year with Allegany-Limestone’s Eric Spring after scoring 34 goals and adding five assists.
“In the beginning of the season we knew we had potential,” Deering said about his players. “It was a matter of making sure we were playing within our system and trying to eliminate some of the one-on-one stuff. James and Connor are those types of players to play one-on-one, but once we grew in terms of chemistry things started coming together a lot quicker.”
With his players clicking and things going in the right direction, Southwestern found itself with an opportunity to earn a share of the league title in the final game on the road at Allegany-Limestone. However, Deering couldn’t be there for the game as he tested positive for COVID on the day of the match, but the Trojans still went and fought a courageous battle on the road.
“I ended up missing that game after testing positive with COVID,” Deering said. “The guys battled all the way to overtime. My assistants did a great job at that game and after that we were going to do some damage in the playoffs.”
And damage is exactly what the Trojans did with a 4-1 win over Medina in the first round, followed by a huge 8-1 win over Bennett in the quarterfinals which set up a showdown with the rival Gators in the semifinals. However, this time Deering knew things would be different, he was confident Southwestern would win.
“After losing the second game to Allegany-Limestone there was no way they’re beating us,” Deering stated. “We got to that game and I really felt like we were going to win. We were trailing at halftime, but I told the guys we were going to win this game. We went out there and continued to battle and pulled out a heck of a victory.”
Southwestern advanced to the Class B2 sectional final against Lafayette and ultimately came up short, but with the way its season started the Trojans made waves with their turnaround.
There is no doubt that Southwestern would not have had the success it did if not for Deering at the helm and for all of the reasons above he is The 2022 Post-Journal/OBSERVER Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.