New Kensington soccer prepares for PSUAC playoffs for fourth consecutive year

The Penn State New Kensington men’s soccer team is in a familiar place -- the conference playoffs. First-year coach Jordan Valentine has guided the Lions to a berth in the Penn State University Athletic Conference Elite Eight postseason tournament.

A 5-2 victory at home Oct. 9 against Penn State Greater Allegheny clinched a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season. The soccer program, which began intercollegiate play in 2010, has reached the postseason in each of its four seasons, advancing to the Final Four the past three years. The team concluded the regular season with a 5-5 PSUAC record and 6-6 overall mark.

“Our team expectations are to challenge for the PSUAC championship,” said Valentine, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Ohio Valley University in West Virginia. “The team has a unique skill set and explosiveness.”

The New Kensington Lions are fundamentally sound offensively, averaging three goals per game. Sophomore forward Michael Killian (Highlands High School) leads the team in scoring with 13 goals and six assists. He is ranked second in scoring in the conference and ranked ninth nationally in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Killian’s scoring prowess earned him PSUAC Player of the Week honors in September. Freshmen midfielders Michael Pyo and Damian Corle help set the stage for Killian’s heroics.

“Michael (Killian) possesses that special ability to carry and win games by his skill alone,” said Valentine, an all-conference midfielder at Ohio Valley. ”Damian and Michael (Pyo) are solid players who can perform highly at any position on the field.”

The team’s high-powered offense is sometimes a detriment to the defense. As defenders push up to pressure the opposing team, they get caught out of position, leaving sophomore goalie Jimmy Cook (Highlands) in untenable situations. Cook’s .800 save percentage, fifth best in the conference, belies the team’s 2.5 goals against average. Valentine is looking to remedy the situation for the playoffs.

“At times, our offensive players get very separated from our defense,” said Valentine, a native of Preston, England, who holds an English Football Association Level 1 and Level 2 coaching license. “We need to improve upon working defensively as a team on transitions in play.”

The sixth-seed Lions open the playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the home of the third seed, which has yet to be determined. As of Oct. 14, Penn State York, sporting an 8-1 record, holds the No 3 spot. York, which defeated New Kensington, 7-1, on Oct. 12 at the Athletics Center complex, ends its regular season Oct. 15, at first-place Penn State Brandywine, 9-0 on the year. Penn College is second with a 9-1 record. A win by York would result in a three-way tie for the top seed, necessitating a tie-breaker formula. Brandywine beat Penn College which beat York.

The winner of the opening round game advances to the PSUAC Final Four, Oct. 24, at Penn State University Park. The title game is set for Saturday, Oct. 26. The PSUAC champion receives an automatic berth in the USCAA national tournament in November.

For more about the campus soccer team, visit

(Public Relations intern Jacob Baird contributed to the story. He conducted the interviews and was the chief photographer.)

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Last Updated October 16, 2013