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Cecconi a defensive stalwart

Senior captain paced a Spartans’ unit that allowed just 12 goals this season.

Wyoming Valley West sweeper and Times Leader Boys Soccer Player of the Year Matt Cecconi has been playing soccer since he was 5 years old.

Times leader file photo/Aimee Dilger

Wyoming Valley West recently finished its best season in school history as it advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time. The Spartans were blessed with many standout offensive players, including Rob McGuiness, Bill McGuiness and Joseph Schmid.

But the most valuable player on the team was a defensive player and one of the team captains: All-State sweeper Matt Cecconi.

A senior and four-year starter, Cecconi powered the Spartans’ stifling defense, which allowed a Wyoming Valley Conference-low 12 goals during the regular season. For his efforts, he was named the 2006 Times Leader Soccer Player of the Year.

“Our team had great chemistry this year and were friends off the field as well as on the field,” Cecconi said. “The captains on the team knew that we could accomplish a lot and we did everything we had to do to get to the district championship and get that win in states for the school.”

Cecconi only scored four goals this season, because defense is what he does best. But two of those goals played big parts in the Spartans’ season.

In the District 2 Class 3A championship game against Abington Heights, Cecconi netted the game-tying goal after a corner kick in a 2-1 win. Then, in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal contest against Council Rock North, he scored the lone goal for the Spartans off a corner kick in a 2-1 double-overtime loss. The Indians went on to win the state championship.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling knowing that the team we almost beat won it, because we could have won,” he said. “But we know what could have happened if we beat them. But I’m pleased with how the season went. And I know the team will be good again next year.”

Cecconi began playing soccer when he was 5 years old, and kicking the soccer ball runs in his family. His brother Dave was also an All-State sweeper for the Spartans in 2003.

Matt was playing in travel leagues as a center-midfielder when he first met Ted Tsioles, Valley West’s veteran coach. But when Matt entered high school, Tsioles approached him and asked him to play sweeper to replace his brother – and he did.

“At first it took me a while to adjust to playing sweeper when Teddy asked me to do it,” Matt said. “But then I really started to like it.”

Matt is currently playing basketball for the Spartans and plans on either playing baseball or volleyball in the spring. But his passion is soccer. He plans on attending college and majoring in mathematics or engineering. He also hopes to play soccer, no matter what it takes.

“I definitely want to play in college,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone as to whether or not I will play, but I will even try to walk on because that Council Rock North game could not have been my last game.”

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