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SOCCER: Bennett eager to continue winning tradition at Pequea Valley

The winds of change are certainly blowing through Kinzers. In addition to a new football coach on the sidelines (Mike Choi), Pequea Valley will also have a new boys’ soccer coach on the pitch in Peter Bennett.

“I’m very much looking forward to entering a program with a strong history of success and tradition,” Bennett said. “When I tell people that’s where I’m coaching, they immediately know of Pequea’s soccer success, both past and present.”

Bennett, who coached the Braves’ JV team in 2013, takes over for Robbie Martin who led Pequea Valley to a 144-86-11 record in nine seasons while winning two section titles, three district titles and a state championship in 2012.

“Success certainly followed Robbie from his time as a player to his time as a coach, so working with him last season allowed me to hear about a lot of different experiences that he’s gone through and how’s he’s handled them,” Bennett said. “Hopefully that allows me to pick up where he left off.”

In addition to his one year at Pequea Valley, Bennett previously spent four years as a varsity assistant at Conestoga Valley and one year as an assistant at Franklin & Marshall College. He holds an advanced regional coaching certificate from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

“I’m just looking forward to working through all the experiences I’ve had and being able to put my own stamp on things,” Bennett said. “Ultimately, I’m just excited to get going. Being hired in January and having to wait eight months for the season to start is hard--I’m very much looking forward to August 11.”

When a new coach takes over a program, a lot of the times it is because the program is struggling. However in Bennett’s case, he is taking over a program with a well-respected tradition and is just two years removed from being the best Class AAA team in Pennsylvania.

That being said, Bennett isn’t feeling any added pressure.

“There is certainly excitement and I’m looking forward to continuing that success in the coming years, but I don’t feel pressure. During the off-season and the communications I’ve had with parents, players and administration, I get the sense that we have a smart soccer community here in Pequea who understand realities of the program and school size, but also the possibilities that can be achieved.”

As for what fans should expect of the 2014 version of Pequea Valley soccer, Bennett is taking a realistic approach.

“While we have a few key players back from last year’s squad, who can really help guide us, there are a lot of holes to fill. Depth will be our biggest concern and there will be some rebuilding to do. The last two seasons saw big classes graduate so not only are there a number of starting positions to fill, but we need to find role players who can come off the bench and provide something.”

One contributor that is coming back is junior Kodi Lawrence, who was part of the state championship team two years ago and scored the game winning goal against Lancaster Mennonite in the District Three quarterfinals last year.

“I've opened myself up as a leader of the team and I can be a voice for him (Bennett) in the hallways,” Lawrence said. “I’ll be there if he needs me to do something for the team. I think he sees me as one of the veterans that are there to help him out.”

Though there will be some holes to fill, Bennett’s expectations are staying on par with past seasons.

“For us, we want to be competitive in our section and compete for the section title. The L-L League has had great success of late in districts and states, so if we can find success in the league we’re in day-to-day, that’ll put us back in a good position for a district run.”

Bennett’s message is clearly leaking down to his new players already.

“I think Coach Bennett wants us to be proud of what we've accomplished the past years,” Lawrence said. “As much as he wants us to be proud of our history, and especially our recent history, I feel he wants us to know that we are going to be returning district champions this year and we all just want to keep Pequea Valley on the map.”