Red-hot defense leads Fox Chapel girls soccer team
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Only two goals surrendered in 11 games.
That impressive statistic says a lot about the Fox Chapel girls soccer team, which has started the season on one of the most dominant defensive tears in Alle-Kiski Valley history.
While posting 10 shutouts and outscoring opponents, 53-2, the Foxes have sprinted to records of 11-0 overall and 6-0 in Section 3-AAA.
What's especially surprising is, on the day of its season-opening game, Fox Chapel switched its formation from a 4-5-1 to a non-traditional 1-4-4-1 because a starter was ill. The Foxes rolled to a 9-0 win over Greensburg Central Catholic and stuck with their new alignment, although the absent player soon returned to the lineup.
Fox Chapel also has posted an undefeated mark with a freshman at goalkeeper.
About two-thirds of the way through the regular season, stingy Fox Chapel is ranked No. 3 behind Peters Township (8-0) and Bethel Park (9-0) in Class AAA by Trib Total Media and looks like a contender for the WPIAL title.
“To have that many shutouts is nice,” Fox Chapel coach Erik Duffy said. “We put a 14-year-old girl with limited experience in goal. She's exceeded expectations, and the other girls have stepped up to help her. They've risen to the challenge as a whole group.”
Fox Chapel notched their most notable victories against GCC and Shady Side Academy, which are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in Class A, and Class AAA Hampton. They edged Shady Side, 3-2, on Sept. 9 and have piled up seven shutouts in a row since then.
With freshman Elayna Burdelski at keeper, Fox Chapel has allowed only 34 shots on goal and 15 corner kicks.
Junior center back Lauren Kelly, a Division I prospect, thinks changing to the 1-4-4-1 formation when junior starting right back Celine Leone missed the first game might have been the perfect change at the perfect time.
Others playing crucial defensive roles are junior center backs Theresa Scheiffarth, who also is generating Division I interest, and Janelle DeBaldo, who's the closest defender to the goalkeeper.
“Everyone at that first game knew we had to step up without Celine,” Kelly said. “We knew we had to play 100 percent. I think it was a turning point. (Changing to a new formation) was a smart decision on coach Duffy's part. It fits everyone's strengths.”
Meanwhile, Fox Chapel's prolific but balanced offense challenges opponents because foes can't concentrate on trying to shut down one or two superstars.
Senior forward Jessie Thiessen leads the Foxes with 11 goals, but not far behind in scoring are freshman center midfielder Maggie Coulson (7), freshman left midfielder Taylor Cohen (6), sophomore right midfielder Emma Slevin (5) and Kelly (5).
Thiessen knows her primary job is to score goals but said the whole team takes pride in its defense and number of shutouts.
“We have awesome girls in the back,” Thiessen said. “They bust their butts to keep that up. And even though I'm the farthest away from the goal, I'm the first defender.”
Allderdice coach Emil Erhart's team has dropped two section games by a combined score of 12-0 to Fox Chapel. He praised the skill and positional discipline of the Foxes, who start only two seniors.
“They're not flashy, but they do everything well,” Erhart said.
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.
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