UPG goalie Olivia Valenti honored by AMCC
Pitt Greensburg's Olivia Valenti didn't start the season on the women's soccer team.
She ended it as the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference defensive player of the week.
The junior goalie, who focused on her academics to start the season instead of playing soccer, led the Bobcats (7-8-3, 5-3-1) to two come-from-behind 2-1 victories over Mt. Aloysius and Medaille the week of Oct. 22.
“I had one of my teammates look at it online at practice. I basically screamed across the campus,” Valenti said. “I worked so hard to get to this point. I didn't play on the team earlier on. I had to get my schoolwork done. I was really and truly excited for the honor.”
The Woodland Hills graduate had a career-high 10 saves in the AMCC overtime win over Medaille.
“She really kept us in both games that week against Mt. Aloysius and especially Medaille,” coach Chuck Wigle said. “Both were come-from-behind victories, and her ability to make big saves gave us the chance to secure third place and a home playoff game (for the postseason tournament).”
UPG dropped a 4-0 decision to La Roche on Saturday in its opening-round game in AMCC tournament and ended the season 7-8-3 after going 0-14-2 last year.
After receiving the weekly honor earlier this month, Valenti made 12 saves in a 1-0 season finale loss at La Roche on Oct. 23.
Even though they lost, Valenti knew she would have another shot to face La Roche in the tournament, or she thought she would.
The day before the Bobcats were going to host their first AMCC Tournament game since 2005, Valenti's season came to a screeching halt. While practicing penalty kicks, Valenti fractured her thumb and possibly of tore ligaments.
“Losing in the first round is always rough,” said Valenti, who started her first game against Penn State Altoona on Oct. 3 and was fourth in the AMCC in save percentage (.792), fourth in saves per game (6) and fifth in goals against average (1.66). “It was harder because I got hurt the day before the tournament and wasn't able to play. I know we worked hard all season. We were ranked eighth in the preseason poll, and we finished in third. Despite the loss, I think we had a successful season.”
Valenti will try to fight back from her thumb injury to join the Bobcats in some fashion next season, when they are expected to return all but one starter.
“We definitely set the bar for this year. I think and the team thinks we can go further,” Valenti said. “This was a step in the right direction this year. I hope we can come out next year and prove everyone wrong and come out on top.”
Since the 2008 season, the Bobcats had only four conference wins, entering this year. With two consecutive winless seasons in conference play, the Bobcats brought in Wigle and his coaching staff to help turn the program along.
“This year, with Coach Wigle, it seemed the girls wanted it this season,” Valenti said. “The girls were excited to have Coach Wigle as the head coach. Also, I thought we were a lot closer this year than previous years.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.