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| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 1:31 a.m.
Serra soccer player Mike Mercea.
Serra soccer player Mike Mercea. Submitted

Mike Mercea

School: Serra

Year: Senior

Sport: Soccer

Claim to fame: In his first full season with Serra Catholic, Mercea scored 21 goals and helped the Eagles to a playoff berth with an 8-8 record. The senior has netted 10 goals this season, including a hat trick in an 8-0 trouncing of Section 1-A rival Jeannette last week.

Who is your toughest opponent this season?

I'd say Greensburg Central Catholic. They've always been the toughest team in our section. They've won the section six or seven seasons in a row. We've come close to beating them and winning the section, so hopefully this year will be the year.

What would winning the section or a championship mean to you?

It would mean everything to me. We made the playoffs last year and played the top seed, Neshannock, and lost in the first round, 4-1. I've been working my whole life for this. All this hard work is starting to pay off. Hopefully, we can go further. I think we can, as long as we stay focused.

Do you have a favorite team or player?

My favorite player is Xavi from Barcelona. He's not as recognized as Lionel Messi, but I definitely respect him as a player. He distributes the ball really well. It used to be Chelsea and Drogba, but now I'd say it's Barcelona.

Do you have any college plans?

Honestly, I'm not sure yet. I'm hoping to start figuring things out soon. I've got some coaches coming to look at me. I'd like to go to a Division II or maybe a smaller Division I school. I'm playing for Beadling as well, so hopefully that will get me some looks. We have a lot of tournaments and things like that. I'd like to go for something science related. I really enjoy psychology, but I'm not sure I'm going to take it. I'm trying to figure out what I will enjoy the most.

What's your favorite subject in school?

Psychology. I just find it interesting and important. You can use it every day, in sports, in everything, really. The psychological part of the game is important, too. You have to have the right mindset.

What's your favorite movie?

I'd say the Bourne Trilogy because I just really respect Matt Damon as an actor, and they're really well-made. There's a lot of action in them.

Hannah Ponitz

School: Yough

Year: Sophomore

Sport: Soccer

Claim to fame: Ponitz led the Cougars with 15 goals last season and helped them into the playoffs. Coming off a hat trick in a 12-0 win against Section 1-AA opponent Derry last week, the sophomore can be a leader again this season, head coach Dann Appolonia said.

“She's one of our main offensive weapons, and we expect her to be a leader in scoring,” Appolonia said. “She has great ball skills and is good in tight areas. Some girls need a lot of room or just kick it out in front and try to run to it. Hannah has the foot skills to beat players in close. She can score with both feet, too.”

What are you goals for this upcoming season?

Obviously, we want to win the section and hopefully go further in the playoffs than we did last year. We lost in the first round to Knoch, 5-0. I'd also like to score more goals than last year. On Monday of last week against Derry I got hit in the back of the head with a ball and got a concussion. I'm getting over it now, so I hope to be back soon.

After leading the team in scoring, do you feel like a leader coming into this season, even as a sophomore?

Sometimes, I do. I try and lead by setting a good example on the field, and I give direction to other players to help create opportunities for the team.

How long have you been playing soccer?

I've been playing probably since I was 5 or 6. It's definitely my favorite sport. I actually didn't choose to start playing. My mom decided to put me in. I played for Norwin when I was little. She put me with her best friend's daughter, and we played together. I've been playing ever since.

What is your favorite movie?

“She's the Man,” because it's about soccer and it's really funny.

What's your favorite subject in school?

I'd have to say math. I like solving equations.

How did you develop your weaker foot?

I think I might be left-footed as well. It's become a lot stronger over the years. I play Cup soccer as well, and I've done a lot of private training with my coach. He's really helped me develop both feet.

Are there any players that you look up to?

I look up to Alex Morgan because she's also an offensive player, and she's really aggressive and she knows the game really well.

— Robert Stinner

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