Soccer star Churchill to be inducted into Quaker Valley Hall of Fame
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If 5-year-old Chris Churchill had his way, he never would have ever stepped foot on the soccer field.
But it turns out his mother knew best.
“She forced me to do it,” Churchill said. “I didn't want to go, but I went to the first practice and then the second then the third. I eventually fell in love with the sport.”
Churchill became one of the most decorated soccer players in Quaker Valley history and continued his playing career at Penn State before settling at Pitt. Due to his vast accomplishments, Churchill is being inducted to the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class.
“It is an unbelievable honor,” Churchill said. “I am truly humbled and looking forward to a great weekend when everyone gets together for the induction.
“Soccer is a team sport. Anything I achieved was a byproduct of the success we had as a team. I wouldn't be here without everyone else.”
Churchill was a three-year starter as a defender and served as team captain his junior and senior seasons. For three seasons, he was selected all-section and all-WPIAL. He was named all-state his junior and senior seasons.
“He was always a leader,” Quaker Valley coach Gene Klein said. “He was the guy who got everyone going. He was the guy who picked up the intensity.”
Churchill played during one of the greatest time periods in Quaker Valley soccer history. During his four years with the program, the team claimed three PIAA championships (1993, 1995, 1996) and two WPIAL titles (1993, 1996).
The undefeated 1996 squad — which was recently inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame — was selected as the top team in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The team won 26 games — including 21 shutouts — as it claimed its second straight PIAA title.
“We knew we were in the midst of something magical,” Churchill said of the season. “It was the byproduct of the years of work we put in. We all played together since we were 5 years old.
“We are all still very close. We were lucky enough to get together for the WPIAL Hall of Fame this year.”
After the 1996 season, Churchill was chosen as a National All-American by the NSCAA. He finished his high school career with 50 goals and 22 assists.
“He probably could have played anywhere in the field for us, but his ability to read the game from behind and pick his spots and move forward made him a strong defender,” Klein said. “He was really effective at shooting from a distance. He scored some great and timely goals for us.”
After graduating, Churchill continued his playing career at Penn State after falling in love with the area and the chance to play in the Big Ten. He played in 10 games as a freshman and recorded two goals and an assist. After redshirting the 1998 season, he returned for his sophomore campaign and played in 12 games with five shots on goal.
Despite enjoying his time in State College, Churchill decided to transfer to Pitt before his junior season and became an impact player. He was a two-year starter with the Panthers, earning All-Big East and Regional All-American honors. He helped lead Pitt as high as No. 7 in the national ranking.
Churchill finished with 12 game-winning goals during his college career.
“(Pitt) has a great group of talent,” Churchill said. “I knew a lot of the guys from playing in the Pittsburgh area and felt comfortable right away. The greatest memory from my time at Pitt was upsetting St. Johns in New York. They were ranked No. 2 at the time. That is when you knew something special was going on with the team.”
After graduating from Pitt, Churchill earned his master's degree from Rollins University. While completing his education, he served as an assistant coach with the Tars and helped them claim their first conference title.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.
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