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The top Plum Advance Leader sports stories of 2013

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Michael Love | Plum Advance Leader
Katie Gore, right, helps the Plum girls 200 free relay team set a new school record in February, 2013, at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool. She joins Mia Pietropola, Channing Nolan and Hannah Adamski on the record-setting squad that eclipses the previous record set in 1992.
Michael Love | Plum Advance Leader
Bill Holmes steps down from the Plum American Legion baseball manager position after 30 years at the helm.

The year 2013 was a busy and memorable one for local sports fans and followers.

Big games, top performances from teams and players and unforgettable news evoked a wide range of emotions and will live on in people's memories for years to come.

This week, the Plum Advance Leader takes a look back at some of the big moments that shaped the past 12 months.

Coaching change

The year 2013 begins with the Plum football team without a head coach after the Plum School Board's decision to open the position.

An announcement seeking applications is posted on the school district website and the deadline to apply is Jan. 31.

Several coaching candidates express interest in the job, including Frank Sacco, who reapplies.

After the interview process is completed, the board votes to hire former Plum standout Matt Morgan to lead the Mustangs football program.

Morgan, who also started four years on the offensive line at Pitt and played a couple of seasons in the NFL, gets to work after being hired in March.

Sacco ends his four-year stint at Plum 10-28 overall with back-to-back playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010.

Plum wins on Penguins Pond

The Plum varsity ice hockey team takes part in the Penguins Pond series at the new Highmark Stadium at Station Square in Pittsburgh and earns a big 7-6 victory over North Hills.

Senior Jordan Gable scores what turns out to be the game-winning goal with 3:42 left in the third period, and fellow senior Andrew Walters tallies a hat trick for Plum.

Good things continue for the Mustangs, as Walters and Gable earn their second consecutive trips to the PIHL Class AA all-star game, while junior Joe Randazzo is an all-star for the first time. The Plum players help the Northeast Conference upend the Southwest, 7-4.

The Mustangs enter the PIHL AA playoffs against Bishop Canevin, and the Crusaders are too much for them in a 5-2 result. Plum goes 8-6 in the regular season to turn around an 0-4-1 start, and it finishes 8-11-1 overall.

Fratangelo breaks through

Plum native Bjorn Fratangelo became a tennis professional in April 2012, and eight months later, he tastes victory in a singles tournament for the first time.

He captures the top spot at the International Tennis Federation's Men's Pro Circuit event — the Audi Pembroke Weston Futures — in Weston, Fla.

Fratangelo wins five matches in the main draw and caps the event with a three-set triumph over Belgium's Arthur DeGreef, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, on the clay surface at the Midtown Athletic Club. He pockets $1,400, the winner's take of the $10,000 purse.

Fratangelo punches his ticket to the finals with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 semifinals win over American Robby Ginepri, 30, who reached a career-best world ranking of 15th in 2006. Ginepri played against Andre Agassi in the semifinals of the 2005 U.S. Open.

Rifle team finds success

The Plum varsity co-ed rifle team puts it all together with a late run in Section 3 play and qualifies for the WPIAL playoffs.

Wins over Butler and eventual section champ Hempfield clinches a spot in the six-team WPIAL event at the Dormont/Mt. Lebanon Sportsmans Club in Canonsburg.

The Mustangs record one of the best team scores in the WPIAL during the 2013-14 season with an 800-70x in the win over Hempfield. Plum wins six of its final seven section matches to finish 7-5. The top two teams from each of the three sections clinch playoff spots.

In the end, Plum places sixth at WPIALs.

The Mustangs also have success individually, as junior Melissa LeClair and senior Scott Kolar place fourth and 11th, respectively, at the WPIAL individual championships and qualify for states. Kolar ends up third in the state competition, and Kolar takes 14th.

Gipson excels

Plum 2013 graduate Vanessa Gipson makes the most of her freshman season on the Wheeling Jesuit University women's swim team.

Gipson claims three titles — two individual and one relay — at the Appalachian Swimming Conference championships in late February.

She wins the 1,650-yard and 500-yard freestyles and is a part of the victorious 800 free relay. Her time of 17:41.73 in the 1,650 free sets an ASC championship-meet record, a school record and is an NCAA Division II B-cut time.

Gipson adds a silver medal in the 200 free (1:59.24).

Plum bowlers take charge

The Plum varsity boys and girls bowling teams have several highlights in February and March in WPIBL and regional competition.

The boys squad wins the section at 9-1, while the girls team is one of two from their section — Penn Hills is the other — to punch tickets to the playoffs.

The Mustangs girls finish runners-up to Hempfield at the WPIBL championships at West Pike Lanes in Canonsburg. Senior Jocelyn Rubash leads the way with a 623 series, while freshmen Talia Pilyih and Allie Dick add series of 548 and 523, respectively.

Both teams compete at regionals, and the Plum boys, led by junior captains Dan Yushinski and Josh Kirchartz, shake off a ninth at the WPIBL championships to take fifth at regionals and qualify for states for the third year in a row. Also at regionals, Pilyih finishes ninth in the six-game qualifying round and is one of 12 female bowlers to earn a trip to states.

At states, the Plum boys take 10th, and Pilyih is 24th.

Plum girls hoops in playoffs

The Plum varsity girls basketball team's successful season comes to an end with a tough first-round loss to Penn-Trafford, 50-40, in the first round of the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs.

The Mustangs, with only one senior starter in Angelena Borriello, finished 17-5 overall and in third-place in Section 2-AAAA with a 9-3 mark. Krista Pietropola, a junior, leads Plum in scoring at almost 17 points a game.

The Mustangs earn several big wins during the season, including a 39-37 overtime triumph against section champion Gateway at Plum High School on Feb. 2. Junior Jordan Seneca nails the winning 3-pointer to give the Gators one of their two section losses during the season.

Plum goes 6-1 down the stretch in section play after a 3-2 start.

Borriello represents the Mustangs at the annual Cager Classic all-star game, and she has two points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals for the East team which prevails over the West, 71-60.

Swimmers fare well at WPIALs

The Plum girls 200 freestyle relay team of seniors Channing Nolan and Mia Pietropola, junior Katie Gore and freshman Hannah Adamski sets a school record and places 10th at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships at Pitt's Trees Pool.

The quartet swims to a time of 1:41.59 and surpasses the previous mark set 21 years earlier. They finish less than a second from eighth place and a WPIAL medal.

Individually, Adamski places 12th in a fast 50 free competition with a time of 24.70. Her time is one one-hundredths of a second away from the time-qualifying mark for a trip to states.

A couple of other state qualifiers scratch out of the 50 free, and Adamski is next on the list to head to the PIAA championships at Bucknell University. At states, she finishes with a personal-best time of 24.61 and takes 21st overall.

Plum resident Peyton Kondis, a freshman on the Oakland Catholic girls swim team, qualifies for states in the 100 breast and all three relays. She finishes as the runner-up in the 100 breast at WPIALs (1:04.93), helps the Eagles 200 medley relay place third and is a part of the 200 free relay that takes fifth.

Kondis brings home two states medals — a fourth in the 200 free relay (1:36.96) and a third in the 400 free relay (3:29.35). Both times are new school records.

Six-pack at WPIALs

Six Plum varsity wrestlers cap their 2012-13 seasons with trips to the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Class AAA tournament at Norwin High School.

Senior Jake DiGuilio, now a freshman at Waynesburg, closes out his career with a 3-2 record in the 220-pound bracket at WPIALs. He finishes his senior season 28-11 and earns 68 career varsity victories.

Junior Eric Green goes 1-2 at 138 and ends his season 26-12, while freshman Tommy Zummo also goes 1-2 at 120 pounds to end his season at 27-14.

Sophomores Nate Turchick (182) and Zach Martin (152) and junior Stephen Turchick (285) also are at WPIALs and they finish their seasons 21-13, 25-14 and 20-16, respectively.

New softball field debuts

The Plum varsity and junior varsity softball teams christen their new field at Plum High School with victories.

The JV squad defeats Seton-LaSalle on April 3 behind a two-run homer from junior Karlie Serakowski and a grand slam from sophomore Kaitlyn Mallik.

One day later, the varsity squad plays its first game on the new field and pounds Penn Hills, 17-0. Senior co-captain Annie Workman blasts a three-run home run in the bottom of the third to cap the scoring.

Plum batters combine to collect 12 hits, including eight for extra bases, and junior Melissa LeClair hits the first varsity home run on the new field with a two-run shot in the first inning.

Fellow junior Jordan Seneca, who earns all-state honors after the season, doubles, triples and finishes with three hits.

Plum finishes its season 14-7 overall and 10-2 (second place) in Section 2-AAAA play. The Mustangs see their season end with a 7-0 loss to Penn-Trafford in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

So close at home invite

The Plum varsity boys volleyball team takes second to Norwin at the 38th annual Plum Invitational Tournament at Plum High School.

The Mustangs lead the Knights, 24-20, in the championship match, but they are not able to hold on for the win. Norwin scores the final six points to win, 26-24, and take home the title for the second year in a row.

Plum reaches the finals with a 31-29 win over Montour in the quarterfinals and a 27-25 triumph over Bethel Park in the semifinals.

The Mustangs move on to finish Section 3-AAA play 8-4 and enter the WPIAL playoffs.

However, sixth-seeded Plum suffers a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Seneca Valley in the first round.

Yurovsky shines

Plum 2012 graduate Ronit Yurovsky is selected the Big Ten women's tennis Freshman of the Year for the 2012-13 season.

She is the fourth University of Michigan freshman in a row to earn the honor, and she also picks up All-Big Ten first-team recognition.

Yurovsky helps the Wolverines capture their fourth consecutive Big Ten regular-season title with a 10-1 record. Michigan is upset by Northwestern in the conference tournament title match.

She qualifies for the NCAA championship tournament and makes it into the second round before a 6-4, 6-4 loss to eventual national champion Nicole Gibbs from Stanford.

Yurovsky finishes with an overall singles record of 32-10.

Positive High School Athletes

Plum High School students Matt Shepherd (boys volleyball) and Stephanie Bono (cheerleading) are selected as Western Pennsylvania's “Most Positive High School Athletes” in their individual sports by Positive Athlete, an organization created by former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward to honor student-athletes who excel in the classroom, in athletics and in the community.

All of the Positive Athletes are recognized at a ceremony on April 27 at the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Hitting their marks

Senior Matt Dombrowski and junior Krista Pietropola represent Plum at the PIAA Class AAA track and field championships at Shippensburg University.

Dombrowski, who has decided to attend Robert Morris University and join the men's track and field team, earns a spot at states with a fourth-place finish in the shot put at WPIALs. He makes states with a personal-best toss of 51 feet, 3½ inches.

He finishes tied for 19th at states, but he already knows he met one of his season goals of cracking the 50-feet mark.

Pietropola competes in the high jump at states Friday morning and then leaves for Kentucky and an AAU hoops tournament that begins Saturday.

The first round starts at 5 feet, and Pietropola easily clears that height. However, she is unable to get past the 5-2 height in three attempts, something she was able to do at WPIALs en route to a medal-winning performance.

Pietropola, who finished fourth at WPIALs with a top jump of 5-3, lands in a tie for 14th at states.

Plum baseball in WPIAL mix

A talented pitching staff, led by senior ace Zac Manuppelli, and a mix of veteran and new hitters and fielders fuel the Plum varsity baseball team to another strong season in Section 3-AAA.

The Mustangs snap a six-game playoff losing streak dating back to the 2008 WPIAL title game with a 2-1 victory over No. 7 Shaler in the WPIAL first round at Fox Chapel High School.

Manuppelli allows two hits and strikes out 10 for Plum, which had lost to the Quad-A tournament's No. 5, 9, 2 and 1 seeds in four of its final five regular-season games.

Junior Nick Stotler has an RBI single, and senior Andrew Dawson scores the game-winning run.

However, tenth-seeded Plum is not able to take down another higher seed in the playoffs and falls, 5-0, to No. 2 seed North Allegheny at Shaler's Matulevic Field.

The Mustangs conclude their season 15-7 overall, and they finish third in the section (7-3) behind Central Catholic (9-1) and Franklin Regional (8-2).

Manuppelli starts for the Quad-A team in the WPIAL big-school all-star game June 9, and the AAA squad rallies late to win, 10-9. He also helps his Western Pennsylvania Elite Baseball League team — the Steel City Wildcats — win the league championship in July.

Holmes resigns

Plum American Legion baseball manager Bill Holmes steps down after 30 years in the position.

He says he's not getting any younger, and, at 70 years of age, he feels it is the right time to step away from the job.

Holmes also admits he had gotten a little frustrated in recent years with what he sees as a growing lack of total commitment from some players to a full season of Legion baseball.

Soccer overseas

Plum juniors Ali Gipson and Addie Jacobs represent the Pittsburgh region and the U.S. on the Stars N Stripes 17-and-under team that plays against international competition at July tournaments in Sweden and Denmark.

The 15-member all-star squad includes players from all over the U.S. and reaches the championship round in both the Gothia Cup (Sweden) and Dana Cup (Denmark).

Stars N Stripes compiles a 6-2-3 record against some of the top clubs in Europe.

Knapp battles at U.S. Open

Plum native and Oakmont resident Sean Knapp competes in the U.S. Senior Open Championship in July at Omaha Country Club in Omaha, Neb.

He leads the tournament after eight holes and is in an early battle with Fred Couples.

Knapp isn't able to maintain the early advantage and is five shots off the pace after the first day.

The 51-year-old amateur finishes with a two-round total of 148 and misses the cut by three strokes.

Cressler makes his mark

Plum grad Nolan Cressler, a sophomore on the Cornell men's basketball team, is named to the Pittsburgh Pro-Am Summer League all-star team. He is one of six players selected to the squad.

Pitt senior forward Talib Zanna helps PGT Trucking to the league title, and he is picked as the league MVP.

Cressler averages 23 points over seven league games for the P&W BMW team, which finishes the six-game regular season in first place with a 5-1 record. But the team falls in the semifinals.

Susalla qualifies

Plum sophomore Jake Susalla qualifies for the PIAA Class AAA meet for the second time in as many seasons with a 22nd-place finish in a time of 16:56 at the WPIAL championships.

He is the lone Mustangs athlete to punch his ticket to states.

Senior Alan Yocca just misses out on states as he finishes 32nd overall, four spots away from the top 28 who qualified.

At states, nagging leg issues catch up with Susalla, as he is not able to complete his run at Hershey.

As a team, the Plum boys squad finishes second to Fox Chapel at the Section 4-AAA championship meet Oct. 1 at Pittsburgh's Schenley Park.

Foxes senior twins Collin and Ethan Martin go 1-2, while Susalla is third.

Yocca takes fourth, and seniors Eddie Amori and Andy Marzullo are eighth and 15th, respectively, in a field of runners from nine section squads.

Plum goes 7-1 on the day with the only loss coming to Fox Chapel, 23-34.

Plum girls volleyball

The Plum varsity girls volleyball team finishes third in Section 4-AAA at 8-4 and earns its ninth consecutive trip to the WPIAL playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, it is their ninth straight loss in the first round as they fall to No. 2 seed Pine-Richland, 3-0, on Oct. 23.

Despite the playoff frustration, Plum has several season highlights to look back on and is able to honor its six seniors — Colleen Brown, Sarah Carroll, Michelle Theiss, Erin Kelly, Allison Centa and Alexis Witkovitz — who compile a three-year section record of 28-8.

Plum captures its third straight Plum Invitational title on Sept. 14 with a 25-15 victory over Serra Catholic in the championship game.

The Mustangs also edge Deer Lakes, 27-25, in a back-and-forth semifinal game that saw them rally from an 18-13 deficit.

Playoff return

The Plum varsity slow-pitch softball team returns to the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Softball League playoffs in October.

However, the stay in the playoffs is shorter than the Mustangs hope, as they fall to Peters Township, 18-15, in the first round.

Plum, the sixth seed in the tournament, finishes its second season of existence 10-5 overall.

Head coach Marty DeGore says one of the biggest highlights of the season is being able to honor seniors Amanda Zimmerman and Lindsey Herd on senior day.

Fall baseball title

The Plum varsity fall baseball team wins a pair of games Oct. 19 at Woodland Hills High School to claim the Western Pennsylvania Fall Baseball League championship.

The Mustangs beat Fox Chapel, 5-3, in the semifinals and then top Moon, 10-4, in the finals.

The two wins cap a 14-0-2 season for Plum, which fields three teams, including a pair of JV squads.

Hall-of-fame honors

Plum graduates Marty Scarano and Matt Morgan are two of eight local athletic standouts to be inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, East Boros Chapter, at a banquet Oct. 10 at Edgewood Country Club.

It is the 36th such induction since the hall of fame began in 1978.

Five weeks later, on Nov. 14, the Plum High School Sports Hall of Fame inducts its Class of 2013 at Edgewood Country Club.

Members of the class are coaches Lou Klauss and John Ratesic and athletes Monica Zalevsky-Williams, Erica Van Tassel-Carter, Jeff Schmeck, Steve Marsalese, Paul Shish and John Wojciechowski.

The eight-member class brings the total number of hall-of-fame inductees to 69 since the organization started in 2005.

Golf team in playoffs

The Plum boys golf team starts its season with victories over Franklin Regional and Riverview at Oakmont Country Club, and the Mustangs end the campaign in the WPIAL team playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.

Plum takes eighth in its semifinal tournament at River Forest Golf Club in Freeport on Oct. 8. Plum junior Andrew Reynolds leads the way with an 83.

The Mustangs finish Section 4-AAA play in a three-way tie with Franklin Regional and Kiski Area for second place at 8-4.

Individually, Reynolds finishes fourth at the Section 4 Qualifier at the Pittsburgh Field Club with a 5-over 76 and earns a spot at one of three WPIAL semifinal tournaments.

His run continues in the semifinals with a second-place performance (3-over 75) at Youghiogheny Country Club in McKeesport.

Reynolds' journey comes to an end at the WPIAL championships at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley as he is not one of the top 14 finishers who move on to PIAA regionals.

Plum girls soccer

After a decade-long playoff drought, the Plum varsity girls soccer team earns a trip to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for the second year in a row. However, the Mustangs are not able to solve Bethel Park in a 1-0 first-round playoff loss.

Despite the setback, Plum players and coaches are able to look back on a season that sees them go 14-4 overall and 9-3 in Section 3-AAA games.

Plum splits a pair of games with Penn Hills and sweeps Gateway for the first time since 2007.

The win over the Gators on Oct. 9 clinches second place in the section.

Sophomore Ashley Amato and senior Aaliyah Odom pace the Plum offensive attack. Odom leads the team with 26 goals, and her efforts earn her a spot on the All-WPIAL list for 2013.

Amato adds 18 goals for the Mustangs.

Streak snapped

After 25 consecutive defeats, the Plum varsity football team puts one in the win column Oct. 30 with a 30-22 nonconference victory over Greensburg-Salem in week 10.

Junior Nick Robb intercepts a Golden Lions pass at the goal line with 11 seconds left to secure the win. Robb also scores on a 78-yard kickoff return.

Junior fullback Zach Martin scores two touchdowns, and sophomore Jake Chapla boots a field goal with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter to give Plum the lead for good.

The teams agree to play only underclassmen.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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