Former Alabama soccer standout new head coach at Thomas Jefferson
By Jennifer Goga
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012, 11:55 a.m.
Updated: Monday, January 21, 2013
Melissa Allan is taking it one season at a time as the new head coach of the Thomas Jefferson girls' soccer program.
Allan hopes to share her wealth of soccer experience in an effort to soon build the Lady Jaguars into a Section 4-AA contender.
The 33-year-old Allan relocated from New York City to Jefferson Hills with her husband, Brian, in 2005 to raise their family.
She has a long history playing soccer, including as a four-year soccer scholarship player at the University of Alabama.
Allan was a four-year starter at Alabama, and is a member of the women's soccer “all-decade team.”
When the Thomas Jefferson coaching job opened up, Allan knew she had to apply.
She keeps busy as a Mt. Lebanon middle school gym teacher, wife and mother of three young children. But when the TJ girls' soccer job became available, Allan couldn't pass up the opportunity.
It's a dream job for her. She saw the area's devotion to sports, and believes she can help make Thomas Jefferson a soccer town in addition to football.
“I've always wanted to coach there,” she said.
Allan knew there would be challenges. Last season, the TJ girls' team ended the season with a 5-13 overall record.
The last time the Lady Jaguars won a section title was in 1998, and TJ's last trip to the WPIAL playoffs was in 2009.
“I think they're so hungry for a change,” Allan said “The past is the past. I'd like to think we can only go up.”
Allan is thrilled to have new assistant coach Lindsey Mitko join her this season. Mitko is a middle school math teacher in the West Jefferson Hills School District.
“She played for W&J,” Allan said. “She was a defender, and I was an attacker. So we give the girls a different perspective.”
One thing the new head coach has been focusing on this season is fitness.
“We'll never lose a game because we can't hang for 90 minutes,” Allan said.
She has been pleasantly surprised by some of the talented players on the 2012 varsity roster.
Tatum Fabian, a junior midfielder, and Jessica Johnson, a senior midfielder, are tactically sound players who will serve a key role for the team this season.
“They see the field very well,” Allan said.
Allan believes senior defender Becca Rosgony will be a “physical” player for the Lady Jaguars.
“She's not afraid to step into any challenge,” Allan said.
Tori Cotter, a junior, has returned as the team's starting goalkeeper.
“She is very vocal in the box, and she's not afraid to come and challenge a defender,” Allan said. “I (am) very impressed with her leadership in goal.”
New to the stopper position is Katie Sullivan, a junior defender.
“She's extremely fast and bright. She has a great attitude,” Allan said.
Three up-and-coming members of the team include Hannah Wardlaw, a freshman midfielder, and Veronica Napolitano, a freshman midfielder/defender, and Emma Hedrick, a sophomore forward/midfielder.
Others looking to make contributions include senior defenders Sam Etzi and Danielle Weinheimer, senior forward Jessica Spins; as well as juniors Alexis Yanief, at forward; Danielle Hozinec and Holly Fetters, at forward/midfield; and Rachel Maiden, at the goalkeeping position.
Additional prospects include sophomore forwards/midfielders Kiley Polick, Leah Scott, Emily Stuncard and Riley Walsh; sophomore defenders Jennifer Johnson and Paige Conley; along with Angelina Manning, a freshman forward.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and be competitive. Anything less would be a disservice to my girls,” Allan said. “It's a good group of kids. They are relentless and work really hard. We know we're the underdogs. But we're not going to play complacent because that's when mistakes happen.”
But Allan realizes there will be ups and downs this season.
“This isn't about a team, it's about a program,” she said. “This isn't about a season, this is about a process.”
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.
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