Moon senior soccer players don't want season to end without title
Just a few games into the season, the Moon girls soccer team's Chelsea Leipold already was getting emotional thinking about the team's Senior Night.
Part of one of the deepest and most talented graduating classes the school has ever had, Leipold doesn't want the decade-long ride she and 10 classmates have been on to end.
The best consolation for Moon's seniors? Extending their season about a month after Senior Night festivities. That would mean a lengthy postseason run — the final remaining feather in the cap of a remarkable group of 11 seniors.
“I'm really upset thinking about Senior Night,” said Leipold, a forward. “We've all been playing soccer together since we were 4. We've all really been close friends for so long, and that helps team chemistry on and off the field. We don't get into any huge fights; we win and lose together.”
Moon's seniors so embrace being identified as one that coach Bill Pfeifer is allowing all 11 to share the team captaincy (the duties are being rotated alphabetically throughout the season).
Virtually all of them see significant varsity playing time — nine start. Six of those nine have been starting since their freshman seasons. They were key parts of a 2009 team that went undefeated and allowed only one goal during the regular season.
“We have a lot of talent, and we've been together for a long time and it's been so great to be a part of,” midfielder Taylor Dornin said. “And this year we have high expectations and high hopes. We're really looking forward to finishing things in our last year.”
For all this group of Tigers has accomplished over the past four seasons — 65-8-1 regular-season record, two section titles (and counting) — the one success that has eluded the group is postseason honors. Moon, the Tribune-Review's third-ranked team now 8-0-0 overall and 7-0-0 in Section 5, has lost in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals each of the past three years.
“We had a great experience freshman year with the seniors on that team then, and we know how far we could have gone and how much it meant to them to get that far,” Dornin said. “We're experiencing it ourselves now. We do have a lot of high hopes and great expectations, and we know we can get there — we've just got to put in the effort. We know we can't take anything for granted in the playoffs; we'd definitely like to go real far.”
Other than Dornin and Leipold, Moon's seniors include defenders Kelsey Schoeneweis, Katie Valach, Jordan Olson and Alyssa Mazreku; midfielders Marissa Clough, Michaela Gutierrez and Christine Barthen; forward Antonia Grese and goalkeeper Nicole Falcione.
Clough will play at Slippery Rock, and Gutierrez, Dornin and Grese are among those who are being recruited by several schools for soccer.
Many also are coveted by colleges for their academics. Pfeifer, who is in his 12th season as the Tigers' coach, said the team had a cumulative 3.75 GPA.
Among the seniors, Grese, Gutierrez, Leipold, Dornin, Schoeneweis and Valach all were starters or significant contributors as freshmen, and Barthen would have played but was injured.
“It's a special group that's been there for each other since they were 10 or 11 — or longer,” Pfeifer said. “The other day I saw some pictures of the kids from when they were 8 years old playing on a travel team together. ... It's weird to see them like that — and all of a sudden, this is it.”
The story of the Moon seniors, however, is one that is far from finished.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.