Thomas Jefferson's Giger earns postseason honors
Liam Giger was a four-year varsity starter and three-year team captain in the Thomas Jefferson boys soccer program.
Giger, a defender, has been an all-section selection the past two seasons.
And he added another prestigious honor to his resume this fall.
It was announced recently that Giger landed the High School Senior Excellence Award.
“Liam was nominated for this honor because of his outstanding work both in the classroom and on the soccer pitch,” TJ coach Michael “Doc” Kulish said. “He has been a fantastic role model and leader on this team for four great years.”
United Soccer Coaches offer its member coaches the opportunity to recognize on an annual basis an outstanding senior student-athlete on their team through the presentation of this award.
The recipient must exemplify the standards set forth in the United Soccer Coaches Player Code of Conduct and Ethics, and also must be a high school senior, have made significant contributions to the team, represent the finest attributes of a team player, consistently project a positive attitude and display team leadership.
“Liam truly exemplifies the standards established by the Untied Soccer Coaches Player Code of Conduct and Ethics,” Kulish said. “I have been a proud member of this professional coaches association for the past 25 years. It is with great pleasure I nominated Liam and that he will receive recognition by this national organization.”
Giger, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, hopes to attend Michigan or Case Western Reserve to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.
“It was definitely an honor to receive such a prestigious award, and I am so grateful for the nomination,” Giger said. “It meant a lot to receive such high praise from Doc, who has been so gracious and trusting in me during my four years in high school.”
Three TJ defenders were named all-section this season. Giger and junior Ty Folk were first-team selections; Dylan Sullivan, a sophomore, received honorable mention plaudits.
“Earning all-section is such a rewarding achievement,” Giger said, “just to show that all of the rigorous practice and preparation for the season paid off. And the Senior Excellence Award is certainly icing on the cake.
“I would like to thank all the individuals in the TJ soccer family who have made the past four years so special. Most importantly, a big thank-you to Doc for the award and the countless opportunities that helped me develop as both a player and a man.”
TJ junior midfielder A.J. Meshanko was a first-team all-section selection for the second year in a row. He also was an All-WPIAL honoree in 2016.
The TJ boys soccer team advanced to the WPIAL playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, finishing third in Section 4-AAA with a 4-4-2 record behind Chartiers Valley (9-1) and South Fayette (8-1-1).
The Jaguars, who ended the regular season 8-8-2 overall, dropped a 5-0 decision to Montour in the first round of the playoffs.
“Our goal at the beginning of this season was to make the playoffs,” Kulish said. “We accomplished that goal, ending up in third place in our section. We were a young team and gained a lot of valuable experience playing and competing against some very good competition. This experience, along with the work we will do in the offseason, should prepare us for the 2018 season. Our goal, as always, will be to make the playoffs.”
Meshanko, who doubled as a kicking specialist on the TJ football team, led the Jaguars offensively with 10 goals. Sophomore Justin Finnegan contributed a team-high five assists.
“We were plagued with injuries to key players this season,” Kulish said. “This hurt our goal production and altered our defensive strategy. Hoping everyone will remain healthy and injury free, we should be very competitive next season.”
Giger, who has a part-time job as a technician at the local Kmart pharmacy, also has competed in track and field at TJ, and enjoys skiing with the Outdoors Club.
“My soccer career at TJ was an unforgettable journey,” Giger said. “I was fortunate to enter the program in ninth grade, and start as a defender for four years. Doc even named me captain at the soccer banquet following my ninth-grade season, a night I will never forget.
“This season didn't pan out exactly as we had desired, but we wouldn't trade the memories and experiences for anything. I just hope the guys take the offseason seriously and prepare for next season with hard work and determination.”
The Jaguars' starting lineup in 2017 consisted of three seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
“Our strength was the experience our younger players gained,” Kulish said. “They had the opportunity of playing with more experienced players and against better competition. This will only help when competing for a starting position next season.
“The players returning next year will need to come into the season with a positive attitude and determined to work hard to earn a viable role on the team. There should be great competition between multiple players to fill numerous positions.”
TJ's starting lineup for its playoff game consisted of freshman Trystan Alava at forward; Meshanko, Finnegan, junior Preson Lutz and senior Liam Storey at midfield; with Giger, Folk, Sullivan and senior Dom Ranallo on defense. Jack Wessel, a sophomore, and Connor Dalton, a junior, saw time at the goalkeeper position.
The team's top reserves included junior midfielders Nate Hopkins and Seth Thompson; and sophomore prospects Owen Richter (MF/F), Matt Rozanski (F) and Will Morano (D).
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.