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BVA's Kovalchuk adds to Division I tradition

Belle Vernon Area soccer standout Lauren Kovalchuk, seated left, signs her commitment to Stony Brook University under the watchful eyes of her mother, Lara, and (standing from the left) her coach, Paul Sasko, and her father, Chris Kovalchuk. Courtesy photo

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Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

In his eight years as Belle Vernon Area's girls' soccer coach, not only has Paul Sasko built a solid program, but he has begun something he hopes is a tradition.

That's sending players to NCAA Division I schools.

In his first seven season, Sasko sent two Lady leps on to D-I, Cory Stark (Youngstown State) and Ashley Magruda (West Virginia and since transferred to California University).

Make that three.

Lauren Kovalchuk signed Wednesday with Stony Brook University in Long Island N.Y., a NCAA Division I school for women's soccer.

A four-year letterman and three-year starter at BVA, Kovalchuk also spot started games as a freshman on a very strong Lady Lep team that won a section championship.

Selected “Newcomer of the Year” her freshman season with nine goals and six assists, Kovalchuk finished her career at BVA with 56 goals and 35 assists, including 17 goals and 13 assists her senior season. She served as captain of the team both her junior and senior years and was selected as an All-Section All-Star in her sophomore and junior years.

“She's just a great all-around soccer player,” Sasko said of Kovalchuk. “She can play any position; she has nice size; and she can score and control the field.”

Sasko said Kovalchuk was primarily a center mid-fielder for the Lady Leps, “However there were times we asked to move to the back and she played really great defense.”

“I don't know if she will play mid-field or defense in college, but whatever she does she will do well,” Sasko said.

This past season she was selected as an All-WPIAL and All-State All-Star by the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association while leading BVA to a Section 4 AA championship, WPIAL semifinals and school's first PIAA state playoff appearance.

Sasko gave his departing the senior the ultimate praise by saying, “She's such a hard worker, especially in practice. When you have a talented kid who is willing to work hard in practice, that makes that player easy to coach.”

Outside of soccer she has been a member of the Olympic Development Program for five years and was a member of the 2012 ODP Region 1 Tournament champion team.

Kovalchuk is the daughter of Chris and Lara Kovalchuk of Rostraver Township.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or

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