BVA's Gagliardi, Donora's Fabean in national soccer tourney
For years, scholastic sports have slowly been shifting from student-athletes playing three sports depending on the varying seasons so they could focus on one sport.
Football, baseball and basketball all have their own off-season programs, but soccer may be the strongest of all.
And for two local soccer players, Belle Vernon Area's Ashly Gagliardi and Donora native Malea Fabean who attends Greensburg Central Catholic, their Beadling SC Thunder U17 girls team is in the running for a United States Youth Soccer (USYS) national championship next week in Overland, Kansas, at the top soccer facility in the country.
The championships feature eight teams will run from July 22nd through the 28th.
There are two Pools of four teams with each team playing three games against the other teams in their respective pool.
The Thunder open pool play next Tuesday when they face FRAM Premier (Calif.).
Two days later the Thunder play BRYC 95 Elite (Va.) and that Friday, they complete pool play against Match Fit Best (N.J.).
After pool play is completed, the top team from Pool A and Pool B will square off for the national championship on Sunday, July 28th.
Ranked third in the country by www.gotsoccer.com, the Thunder are one of only three girls' teams in the history of western Pennsylvania soccer to win the Region 1 championships and make nationals.
Considering that the nationals date back to 1985, what the Thunder has accomplished is no small feat.
To make it, they won the Region I championship on July 2nd in Rhode Island with a 3-1 defeat of Aztec Soccer Premier (Mass.), 3-1 in the finals.
The Region1 championship had 16 teams in pool play.
The Thunder have 19 players, several of which that have already committed to colleges including Fabean who is headed to the University of Pittsburgh.
The head coach is Eric Duffy and the assistant is Arne Thomas. Duffy speaks highly of both Gagliardi and Fabean.
“Ashly started all five games for us at regionals and she didn't allow a goal,” he said. “That speaks novels about how much better she has gotten.
“And Malea, with our system we put a lot of pressure and responsibility on her but she has scored a lot of important goals for us.
“Both have been a huge part of our success they emulate what we want our players to be.”
Both players are aware of what it means to make it so far with their team.
“This is a really big accomplishment and it is mind-blowing,” said Gagliardi, a goalkeeper. “It is a big honor and a great experience.”
“It is exciting and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said. “We get to play against the best teams in the country and it will be a lot of fun.”
Of the eight teams headed to Kansas, they represent seven states. The other pool consists of teams from Ohio, New Jersey, Iowa and Texas.
New Jersey is the only state with two teams.
More information on the national tournament can be found at www.championships.usyouthsoccer.org.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.