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Transfer student Italia Biondi gives Penn-Trafford girls scoring punch

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Lindsay Dill | For the Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Ellen Gray tries to take control of the ball from Penn-Trafford's Italia Biondi during their Wednesday, September 11, 2013 game at Franklin Regional High School.
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Yough's Leigh Appolonia
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West Mifflin's Taylor Lapko

Italia Biondi was considering a transfer to Penn-Trafford as her Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer team prepared to play the Warriors in a nonsection game last year.

“It was a really good game,” Biondi said of the Centurions' 4-0 victory over the Warriors. “I knew I kind of wanted to transfer, so I did really good in that game.”

When Biondi followed through with her plans to attend Penn-Trafford this year, Warriors coach Rick Nese remembered her.

How could he not? Biondi scored twice in that game last October.

The junior forward, who finished third in scoring for WPIAL and state champion Greensburg Central Catholic last year, picked up where she left off. Through Monday's 2-0 victory over Latrobe, Biondi led Penn-Trafford (4-3, 3-0 Section 1-AAA) in assists and had added four goals.

“We have a lot of people who contribute, but it's really nice (to have her),” Nese said. “She's something we really didn't have last year. We returned seven or eight starters, but to be able to add somebody (like that) — she's not a freshman coming up that we're trying to plug in. She's played at a high level. To be able to add her as a junior, it's really just a little bit of a gift that we got this year.”

Biondi's older sister, Colette, played soccer at Penn-Trafford, but Italia Biondi attended Aquinas Academy through middle school and Greensburg Central Catholic for the first two years of high school.

She knew many people at Penn-Trafford because she grew up in the area, and her friends tried to convince her to transfer.

“My friends were convincing me to come back (and telling me about) the soccer team, like, ‘They're going to be so good with you,' ” Biondi said. “My friends and the academics seemed so much better here.”

Biondi said the adjustment to Penn-Trafford was easy because of her prior relationships with the players and Nese, and the move from Class A to Class AAA was also relatively simple because of her experience playing Cup soccer.

However, she had to get back to full speed before the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee at a travel soccer tournament in North Carolina last December.

“I did physical therapy — I went to two different places — and I've been training for soccer ever since the day I could,” Biondi said. “So I feel like I'm in shape, and I feel like I'm back to the way I was.”

At forward, Biondi works primarily with senior Jordan Beretta, sophomore Maggie Mastrogiacoma and freshman Ryley Watt. But the Warriors' depth also allows players such as juniors Casey Aunkst, Kristen Swope and Kristina Wallace to contribute.

“Any given night, if we score three goals, you could have who knows scoring goals,” Nese said. “I think that we have so many tools, so many different weapons, that if the focus of the other team goes in one general area (toward) people like Italia or Jordan or Casey Aunkst or Kristen Swope in the middle, then you have those players on the outside of the field that are going to be able to get some one-on-one situations.”

Biondi also brings a championship pedigree to Penn-Trafford, having been a part of two WPIAL championships and one PIAA title while at Greensburg Central Catholic. Several members of Penn-Trafford's junior and senior class played key roles on a team that went to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA tournament in 2011.

“It was so great experiencing that (at Greensburg Central Catholic),” Biondi said. “Hopefully, we can experience that this year and win another state title here finally.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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