New group carrying defending PIAA champion Moon girls
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Amanda Kachaylo and Sydney Schipani talked before the season, and agreed the Moon girls soccer team would win its share of games.
But this many?
With eight senior starters gone from last year's PIAA Class AA state championship-winning club?
No way, the two figured.
Gone is the nucleus from the 2012 Tigers team, a group that pushed the program to new heights, but a younger group of players has carried No. 3 Moon to a 15-1 record, including a 12-1 mark in Section 5-AA that has forced a first-place tie with No. 4 Quaker Valley.
“Preseason, we were nervous,” said Kachaylo, a senior midfielder. “We expected to win some of the games. Others … who knows. But I'm pleased with where we are. And I'm shocked, a little bit, to say that we're tied for the section lead.”
Antonia Grese scored 29 goals and added 38 assists, as Moon finally vanquished its state final woes a season ago; after suffering 2-0 losses to Downingtown West in 2004 and 2006, Moon broke through with a 1-0 victory last season.
But the bulk of the starters from that group graduated, and senior goalkeeper Macey Thomas tore her ACL, lumping the responsibility on the younger kids. Still, Moon reaffirmed its presence around the WPIAL by opening the season with a 1-0 victory over Class AAA No. 2 Seneca Valley.
“I knew there was a lot of talent, but there was a lot of untested talent,” Moon coach Bill Pfeifer said. “I knew the kids could play. It was how quick could we pull everything together. The win against Seneca Valley at the beginning of the season helped a lot.”
Perhaps no one has been more crucial than junior goalkeeper Kylie Downs, who was thrust into a starting role. Downs has responded by allowing seven goals, two in eight contests since a 2-1 loss at Quaker Valley on Sept. 18.
“We weren't sure how she'd be, but she's been taking a lot of good steps,” Pfeifer said. “We've been able to work with her. She wants to learn. She wants to get better.”
Downs' performance has been even more impressive when you consider that Schipani, who was a standout defender, moved up top to help the offense.
“It was never my thing to score,” Schipani said. “But that's why I like high school, because I get the chance to be offensive and score. It's fun.”
Another one of the key returners has been junior Kallie Conte, who was second to Grese last year with 22 goals. Freshmen Izzy Engel and Emma Thomas have shown the ability to score goals.
“I have to say, they're really good,” Kachaylo said of the two freshmen. “We get the ball to them, and they can score.”
Schipani knew that when she and Kachaylo weighed their team's chances in the preseason.
It's just that neither could expect how that would translate onto the field. Sixteen matches later, the answer should be fairly obvious.
“We did lose a lot of talent, but we got a lot of young talent that came up,” Schipani said. “Seeing us grow over the preseason and everything, I wouldn't say I'm surprised; I think things have been going well for a reason.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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