Apollo-Ridge goalie Bonelli rises through ranks
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Even without being able to play for her school, Megan Bonelli has become one of the area's top high school-aged soccer players.
Bonelli, a sophomore at Apollo-Ridge, added another honor to her soccer career when she traveled to Germany last month as a goalkeeper for the Region I Olympic Development Program's U-16 team.
A player for South Hills-based Beadling Soccer Club, Bonelli was the only player from Western Pennsylvania selected for the Region I ODP team, which is made up of players from 13 northeastern states and the District of Columbia. But for all her achievements, one thing she doesn't get to do is play in net for Apollo-Ridge, which doesn't have a girls soccer program.
“Not having a high school team, I'm kind of at a disadvantage. I have to do things on my own, but I have a goalkeeping trainer I work with and also have open gym for basketball in fall to stay in shape,” Bonelli said. “It's a long drive to practice (with Beadling). It's definitely a hassle.”
Those inconveniences haven't done anything to slow down Bonelli, who is rated as a three-star college prospect by TopDrawerSoccer.com. As a member of the ODP team for Region I — one of four regions in U.S. Soccer — she is one tier away from reaching the player pool for her age group's national team.
“It's good that she gets that exposure, and it's a pretty special privilege to go overseas,” said Gene Smith, Bonelli's coach at Beadling. “It's a chance to play with such a high level of players, and she took a lot of pride in getting selected for it.”
The trip to Germany was Bonelli's second tour outside of the U.S. with the regional ODP team, which traveled to Costa Rica in 2013.
The team spent much of the 10-day stay in Germany based around the western city of Saarbrucken and played three matches and a mini-tournament against some of the top German youth club teams. Apart from matches and training sessions, the team also got a chance to explore that region of Germany as well as neighboring Luxembourg and France.
“We trained every other day and had games every other day, and we got to go sightseeing,” Bonelli said. “The competition was very high, and it was cool to see their different style of play. I'd known a couple of the girls on the (ODP) team from being on it the past four years, but I did make a lot of new friends. It was the most amazing experience.”
A soccer player since she was 4 years old, Bonelli said her goalkeeping career started with stopping shots from her older sister during the summer. With her work for Beadling and the ODP team, Bonelli has a good chance to go from making saves in the backyard to doing it for a college program in 2016.
“Can she play at a really high level? Absolutely,” Smith said. “She's a very confident, outgoing person, which are traits you want in a goalkeeper. She wouldn't be at the level she is without good skills, and she's one of the hardest-working practice players I've ever worked with. Some goalkeepers don't like to dive as much in practice, but Megan's always flying around full speed, cutting herself up on the ground, which is sometimes to our dismay.”
Even without the chance to play soccer in Apollo-Ridge colors — she does have basketball to wear the Vikings' logo — Bonelli continues to be driven to push her game toward the college level and beyond.
“I've been to a lot of college camps and talked to coaches,” she said. “I'm hoping to go to a Division I school. I want to keep doing ODP, keep making the regional team and hopefully one day make the national team and have a chance to go pro.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.