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Knoch girls soccer standout keeps Gannon family tradition going

| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's Olivia Sharbaugh, left, and Freeport's Devin Malarik, race to get a foot on the ball during girls soccer action Monday, September 30, 2013 at Freeport High School.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's Olivia Sharbaugh drives past Burrell's Ashley Szymkowiak during the soccer game at Burrell High School on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.

For Knoch senior Olivia Sharbaugh, committing to Gannon University was about more than playing soccer.

It was about a family tradition.

Sharbaugh's sister, Amanda, was a star soccer player for the Knights and left quite a name to live up to. Amanda left Gannon as the school's all-time leading scorer with 51 goals and 124 points. Their brother, Adam, competed on the men's lacrosse team.

Olivia Sharbaugh admits there's a friendly competition with her sister.

“Yeah, but nothing major because our age difference is a lot,” she said. “It's a good goal to try to beat her records. That's not my main focus. I really like playing as a team and if the points come, and if I can get the points for my team, that would be great.”

Amanda Sharbaugh was an assistant coach at Knoch while Olivia played. Strangely, her sister's decision came as a surprise.

“I was shocked she's going to Gannon because she was very anti-going to where I went,” said Amanda, 23, a 2012 Gannon graduate. “I'm excited now because I live up in Erie, and it gives me a chance to watch her over the next four years.”

The Knights almost didn't get the dangerous forward, who at times made things look easy whether it was on a free kick, penalty kick or weaving her way through the defense to find the back of the net.

“Gannon wasn't my top school to begin with,” Sharbaugh said. “I've always loved the school just from going there to watch my brother and sister play. The school I planned on going to, the plans fell through.”

Her first choice was California (Pa.) University, but a coaching change there caused her to change her mind. Had she still chosen to go there, she would've had to do things the hard way and be a walk-on, a risk she was not willing to take.

Aside from the family tradition, committing to Gannon seemed like the best fit for Sharbaugh, who plans on majoring in physical therapy.

“I really like the coach,” she said. “He is a mixture of all my coaches I've had so far growing up. I like the team and I know the team is close knit. They get along well, and I feel like I fit in.”

Aside from California (Pa.), Mercyhurst also was interested in Sharbaugh.

Knoch head coach Rich Kenzie was pleased Sharbaugh chose to commit to Gannon. Replacing the versatile forward will be a tough task as she left behind a great legacy at Knoch.

“She's a very instinctive player,” Kenzie said. “She knows where to be and she's strong-willed, but in a way that's coachable.”

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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