Canevin girls take field with new soccer coach this season
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The girls soccer teams of the WPIAL returned to the field this week in preparation for the fall season.
The Signal Item area teams are coming off strong campaigns — three teams finished with winning records, two made the postseason and one captured a section title.
The following is a look at what to expect from the teams heading into the 2014 season.
For the third time in as many seasons, the Lady Crusaders have a new coach.
After Jared Steigerwald led the team to a 16-win season and a Section 3-A title, he decided to not return after his one season.
But Steigerwald's former assistant Steve McAneny stayed with Bishop Canevin to take over the head-coaching duties.
“Bishop Canevin is a successful program,” the first-year coach said. “It has been for a few years and, with the young players we have, should be for the future.”
Seniors Amy Calabrese, Bailey Burgess and Julia Martin will lead the team this season. Juniors Elise White and Sam Vanek return after gaining valuable experience last season helping the offensive attack. Junior defender Megan Hart also returns.
Junior Caroline Clarke brings a wealth of experience to the goalkeeper spot after getting starts the last two years. Senior Becca Mox, who was listed as a goalkeeper on last season's roster, was moved to outside mid as a junior due to injuries, and the experience should help this season.
Juniors Alexis Pilch and Kayla Rogers were thrown into the fire last season after injuries — including concussions, ACL tears, stress fractures, ankle sprains and even mono — hampered the team throughout the season.
“We lost four seniors from last season and replace them with six freshmen,” McAneny said. “So depth shouldn't be an issue.”
Section 3-A remains largely unchanged outside of the addition of two teams — Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, in its first year of play, and Sewickley Academy, the team that eliminated Bishop Canevin from the WPIAL Class A playoffs last season.
McAneny said the additions should make the conference even more challenging, but the first-year coach isn't lowering the expectations of the team.
“The first thing we want to do is make the playoffs,” McAneny said. “And we want to contend for the section title. There is a understanding we have won it the last two years. We want to go for the three-peat.”
After claiming their first playoff berth last year since 2007, the Cougars are on the prowl for more success this season.
“Getting to the postseason has set the tone,” third-year coach David Zinski said. “They got a taste of what it is like to be successful and to have the school get behind you.”
The team returns 10 starters from last season after graduating two seniors. The offense will be led by senior Pam Meighan, who scored 31 goals last season. While teams focus on Meighan, sophomore Sofia Carrasco could have a bigger role this season.
“She started all last year,” Zinski said. “She is very talented skill-wise. She was young last year, and sometimes you could see it. But she should take a big step forward this year.”
Senior Olivia Kalimon should improve the offensive attack. She battled injures last season but started every game for the Cougars.
Senior Mackensie Ellis, junior Cameron Bogats and sophomore Natalie Quinn will give a boost to the Carlynton attack. The returning starters will welcome a freshman class that is expected to add six or seven players.
Adding depth has been one of the greatest achievements since Zinski took over.
“We have more than 20 girls in the junior high program,” Zinski said. “If we can keep getting that amount of girls, we can build the program up. In the years before I was coach, the team was struggled to field just 11 girls to be able to field a team.”
The added interest could be credited to a turn in fortunes. Last season's eight wins were the most the team had in years — they equaled the total amount of victories from the combined previous four years.
But the Cougars are out to prove they are more than just a solid program. Outside of Avonworth, Carlynton is the only public school in Section 3-A. The other schools in the section include Bishop Canevin, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Eden Christian, Seton-La Salle, Sewickley Academy and Vincentian Academy.
“A lot of the private schools have soccer players,” Zinski said. “We tend to have a lot of athletes turned into soccer players. We pride ourselves on outworking every other team during games. We will have a chip on our shoulder being one of only two public schools in the section.”
Despite an 11-win season — the most wins for the Colts since 2009 — William Douglass admitted there was some disappointment in his first season as coach.
Contending for a spot in the Class AAA playoffs, the team finished the year on a 0-3-1 stretch that kept Chartiers Valley at home.
“We learned to not take things for granted,” Douglass said. “We look back, and we know we had the capabilities of beating some of those teams. Against Canon-McMillan (a 2-2 tie), they scored with 15 seconds left to tie the game. It we had won, we would be in the playoffs. That should be motivation for us.”
The Colts lost five seniors from last season's team but return plenty of talent to contend for a playoff spot this season.
The midfielder position will be boosted by the returns of senior Heather Schmidt, junior Valerie Mutschler and sophomore Morgan Henderson. Senior Katie Labos returns to the forward spot.
Senior defenders Katie Glausser and Emily Tolmer, along with goalkeeper Skylar Martz, should limit scoring chances. The unit should be a strength after it recorded 10 shutouts last season.
“(Martz) is very vocal and does a great job. We are really strong up the middle,” Douglass said.
The team should have plenty of depth as 18 freshmen are expected to join the program.
Section 5-AAA will be a challenge with the return of Class AAA runner-up Bethel Park. Moon joins the section after competing in Class AA last year and reaching the PIAA playoffs.
But with the returning lineup, Douglass wants his squad to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2009
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Douglass said. “The seniors come into this season never having the playoff experience.
“I don't want them to graduate without playing a game in the postseason. That is my goal for the team.”
After going 6-12 last season, the Golden Eagles return plenty of talent as they look for their first playoff berth in more than a decade.
Kara Hoffman led the team in goals last season with 16. She will be joined by senior Julia Canello.
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