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Kovalik leads Shady Side girls soccer team

| Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Laryn Kovalik is going to have a record-breaking soccer season for Shady Side Academy in 2003.

Every time Kovalik, a senior midfielder, steps on the field, there's a chance she'll break a record.

That's because she already owns the Shady Side career marks for goals (43), assists (33) and points (76).

Every goal sets a new record. Every assist is a record-breaker.

Not that it matters much to Kovalik.

"I didn't even know I had broken those records when I did it last year," she said. "I don't keep track of scores or numbers. Those things don't concern me.

"What does concern me is how our team is playing."

Despite Kovalik's humble approach to her individual accomplishments, there's little doubt that she'll be a key figure for the Indians this season and one of the top players in the WPIAL.

"Laryn is such an asset to any team," said new Shady Side coach Sara Lettrich. "I'm so thrilled to have her."

Lettrich, who takes over for former coach Scott Aiken after serving as his assistant in 2002, has in Kovalik the type of player she can build a team around.

Kovalik's all-around game makes her a headache for opposing defenders. She has the ability to control the ball and is equally adept at scoring goals or setting up her teammates around the net.

Her statistics from last season illustrate Kovalik's ability as a playmaker. She set school single-season records with 23 goals, 17 assists and 40 points.

"(Kovalik) is very tenacious," Lettrich said. "But it's her knowledge of the game at this level and her vision of the field that set her apart. And she does everything she can to try to improve her game."

When preseason camp opens Monday, Kovalik will find herself in a new role: team captain. The Indians also will have a new coach and a number of new players in the lineup.

"I don't think the transition (to a new coach) will be difficult," Kovalik said. "It's going to be a completely different team. I'm looking forward to the new season."

Soccer is but one of Kovalik's many interests. Besides going to school at Shady Side and playing soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse there, she also finds time for art, music, horse riding and volunteer work.

And she's added politics to what was a schedule already crammed full of activities.

Last spring, Kovalik was elected senior class vice president for the upcoming school year.

"I wanted to do something for my class specifically," she said. "I was shocked that I won. I had never run for anything in my life."

Kovalik was a competitive horse rider growing up. This summer, she worked with handicapped children to assist them in riding at a local stable.

During a busy summer that left no time for a vacation, the Hampton Township resident attended camps for soccer and lacrosse and volunteered to help out at the Harmarville Rehabilitation Center.

Her older brother, Adam, had volunteered at Harmarville, and Laryn followed in his footsteps. She started helping out there a few years ago, rising at 6:30 a.m. every Sunday to work for two hours serving breakfast to physically disabled patients.

Kovalik has been taking piano lessons for years, and she took a few art courses this summer.

Her wide-ranging field of activities and interests seems to suit Kovalik.

"I think it spurs my creativity and helps me lead a fuller life," she said. "I don't want to look back some day and say, 'I could have done this, or I could have done that.' I want to do as much as I can while I'm young."

College is in Kovalik's future, and some schools already are showing interest in her for soccer and lacrosse.

"I'm going to look at whatever opportunities come along and try to keep an open mind," she said. "I would like to play sports in college. I think it would add balance to a rigorous academic schedule."

Kovalik plans to take pre-med courses and wants to study art in college.

"I know I want to be a doctor," she said. "I love to help people."

No doubt Kovalik already has helped countless people through her volunteer work. And she's set to help Shady Side's soccer team make a run at its fourth straight appearance in the WPIAL playoffs.

For Kovalik, soccer season is just the start of what promises to be a senior year to remember.

A record-breaking year.

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