Alle-Kiski Valley girls soccer preview: Burrell back for more

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020 | 6:42 PM


The Burrell girls soccer team made program history last year with an undefeated regular season and its first section title since 2005.

The Bucs, who bowed out of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs in the quarterfinals, saw a large group of seniors move on, including Valley News Dispatch Player of the Year Allie Vescio.

Despite the graduation losses, head coach Frank Nesko said the returning players hope to keep their level of accomplishment high. A number of younger players also hope to make an impact with their given opportunities.

“The girls are excited,” Nesko said. “There was that level of uncertainty that all of the teams faced with possibly not having a season, but they continued to work hard to get ready for whatever form the season would take. We all can’t wait to play games.”

Senior midfielder Jordyn Kowalkowski, a 2019 VND first-team all-star with 16 goals and 18 assists, and senior midfielder/defender Annie Weimer will help form the core with junior Kaitlyn Postupack and sophomore Ali Hughes.

“We talk about establishing a culture of success,” Nesko said. “The girls realized what we accomplished last year was special, and they are always working to continue that and be a team to beat again this year. The veterans have done a great job in showing the younger girls how it’s done.”

Last year, Burrell turned away the Section 2 challenges of Deer Lakes and Freeport. The Lancers and Yellowjackets finished tied for runner-up in the section at 9-3. Highlands also qualified for the playoffs from the section as it outlasted Apollo-Ridge in a race to the wire.

Valley, which played last year with numerous freshmen in the lineup, hopes to improve on its two section wins, and defending WPIAL Class A champion Shady Side Academy joins the section looking for more gold.

“We’re looking forward to the games, especially against our rivals in the section,” Kowalkowski said. “Each game is going to be a big challenge. We have to bring our best game each time.”

The Alle-Kiski Valley hopes to match or exceed last year’s representation in the WPIAL playoffs.

Of the teams from the area, a total of eight, including Fox Chapel (Class 6A), Kiski Area (Class 5A), Plum (Class 5A) and Springdale (Class A), punched tickets to the playoffs.

Plum, the WPIAL Class AAA runner-up last year, earned a trip to states, while Freeport upset No. 1 Hopewell before falling one game short in Class AA.

The Yellowjackets, under the direction of first-year coach Joe Treglia, had to say goodbye to standout Sidney Shemanski, a 38-goal scorer last year. Shemanski, a three-sport star at Freeport, will play basketball at Seton Hill.

The Yellowjackets have an experienced back line with senior defenders and captains Brianna Sutara, Hannah Thomas and Kaylin Greiser.

With Class AAA, AA and A having four sections, the plan is to have 16 teams qualify for the WPIAL playoffs in those classifications. Quad-A has three sections with 12 teams set to qualify.

Apollo-Ridge bumped down to Section 1-A and will play Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley, Serra Catholic and Springdale.

Riverview, which was slated to play in Section 1, will not field a team this fall because of low numbers.

Each WPIAL team will play a maximum of 16 games with regular-season contests beginning Monday.

“We have worked on controlling what we can control through everything in the offseason with workouts,” Deer Lakes head coach Frank Accetta said. “It’s time for each team to see if that work will pay off. We have a pretty experienced team back, and we can do some big things if we play to our capabilities. Like everyone else, were hoping everything goes well and we’re able to have a full season.”

Teams to watch

Deer Lakes

The Lancers return nine starters from a team that advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals a year ago.

Back to lead the charge are VND first-team all-stars in senior Lily Litrun (forward) and junior Madeline Boulos (forward) and a second-team selection in senior Abigail Boulos (forward).

Madeline Boulos finished second in the A-K Valley in scoring last year with 30 goals.

Senior forward Nina Lafko will miss the season with a knee injury.

“There are a number of unknowns with teams in our section,” Accetta said. “It will be pretty interesting. It won’t matter, though, if we don’t continue to work hard.”

Fox Chapel

The Foxes battled Butler and Pine-Richland for placement in the Section 1-4A standings last year and qualified with a 6-6 record. As the No. 9 seed, they toppled Upper St. Clair in the first round before falling to No. 1 Norwin, 4-3 in overtime.

Coach Peter Torres likes what he sees from his returning group, which includes 11 seniors and seven returning starters. They will do battle in a new section with the aforementioned Knights, as well as Allderdice, Hempfield, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford.

Senior all-WPIAL forward Lucy Ream is back, as are all-section players Makayla Mulholland (sophomore, midfield) and Kaylee Uribe (junior, midfield).

Torres said several from last year’s successful JV team are ready to step up.

Valley

The Vikings (5-11 overall in 2019) were young last year as a majority of the starting lineup were freshmen.

Coach Aaron Smith hopes that experience in Section 2 with the likes of Burrell, Deer Lakes and Freeport will help the group that played several close section games down the stretch.

With 15 players on the roster, Smith said staying healthy over the course of the season will be key. Valley is led by returning all-section performers in sophomores Natalie Beckes (defender) and Jordan Kirkwood (midfielder).

Sophomore Taylor Heuser led the team in goals last year.

Plum

The Mustangs hope to keep the train rolling against the likes of Oakland Catholic and Thomas Jefferson in Section 3-AAA.

Plum made history last year with its first-ever trips to the WPIAL finals and state tournament. The Mustangs suffered a penalty-kicks loss to Manheim Central in the first round.

Talent returns all over the field for Plum, including the top four goal scorers from last year. Sophomore forward Kaitlyn Killinger tallied a team-best 18 goals, while senior Jamie Seneca, who scored the Mustangs’ lone goal in regulation against Manheim Central, added 11.

Highlands

The Golden Rams edged Apollo-Ridge in a late-season section contest to clinch a 2019 WPIAL playoff spot.

Highlands hopes to make another run to the playoffs this fall. With just 13 on the roster, head coach Jenna Plummer knows staying healthy and being fit are two keys to the team’s success.

Midfielder and defender Adrianna Vergerio is a captain and the team’s lone senior. Junior forward Jess Cekada, the team’s leading scorer last year and a VND second-team all star, also returns.

Junior Julie McCorkle and sophomores Johnna Grzandziel, Rachel Kline and Alana Settnek are returning starters.

Players to Watch

Akina Boynton, Freeport, so., midfield

The Yellowjackets won 16 games last year en route to a fourth-place WPIAL Class AA finish, and Boynton was a key factor with goals in a number of those victories.

None was more dramatic than the one she tallied in the waning seconds of Freeport’s upset win over No. 1 Hopewell in the WPIAL quarterfinals. The goal with 23 seconds left was the game winner.

Boynton scored 12 goals as a freshman, and she hopes to be an even bigger factor in the Freeport offense this season.

Lily Litrun, Deer Lakes, sr., forward

The dependable and durable all-section performer tallied 17 goals and added 11 assists last year as Deer Lakes earned a spot in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals.

Her final goal of the season was a crucial one as it came in her team’s 2-1 victory over Quaker Valley in a WPIAL first-round contest at Mars.

Gina Proviano, Plum sr., midfielder/forward

A consistent scoring threat for the Mustangs since her freshman season, the veteran performer is eyeing another run to the WPIAL title game and PIAA tournament.

In a balanced offensive attack, Proviano scored 14 goals. She also was there for her teammates with seven assists.

Her exploits earned her VND first-team all-star recognition and an All-WPIAL selection for the second year in a row.

Lucy Ream, Fox Chapel, sr., midfielder

All-WPIAL honors came to the Foxes standout as she scored a team-best 12 goals and added eight assists to help her team make the WPIAL Class Quad-A quarterfinals.

Two of those 12 goals came in Fox Chapel’s 4-3 overtime quarterfinal loss to a top-seeded Norwin team that went on to finish as the WPIAL runner-up.

Miranda Shock, Springdale, sr., forward

The WPIAL Class A playoffs have commenced the past three seasons with the Dynamos in the field, and Shock has been a key part of the team’s recent success.

Last year, she was one of the top scorers in Section 1-A and finished with a team-best 15 goals as Springdale gave No 4 Seton La Salle all it could handle before falling 2-0 in a first-round contest.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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