Apollo-Ridge brings back familiar face to coach girls soccer

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022 | 8:26 PM


Sarah Bonelli Christopher graduated from Apollo-Ridge in 2013 and went on the play four years as a midfielder at Lock Haven.

She just missed the opportunity to play for her high school alma mater, as the Vikings girls soccer program was formed a couple of years later.

“I was sad that I didn’t get to do that, but I was definitely excited there was one starting because both of my younger sisters (Emily and Megan) got to play on the team,” Bonelli Christopher said.

Fast forward several years, and she now is significant a part of Apollo-Ridge soccer as its new coach.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Bonelli Christopher, who takes over for Matt Ross, the coach since the first Vikings team took the field in 2015.

Ross is staying with the program as an assistant coach.

“It’s great seeing the girls out there playing and also seeing all of the younger kids (27 in kindergarten through sixth grade) at our soccer camp this week,” she said.

“It gives me a lot of hope that we’re going to have this program around and going strong for a while. Hopefully, these younger kids keep their interest and want to play when they get into middle school and high school.”

Bonelli Christopher, hired two weeks ago, said she hit the ground running. Not a single player graduated from last year’s team, which went 8-5 overall and 7-5 in Section 1-1A.

Rising sophomore Paige Crawford led the team in goals with 17, and the forward joined rising seniors Kyra Myers (defense), Sydney Duriancik (midfielder) and Sydney McCray (goalkeeper) on the all-section team.

“We’ve already had a great turnout at workouts and conditioning the past couple of weeks,” Bonelli Christopher said.

Apollo-Ridge again will be a co-op program with neighboring Leechburg. Bonelli Christopher said five from Leechburg will join 15 Apollo-Ridge players to form the team that moves up to Class 2A this year.

“We’ve had more of a turnout than in previous years,” she said. “It will be exciting to hopefully see them keep working hard throughout the rest of the summer.”

Bonelli Christopher said she is happy to have Ross.

“He’s been a great help, and there’s been three or four other dads who have helped out the past few years who are right there with me every step of the way,” she said.

“I don’t think I could do it without them, honestly. They know all the players, the flow of the team and the expectations. They’ve been so important in the transition.”

Ross reciprocated his excitement and said Bonelli Christopher brings new energy and enthusiasm to the program.

“This is a good match for the program, and we’re happy that she’s on board,” Ross said.

“I think the girls are excited to have somebody coaching them other than a bunch of their dads. The day (the hire) was confirmed, she sent out over our team app the entire first month’s workout schedule. She met with the girls, and they went on a distance run. She adds a nice spark, and we’re all really confident in her abilities to lead the program.”

Bonelli Christopher will guide the Vikings into Section 2-2A, a grouping with a distinctive local flair.

They will face Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Highlands, Knoch and Valley.

Deer Lakes, Burrell and Freeport represented the section in last year’s WPIAL playoffs.

Knoch drops down from Class 3A.

“I think every game in the section is going to be a pretty competitive battle,” Bonelli Christopher said. “They will be tough games, close games, and we’ll have to be ready every night.”

Apollo-Ridge is free from the playoff restrictions it faced the past two years when a clerical error in reporting to the PIAA resulted in the Vikings being designated Class 2A for the playoffs.

They played in a Class 1A section. The PIAA required the team to win its section in order to qualify for the Class 2A playoffs.

Though it fared well the past two years, Apollo-Ridge didn’t win its section in 2020 or 2021 and was not able to take part in postseason play.

“That’s in the past, and now the girls are here and ready to work hard,” Bonelli Christopher said. “They are excited for whatever comes their way this season.”

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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