Big roster gives Thomas Jefferson girls soccer plenty of optimism

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Friday, August 30, 2019 | 8:09 PM


The Thomas Jefferson girls soccer team has lofty goals for 2019.

“The expectations are extremely high,” coach Jason Vozar said. “We have 29 players, which is the most our program has ever had. This is really the first year we can field a full JV team, which bodes well for the future of the program.

“Another thing having 29 kids does is promotes natural competition for roster spots and playing time.”

An big reason for Vozar’s early optimism is the return of eight starters from last year’s WPIAL playoff team. Another is having a substantial amount of senior leadership on the team with seven seniors on the roster.

The senior class is represented by Dalaney Ranallo (MF), Alaina Mulvihill (MF), Demi Kondos (D), Jordan Crawford (MF), Allison Weidmann (F), Julia Saltzman (MF) and Mia Maksin (D).

“Dalaney and Mia are our captains and team leaders,” Vozar said. “They run the show on and off of the field. Both really push the girls to produce at a high level every day. They both possess the ability to lead in a positive way, while at the same time expecting the best from their teammates.

“Mia is out with a season-ending injury but still a major part of the team through her leadership.”

Maksin has a 4.3 GPA and is involved in the theatre program, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Big Jag Little Cub and the TJ vs. Cancer Club. She volunteers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Light.

“I had a 100-percent rupture of my ACL, and a tear in my meniscus,” said Maksin, who was a captain last year. “I had surgery in early May to correct the damage and am now completing physical therapy twice a week. Although recovery is going great, I will be unable to join the team on the field this season. I am excited to help the team (as captain) as much as I can from the sidelines.

“I have big expectations for this team. I see the freshman class stepping up into some major roles and producing. We have some weapons up top, with both speed and technical abilities.”

Ranallo, an Old Dominion recruit and a top player on the basketball team, has served as a team captain since 2017. She led the team in goals the past three seasons.

Ranallo, Mulvihill and Kondos are returning starters, as was Maksin. Other returning starters are juniors Maddison Sippey (GK), Ava Lutz (MF) and Emily Kane (F) and sophomores Elana Kondos (D) and Hailey Krawcyzk (D).

“These kids really work hard,” Vozar said. “I am really pulling for this year’s group. We have seven seniors, which is a big number for us. I would really like to see them go out on top.”

TJ advanced to the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season in 2018, and finished with an 8-11 record after losing to Ambridge, 2-1, in the WPIAL first round. The Jaguars posted five shutouts.

Vozar is in his third season as coach. TJ was 16-4 and advanced to WPIAL quarterfinals in 2017.

That season, the TJ girls finished with their best regular-season record — 15-3 — in recent memory.

“My coaching philosophies are pretty simple,” Vozar said. “We hold each kid accountable on and off the field. Grades and family come first, then soccer. On the field, be technically sound, play simple and fast, and be there for your teammates.

“At the end of the day, hopefully, doing these things well puts us in a position to win.”

TJ is a member of Section 3-3A again, along with Oakland Catholic, Obama Academy, Plum, Trinity, West Mifflin and Woodland Hills.

“As a team, we are taking it one step as a time,” Maksin said. “We hope to make it farther into the playoffs, with better statistics, yet we know that each practice counts in making that happen.”

Oakland Catholic is the defending section and WPIAL champion. The Eagles advanced to the PIAA semifinals a year ago.

TJ opens the season Aug. 31 at Avonworth’s tournament. The Jaguars’ home opener is Sept. 4 against Woodland Hills.

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