Brother-sister combo patrols net for Quaker Valley soccer

Sunday, October 9, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Both have been involved in Quaker Valley soccer since their freshman season.

Both have developed into accomplished high school athletes.

They are vocal and determined but also can be humorous and quick-witted at times.

The brother-sister duo of Isaac and Grace Waller are goalkeepers on the QV boys and girls soccer teams.

Isaac Waller, 18, is a senior and third-year starter who has sparked the Quakers to 10-2 record and No. 1 spot in 2A in the Trib HSSN WPIAL boys soccer rankings.

“He has started in some capacity for three years,” QV boys coach J.J. Veshio said. “He had some injuries that impacted his role, but he’s been a mainstay since he was a sophomore.

“Isaac has been excellent for us this season. His calm demeanor and ability to control his goalkeeper box is a big help to the team. He is very vocal and does a great job in organizing the defense.”

Grace Waller, a 16-year-old junior, has played soccer at QV since her freshman season. After two years of JV competition, she has taken over as the varsity starter this year.

“Grace has improved so much since her freshman year,” said Maggie Behun, who shares the coaching duties of the QV girls program with Rachel Loudermilk. “Grace is an incredibly enthusiastic player. She is vocal, determined and super-fast.

“It is just as important for goalkeepers to be as fit as the players on the field. Grace is just that and some. She is intense. She has much to offer, and we’re excited to see her excel in the coming years.”

The QV girls won four of their last five games in October, including via three shutouts, to improve to 5-4 overall.

“Our season has gone very well,” Grace said. “With our struggles with teammates getting hurt near the start of the season, we were able to jump back and adjust through it. We have grown greatly together as a team, and our goals are set high. I’m proud with how our team has done, and I’m excited to see how far we get this year.

“I’ve improved more than I expected this season. I think the keys to being a great goalkeeper are to perform at your highest, reach for every ball, have a strong mental game and communicate with your team.”

The 5-foot-4 keeper is supported by a defense that includes senior Nora Johns, juniors Mia Strelec and Megan Campbell, sophomore Mia Modrovich and freshmen Emma Currier and Lucy Roig. Strelec and Johns are the anchors on defense.

Through 12 games, Isaac Waller had allowed only four goals and posted eight shutouts while the Quakers amassed 53 goals on the offensive end. He had a 0.40 goals-against average.

“My brother has been amazing this season,” Grace said.

For his career, which includes one game as a freshman, the 5-11 keeper surrendered 15 goals and compiled a 0.56 GAA. Through Oct. 4, the Quakers had lost only three times with Waller in the net. He had a 26-3-1 career record that included 20 shutouts.

“Isaac is the exact type of person you want as a goalkeeper,” Veshio said. “He’s very focused and a great leader but also a little off-the-wall at times and brings some humor and levity to the group at just the right moments.

“He is wonderful to have on the team because he brings a unique outlook to the game and helps create a positive environment.”

Waller also has juggled his fall schedule to include kicking for the QV football team.

“This season has been a whirlwind,” he said, “but I’ve been relishing every moment of it as this is my only full year of soccer since my freshman year. I’m proud of my stats, but my goal is to leave my mark on this program. There is still much more to come.”

Waller is flanked by a stout defensive corps consisting of senior mainstays Colin Wood and Spencer Wiehe, junior Kiril Grin, a former midfielder, and sophomore Andrew Veshio.

“Our defensive unit is an impenetrable wall with a steel gate,” Waller said. “My four center backs — Colin, Spencer, Kiril and Andrew — have all been vital to our defense. Other players that drop back and also execute notably well on defense are Carter Turk, Ben Henry and Jack Karwoski.

Through 10 games, Grace Waller had allowed 17 goals and had three shutouts. Her teammates had scored 16 goals.

“Grace earned the starting JV goalkeeper position as a freshman but still had a lot to learn,” Loudermilk said. “Her sophomore year, it was like a whole new player had showed up. Grace and our starting varsity goalkeeper at the time, Anjo Pagbeleguem, formed a special bond and Anjo really took Grace under her wing.

“Additionally, we brought Jessica Gresko on as a goalkeeper coach. With Jess, Grace continued to make improvements. Grace took the initiative to join FC Pittsburgh, a local club soccer team where she spent all winter and spring training.”

The Quakers’ co-field bosses marveled at the improvement displayed by Waller this season.

“She had started to excel as a goalkeeper,” Loudermilk said. “but we were still anticipating she would be our backup for varsity. That all changed quickly. During preseason, our starting keeper Anjo, who is a senior, had a season-ending injury. We turned to Grace to step up and fill that role. We had seen improvements in Grace’s game, but until this point, she had only played in one varsity game.

“Now, we can honestly say that Grace has blown us away. She has turned into a leader, using her voice to direct the defense and encourage her teammates. And when it comes to saves, she owns the net. There are times at practice that someone shoots the ball and as a coach you think, ‘That’s a goal,’ and out of nowhere Grace makes the save. We can wholeheartedly say that Grace was not handed the starting varsity keeper position but has truly earned it.”

Her brother added, “Grace is a new goalkeeper and is increasing in skill at an impressive rate. She’s strong on the ball and is good at being positive.”

The older Waller sibling has played soccer his entire life. He said he started playing when he was first able to walk, participating in local games and just enjoying being on the pitch.

“Middle school is when I decided to become a goalkeeper,” Isaac said, “as I loved the thought of being able to direct and watch my teammates play almost as the backbone of the team. I went through my life in soccer not really getting serious about it until my freshman year when I played under coach (Andrew) Marshall.

“After seeing the 2019 team win states, it planted a seed in me, a burning desire to achieve a higher level in my play.”

As much as that desire existed, so did, it seemed, an unfortunate rash of injuries.

“As a goalkeeper, you have to have strong mental fortitude,” said Isaac, who competes in the Pittsburgh Riverhounds academy program in the offseason. “The keys to this are a positive growth mindset and to have passion and drive. Keep holding onto your goals and desires in the sport.”

Like her brother, Grace also has been participating in soccer for most of her life.

“I’ve been a goalkeeper since I was little,” Grace said. “The biggest influences in my career have been those who’ve taught me what I know about soccer today — past keepers, college coaches and my coaches at Quaker Valley and FCP. My friends, family and the community have also been big influences, cheering me on throughout my seasons.”

Big brother echoed his sister.

“My influences as a goalkeeper are countless,” he said, “as there are more people that have helped me with my soccer career than I would have ever thought. From coaches to peers, I have been blessed with so many people that helped me develop.”

When he’s not on the pitch, Isaac operates his lawn care business in Sewickley.

“I make money to buy soccer equipment,” he said.“I want soccer to be a part of my college journey.”

Grace competes for the FC Pittsburgh club program in the offseason.

“I love to ski during the winter and I love to hike,” she said.

Added Loudermilk: “J.J. Vescio helped out with goalkeeper training for the girls program during Grace’s freshman year. So both Waller goalies have been lucky enough to be trained by him.”

QV racks up goals

Quaker Valley’s boys team posted a 9-0 record in Section 4-2A through Oct. 4, outscoring the opposition by a commanding 52-2 margin in league play.

“The team is doing quite well,” coach Veshio said. “We are on the right path moving towards the playoffs and have three good nonsection games (Sewickley Academy, Moon, West Allegheny) in the next few weeks to prep us for the playoffs.”

The Quakers are scheduled to close out their section schedule against Hopewell (Oct. 11) and Ellwood City (Oct. 13).

“This season has been a blast,” Waller said. “Everyone on this team came with something to prove and an expectation to exceed.

“From us defeating Lebo to defeating Wilson for the first time since 1996, this group has exceeded what people thought would become of the boys soccer team after losing last year’s (senior) class.”


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