Experienced Bethel Park girls soccer team off to strong start

Saturday, September 24, 2022 | 11:01 AM

The Bethel Park girls soccer team has climbed into WPIAL elite territory this season.

The Black Hawks were ranked second in Class 4A in the Trib HSSN WPIAL girls soccer rankings for the week ending Sept. 18.

Bethel Park started out 6-0 with five shutouts and 4-0 in Section 2 before losing a 2-1 decision Sept. 14 to Upper St. Clair.

Mt. Lebanon stood in first place in the section at 5-0, followed by Bethel Park (5-1), Peters Township (4-1), USC (3-3) and Canon-McMillan (3-3).

“I’m very happy with how the team has performed this season,” coach Rob Heuler said. “We have competed in a very difficult section as well as in two tough out-of-section matches and only have one loss to show for it up to this point.

“This group of girls is extremely dedicated and has great leadership within the team. The girls have really excelled at playing together in our system and finishing out a lot of close games. They have put in so much time in the offseason as well as extra hours every week during the season and it is really nice to see this result in early success so far.”

The Black Hawks closed out the first half of section play Sept. 19 with a 1-0 victory at Canon-McMillan and at home two days later against Mt. Lebanon.

Senior forward Lauren Heh, assisted by senior midfielder Eva Blatz, scored the decisive goal against the Big Macs.

Freya Blatz, a sophomore goalkeeper, registered the shutout, Bethel Park’s sixth in eight contests.

Through eight games, the Black Hawks had allowed only three goals while collecting 28 as a team. They posted shutouts against section opponents Peters Township (1-0), Hempfield (13-0), Baldwin (7-0) and Canon-McMillan (1-0), and versus South Fayette (1-0) and Avonworth (2-0) in the early season Avonworth tournament.

The Black Hawks entered the 2022 season with high hopes for a strong showing.

“With such a talented and experienced team this year, we have set high expectations for the 2022 campaign,” Heuler said. “These goals remain internal to our team and don’t let us look past each individual game as it comes.

“However, we would like to make a run at playoffs for a third consecutive season and set ourselves up for success for a postseason run.”

Heuler welcomed a large group of starters back from last year’s playoff squad, including the Blatz sisters in goal and at midfield. Also returning on defense were seniors Marena Chernicky, Kristen Horgan and Meghan Tischler, now a midfielder.

Heh and sophomore Grace Ferency are back at forward.

Newcomers to the lineup are defensive specialists Sam Shields, a junior, and sophomore Mallory Kuntz, freshman midfielder Callee Dalbon and junior forward Artemis Conaboy.

Top reserves include seniors Anna Minick (MF), Addison Hill (D), Emma Bucheli (D) and Katherine Krol-Schaus (F), along with juniors Alexandria Francus (GK), Logan Burke (D) and Olivia Dawson (MF).

Olivia Kitchen (D), Keira Mehalko (MF), Emma Impellicceiri (F) and Sydney Felicetti (F) are all sophomore prospects.

The three senior starters who graduated off last year’s team were defender Julie Heh, midfielder Macy Mathias and forward Lily Gaston, who is continuing her career at Johns Hopkins as a double major in public health and economics with a minor in applied math and statistics.

Gaston was a three-time all-section selection, Big 56 first team and All-WPIAL honoree, and two-time team captain who twice led the Black Hawks in goals (as a sophomore and senior).

Gaston has 10 years of club soccer experience with Pittsburgh Riverhounds ECNL, was a two-time U.S. Club regional champion and a USLS all-star selection.

After missing the WPIAL playoffs from 2015-19, Bethel Park is aiming for its third consecutive postseason appearance this year. The Black Hawks went 5-1-1 overall and 3-1-1 in Section 2 to close out last year’s regular season.

The Black Hawks ended up 10-6-1 in 2021 after finishing 6-5-2 in 2020.

Moon, Peters Township, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon were top four squads in the section last season.

The Trib HSSN Class 4A rankings for the week ending Sept. 18 consisted of North Allegheny, Bethel Park, Peters Township, Seneca Valley and Mt. Lebanon.


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