Fox Chapel looks to boost offense, Shady Side Academy faces injury woes as girls soccer season begins

Saturday, September 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM

It’s hard to believe there could have been a more seamless transition in coaching than the move from Fox Chapel girls soccer coach Peter Torres to his successor, Carlo Prati.

Torres, after a thrilling WPIAL playoff ride last season, has moved on to the collegiate level at LaRoche University. Taking over the head coaching job is Prati, an assistant the past five seasons.

The immediate goal is to not miss a beat as the Foxes have qualified for the playoffs 13 of the past 14 seasons, only coming up short in 2018.

Prati would like to inject more offense in the Fox Chapel attack after last season.

“Going into the playoffs last year, we had a struggle last season getting anybody to score some goals for us,” Prati said. “It continued into the playoffs, but we somehow managed, beating Bethel Park in a shootout and then beating North Allegheny in another shootout.”

North Allegheny was the top-seeded team last season.

The Foxes season ended with a 1-0 setback against Seneca Valley. Fox Chapel goalkeeper Molly McNaughton had to leave the game late with an injury, forcing a field player to sub in briefly. It was on a penalty kick, and it was the only goal given up in six halves of playoff soccer by the Foxes.

“It was a rough way to lose it, but we had five freshmen in the lineup in the playoffs, so they all gained a lot of good experience,” Prati said. “That’ll help us out this year.”

Fox Chapel returns seven starters, including McNaughton, now a senior who has committed to Cal (Pa.).

McNaughton and the Foxes defense yielded just 17 goals in 19 games.

Fox Chapel returns seven starters.

“Our expectations are still pretty high, but our section is so tough,” said Prati, who spent part of his childhood in Italy while his father played semi-pro soccer.

The Foxes move into a section that features perennial favorites North Allegheny and Seneca Valley, along with Pine-Richland, Butler, North Hills, Allderdice and Prati’s alma mater, Shaler.

“There’s no easy games in our section,” said Prati. “We’ve got to keep our girls grounded.”

Fox Chapel started the season with a 6-0 victory over Shady Side Academy. The game was terminated when a collision near the goal resulted in an injury to Fox Chapel freshman Lilly McLaughlin, who’s now out for the season.

Said Prati: “It was kind of a bittersweet win; we lost a player. We started the section against Seneca in a game that was scoreless and really competitive. Lightning hit and we had delay the game until (Sept. 1).”

Besides McNaughton, the Foxes welcome back all-WPIAL midfielder Makayla Mulholland, who led the team in goals with five and has committed to Appalachian State University.

Midfielder Sydney Schutzman (5 goals, 3 assists) is back, along with all-Section defender Anna Troutman and midfielder Kate Friday (5 goals).

Sophomore defenders Maya DiPasquale and Bella Urso will also be heavily counted on.

Assistant coaches will be Jessica Wilson and part-timer Alexis Schwatz.

The program has won 18 section titles and a 1985 WPIAL title.

Shady Side Academy

The challenge for coach Mary Lynch is to navigate through a bunch of injuries in the early going.

The Bulldogs, coming off a Class 2A semifinal playoff appearance and a streak of 13 consecutive WPIAL playoff berths, will be missing some key contributors.

“We graduated a large senior class, and we only have five returning starters,” said coach Mary Lynch. “Plus, we’ve got three players out with ACL injuries. Two of returning starters injured their knees in the spring and we had a third senior in our scrimmage.”

Caroline Liptak, a junior, is hoping to make it back toward the end of the season if her recovery remains on schedule. But seniors Maila Davis and Natalia McMahon are gone for the season, though they will remain team captains.

“We just hope we can stay healthy now,” Lynch said.

Last year, Shady Side went 9-0-1 in section play and 12-3-1 overall with two of the losses coming in the semifinals to North Catholic and the PIAA qualifier game against Southmoreland.

After playing in a section consisting of many geographic rivals such as Deer Lakes and Freeport, Shady Side has been moved to Section 4-2A with the likes of McGuffey, South Park, Keystone Oaks, Brownsville and West Mifflin. The school plays up in classification.

For instance, Deer Lakes is just 10 miles from Shady Side Academy; Brownsville is 53 miles away and McGuffey is 48 miles away.

Said Lynch: “Every year, familiar teams can certainly look different, but you get a sense from one year to the next with their systems of play. There will be a little bit of a learning curve facing new section teams. We’ve faced a few of these new teams in playoffs. It’ll be a change of past years.”

Freshman goalkeeper Cayah Leavy will be the Bulldogs starter.

Also being counted on will be a strong sophomore group that includes Lucille McCargo at center mid, Cooper Danforth, Ainsley Chu, senior captain Morgan Golden and junior Sadie Navid, an all-section player from last season. Senior Bree Murphy will also serve as a team captain.

Lynch will be assisted by coach Leah Powers and goalie coach Jerry Hare.

Shady Side won WPIAL titles in 2010, ’13, ’16 and ’19 and the PIAA crown in 2017.

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