Gateway girls soccer under new leadership

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Sunday, August 28, 2022 | 9:01 AM


The Gateway girls soccer program experienced transition in the offseason as Kelly Bender stepped down as varsity head coach after six seasons to concentrate on family and professional work changes.

Those at Gateway looking for the new coach ultimately didn’t have to go far to find the person they ended up hiring.

Caleb Kyper, who played at Westminster and has coached at the youth levels in the Monroeville area for a number of years, was brought on board.

From the start, Kyper said he was excited to lead a program with such strong tradition and recent success in qualifying for the playoffs with many talented players leading the way.

“I stepped away from soccer after college for a little bit and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it,” Kyper said.

“Once I had kids, I started coaching them, and I started getting back into it. Then I got more involved with Monroeville youth soccer as a board member and then president for several years. I had been thinking about high school coaching for a couple years. I just wanted to see what opportunities were there. I knew Kelly, and I have coached a lot of the girls on the team at one point or another.

“There is a healthy respect back and forth because we know each other. We’ve grown a lot together over the past couple of months. It helped a lot position-wise and skill-wise as we went into training and now that we are at the start of the season.”

Kyper said there still is a little work to be done in what formations will work best and options the team has against some of the competition it will face in and out of section play.

Gateway finished 10-7-1 overall and 7-4-1 in Section 1-3A last season behind champion Franklin Regional and runner-up Hampton.

The Gators entered the WPIAL playoffs and suffered a 3-0 loss to South Fayette.

A group of seven seniors moved on from last year’s team. That included leading scorer and All-WPIAL performer Addy Green (23 goals).

At the same time, Kyper said he’s excited to have six starters back. That group features All-WPIAL selection Madi Jesih, a senior midfielder, and all-section picks in senior Emily Mannion (midfielder) and junior Jada Settles (goalkeeper).

“We’re really excited for this season,” Jesih said. “All of the seniors have been together since we were really little, so we’re ready to go out and play well for each other and for the team and hopefully make playoffs. We’re going up against some really talented teams. If we play our best soccer, we can really do some great things.”

Other returning starters are senior Danielle Gardner, a 2020 all-section selection, and senior defenders Hallie Grant and Julianna Guido.

Jesih, Mannion, Gardner and Guido are team captains.

Guido is battling through a knee injury suffered in training.

Kyper said that despite the setback, she has remained a positive influence on the team on and off the field.

Others Kyper said who are back and ready to step up their games are junior defender Becca Ryan and sophomore midfielder Hayden Price.

Kyper said he was able to get a good assessment of his team’s development at a home scrimmage with Woodland Hills on Aug. 22.

“With new coaches, new styles of play and some new players working to mesh with the returning girls, it was what we needed to see where we were and what we still needed to work on,” Kyper said.

Gateway also scrimmaged Elizabeth Forward in advance of the start of the season at 2021 WPIAL runner-up and PIAA semifinalist Plum on Monday.

Kyper said section realignment in the offseason gave his Gators players a number of challenges in a path to another WPIAL playoff spot.

In addition to Plum, which is riding a 34-game winning streak in section games, Gateway will face a section schedule with local flair in Franklin Regional, Penn Hills and Penn-Trafford, along with Latrobe and Greensburg Salem.

“With the new, reorganized section, we are competing with some very high-level teams,” Kyper said.

“We feel that we are considered an underdog in most matches and are using that as motivation.

“We fully expect to reach the 3A playoffs with a very solid core group of players, led by an extremely devoted and determined senior class whose work ethic is second to none. Realistically, we believe we can fight for a third- or fourth-place finish in this incredibly competitive section, but we have the confidence we can compete with every school on our schedule.”

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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