Jump in classification doesn’t slow Shady Side Academy girls soccer

Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 11:01 AM

In the past four years, the Shady Side Academy girls soccer team has solidified itself as one of the best teams in Class A.

They won two WPIAL titles and one PIAA title, made three PIAA finals appearances and won 70 games. They turned in their best season last year with a record of 20-2, a WPIAL title and a PIAA runner-up finish. But every now and then, programs need new challenges, and Shady Side got theirs in a bump up to Class 2A.

In just their first season of playing in a higher classification, coach Mary Lynch and her team have accepted the challenge head on.

“Our one worry was just staying healthy, especially with the condensed schedule and a certain amount of games in a short period of time,” Lynch said. “But knock on wood, we’ve managed to do OK with that, but we were just hoping to be competitive in the larger section.

“We’ve played a lot of these teams in the past as nonsection games and we’ve been competitive. I think the girls were just looking forward to the change and the new challenge, and they’ve really done a great job of rising to the occasion.”

Through six games, Shady Side Academy was undefeated, outscoring their opponents 31-7, but it didn’t start off as quick as the rest of the section.

Before fall sports started, Shady Side Academy decided to delay the start of its season. While most teams started the week of Sept. 14, Shady Side didn’t open until Sept. 26, almost two weeks later. But, they were also in a better position than most.

Lynch returned almost her entire team from a year ago, only losing three seniors. Even though they got a late start, it didn’t take too long to get going. They started of the season with a 7-3 victory over Deer Lakes.

“The fact that we had such a large group with so much experience and they have experience playing together, it really worked out in our favor this season,” Lynch said.

Senior midfielder Melissa Riggins is back for another year, and she has been playing a big role once again. She has scored 10 goals through six games, and Gabby Hill-­Junke has contributed seven goals.

“We have a lot of starters who have returned from last year’s team, but we also have a few players who are contributing right away as freshman,” Lynch said. “So, it’s been really nice to see for our program.”

Shady Side won five of its first six games by three goals or more and beat Deer Lakes, 9-3, in the second matchup of the season. It was their second matchup with Burrell that gave them a confidence boost.

The Bucs captured the section title last year with an undefeated record, and, during the first matchup of the year, Shady Side came away with a 3-0 victory. The second meeting was a little more challenging.

“(Burrell) came out and played a really strong first half, and our girls just came out and responded,” Lynch said of the 2-1 win. “They played a really great second half and possessed the ball very well. So I think that win gave us a lot of confidence moving forward.”

With the playoffs coming up, Shady Side is hoping to reach its peak at just the right time.

“We just have really been focusing on taking it one game at a time and trying to continue to possess and play our game,” Lynch said. “We just want to improve and play together every time we step out onto the field.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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