Pine-Richland coach, players help North United claim regional title

Saturday, July 14, 2018 | 12:45 AM

For a few years now, the U16 North United Rush club girls soccer team has competed in the U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships, held in Fredericksburg, Va.

This year, though, was the year the team had been working toward. After amassing a 5-0 record at the tournament, the North United Rush earned itself the right to be called the Eastern Regional champions. Along with that title, the Pittsburgh-based club team also punched its first ticket to the U.S. Youth National Championships, to be held July 23-29, in Frisco, Texas.

The U16 North United Rush is coached by Pine-Richland varsity coach Jodi Chmielewski and features five Pine-Richland girls soccer players — Megan Donnelly, Katherine Kelly, Katie Rishel, Ally LeDonne and Nell Barton.

“It was really neat to be able to win regionals,” Chmielewski said.

“This is the same group of girls that has been playing together since U9. They started out in our Pine-Richland academy when they were younger, so it’s really been something else to see them grow and develop together over the years.”

According to Chmielewski, each Ram played a crucial role in helping push their team to success.

Kelly, one of the team’s two goalkeepers, helped pitch three straight shutouts in group play, leading her team to a 3-0 mark and a 10-0 goal differential. LeDonne and Rishel also played pivotal roles in the North United Rush’s quick start as the former starts at center back while the latter is a mainstay at outside back.

In the semifinals, the goal-scoring abilities of Donnelly, one of the team’s strikers, and Barton, who provides an extra scoring punch as a reserve at striker and outside back, became more crucial as the Rush edged Northern Steel Storm, 3-2.

Donnelly had a strong showing in the Eastern Regional, as she racked up eight goals in five contests. Only one other player in the entire field of play scored more than five goals.

However, none of Donnelly’s goals were as crucial as the tiebreaker that she scored with eight minutes left in the finals to finish off the team’s victory over SJEB Rush 02 Academy Blue of New Jersey — a team that had beaten the North United Rush in the finals twice before.

“They had some pretty dynamic strikers so they went up 2-0 early on in the game. We were able to cut it down to 2-1 before half, which was huge for us,” Chmielewski said.

“After that, we started defending better, and we were creating more opportunities in the attack. We scored again, and then, with about eight minutes left in the game, Megan scored the game-winner and put us over the top.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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