Playoff win, 2nd-half surge highlight Quaker Valley girls soccer season

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Sunday, November 21, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Quaker Valley strung together a winning record in the second half of the girls soccer season.

The QV girls blanked Ambridge and Riverside at the end of September en route to a 5-4-1 mark that included five shutouts down the season’s home stretch.

The Quakers achieved their season-long goal of qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs, landing the 13th seed in Class 2A.

QV edged No. 4 Elizabeth Forward, 2-1, in overtime in the first round then lost to No. 5 Shady Side Academy, 1-0.

“Any coach or player hopes to succeed and progress in the playoffs,” said Maggie Behun, QV’s co-coach with Rachel Loudermilk. “We knew we were underrated because we play in such a tough section, which worked in our favor. We won our first game, which many people didn’t expect. We were able to pull off a first-round win. The girls looked great and cohesive.”

Behun and Loudermilk were particularly proud of the team’s first-round effort. The Quakers pummeled EF with 26 shots on goal.

“We went down to EF, 1-0, but we knew our girls were controlling the game,” Behun said. “At halftime, we stressed to the girls that they just needed to shoot the ball. Don’t wait for the perfect shot. Shoot. Nora Johns did just that and put in our first goal to tie the game.

“Going into overtime, we were confident but also aware that one mistake could be the end. The girls came out strong and got it done early. A bouncing ball in the box was flicked on by Clare Elste with Nikita Venkatasamy blasting it into the corner past the keeper. Those are the moments you live for. Every girl on the team will remember that moment for the rest of their lives.”

Quaker Valley ended up 4-5-1 in Section 1-2A, good for fourth place behind North Catholic (9-1), Avonworth (8-1-1) and Beaver (6-4), and finished 7-9-2 overall. The QV coaches believe the team displayed weekly improvement.

“Our record doesn’t really speak to the talent and effort our girls put forth this season,” Loudermilk said. “We were competitive in every game, which is promising. There were several games this season that we dominated but didn’t execute. We won the games we had to, but as coaches and as a team, we would like to win some of the games we aren’t expected to. That is what we feel will really progress the program and elevate our players.

“Our biggest loss was 3-0 to (WPIAL champion) Avonworth, and they will probably go on to be state champion. The second time we played them, we were ready and held them to 0-0.

Quaker Valley’s soccer teams sat out the postseason in 2020 because of coronavirus protocols. The QV girls had advanced to the playoffs in each of the four previous years.

The Quakers’ starting lineup this season included senior co-captains Chase Kriebel (forward), Eleanor Burns (midfielder), Anna Licasto (midfielder/defender) and Clare Elste (defender); junior midfielders Nikita Venkatasamy, Keira Currier, Tia Pethel and Nora Johns; sophomore defenders Mia Strelec and Megan Campbell; plus freshmen Anna Hanley (F/M) and Mia Modrovich (M).

Junior Anjo Pagbeleguem was the starter at the goalkeeper position. She allowed only 15 goals and posted eight shutouts.

Two of the team’s reserves were Bella Benge (M/F) and Zea Juarez-Safran (F), both seniors.

Kriebel wrapped up the regular season as the team’s leading goal scorer, as the QV girls secured a 22-15 overall scoring advantage.

“I am very proud and happy with our team’s performance this year,” Kriebel said. “We proved our potential to many other teams and to ourselves. The environment our new co-head coaches and assistants have created is different from previous years. We all learned how to play together. I’m proud of every player on my team. We knew when we needed to be tough and when to step things up. I want to give a huge shout-out to our coaches for making us tough.”

“I am sad to leave this group of girls. I think we all got close this year and created a great chemistry with each other that wasn’t there in previous years.”

QV should be well-stocked with talented and experience players next season thanks to 10 returning starters.

“The girls were truly a team this year, and it showed in the way they played on the field,” Behun said. “The team spirit was stronger than ever, and the transparency between coaches and players to better develop as a team helped tremendously. Accountability and playing as a unit were huge parts of our success this year.

“Next year will be about not just controlling the game but putting the ball in the back of the net and capitalizing on opportunities. We are losing four (senior) starters. As coaches, it is always hard to lose starting players and say good-bye to your seniors. But we are confident the girls who have been working hard to earn varsity minutes will be ready to step up and fill those starting roles.”

Hanley and Modrovich are two of the younger players expected to have bigger roles on the team next season.

“It is always nice when you have freshmen come in and immediately impact the team,” Loudermilk said. “We found that in Mia Modrovich and Anna Hanley. It’s exciting because you know you have three more years with them.

“We also have players who have developed through the program and made an impact, such as Morgan Persuit and Shannon Von Kaenel. It is fun to have them as freshmen on the JV team and watch them progress and earn time on the varsity team.”

Finally, both first-year co-head coaches look forward working together at QV in the near and distant future.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Behun said. “We complement each other, have similar philosophies and are passionate about this team. We look forward to co-coaching for many seasons to come.

“It’s funny because we often get asked how it’s going and people seem to be waiting for a negative response. We couldn’t be happier and more proud to be doing this together.”

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