Ranallo, Maksin set to guide Thomas Jefferson girls soccer into ’18 season

Saturday, August 25, 2018 | 12:54 AM

Thomas Jefferson’s girls soccer team is brimming with talent.

And two top athletes in the program, Dalaney Ranallo and Mia Maksin, will lead the way in 2018.

Last season, the Jaguars posted their best regular-season record — 15-3 — in recent memory. It was the second-best mark since the start of the new millennium; TJ posted a 19-2 regular-season record in 2000.

“Our expectations haven’t changed from last season,” said Jason Vozar, the Jaguars’ second-year coach. “TJ hasn’t won a section title (in girls soccer) since 2000. That’s our goal. That’s what we are focused on at this point.

“I feel at this early point in the process, our biggest strength is our captain leadership. Dalaney and Mia are our captains. They run the show on and off of the field. Both really push the girls to produce at a high level every day. They both possess the ability to lead in a positive way, while at the same time expecting the best from their teammates. Their work rate in training is amazing. Many of our younger girls learn just by watching them practice.”

Ranallo is a junior midfielder who also served as a team captain in 2017. Maksin, a junior defender, is making her debut as a team captain this season.

Ranallo, who recently made a verbal commitment to Old Dominion, led the team in scoring a year ago. She and Maksin are two of six returning starters on the squad.

The four others are Bella Sestito, a senior forward; Ava Lutz, a sophomore midfielder; Demi Kondos, a junior defender; and Bailey Keck, a junior goalkeeper.

They are joined by, among other players, senior defender Madison McGrew; juniors Alaina Mulvihill (defense), Jordan Crawford (midfielder) and Allison Weidmann (forward); and sophomores Alyssa Polakovic (defense), Emily Kane (midfielder), Kacie Karcher (defense) and Maddison Sippey (goalkeeper).

Top freshman prospects include forward Mya Greshner and midfielders Hailey Krawczyk and Ashley Sokol.

“Fifteen of our 26 girls play academy or classic soccer year-round at programs, including Pittsburgh Riverhounds RDA, Century United, Beadling and Pittsburgh Football Club,” Vozar said. “The technical ability of our players is improving every season, partially due to the fact that these girls are getting quality and competent coaching at their academy and classic clubs.

“Our girls worked very hard in the offseason on fitness. I would say that 90 percent were match-fit before training camp began. It allows us to work on other areas of the game in training. We work on every aspect of the game in the preseason.”

Thomas Jefferson tied for second with Chartiers Valley in Section 3-AAA last year behind South Park (13-1). The Jaguars were ranked consistently in the top five by the Tribune-Review.

TJ outscored the opposition 67-27 during the regular season, and averaged 3.7 goals per game.

Interest in the girls soccer program at TJ has grown to the point that for the first time in more than a decade the Jaguars will field a junior varsity team, coached by Dan Driskill.

“We are thrilled to have a JV team this year,” Vozar said. “Dan is a former all-state player at East Allegheny and brings a wealth of soccer knowledge to the program.

“I believe that having some of our younger girls playing in 12 to 14 junior varsity games will only help develop our program.

“Our local youth soccer organization, Jaguars United, has really done a fine job creating interest in girls soccer the last few years.”

TJ has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for four consecutive seasons. The Jaguars edged Elizabeth Forward, 3-2, and lost to South Park, 5-0, in last year’s playoffs.

The TJ girls will open the 2018 season Sept. 1 in the Avonworth tournament, and will play Bethel Park in the first round.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.


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