Seton LaSalle girls soccer moves into playoff mode after dominating section play

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | 7:22 PM


Seton LaSalle’s girls soccer team was nearly flawless against section opponents this season.

The Rebels won their second straight section title with a perfect 12-0 record, posting nine shutouts and allowing just one goal in the other three games.

The Seton girls secured a remarkable 37-3 scoring edge in section play.

“Every match posed different challenges that as a young team a lot of these girls experienced for the first time,” coach T.J. Cherry said. “Our second match against Bishop Canevin was a playoff-type atmosphere that I’m pleased the girls were able to experience.”

Seton LaSalle edged Eden Christian, 1-0, on Oct. 11 to extend its late-season winning streak to seven in a row and its overall record to 12-3.

Senior goalkeeper Gina Mastelle, a third-year starter, has been an integral part of a successful season.

“Our strength is our goalkeeper position,” Cherry said. ”Gina has been awesome. She had 51 saves on 54 shots in section play that included nine clean sheets.”

Mastelle is flanked by a stellar defensive corps led by junior center back Ireland Killen.

“Ireland is the anchor of our back line,” Cherry said, “She’s our leader and speaking captain.”

Killen, who also competes in lacrosse, is joined on defense by freshmen Claire Inanchione, Michelle Defide and Natalie Bulseco.

“I think we have done great,” Killen said. “The team has adapted to the new players and have learned each other’s strengths and styles of play, and vice versa. I am proud of all my teammates and what we have accomplished.”

Rounding out the Rebels’ starting lineup are senior forwards Rebecca Crawford, Marissa Schuckman and Jada Reddy, junior forward Mikaela Small, sophomore midfielder Megan Lyons, and freshmen midfielders Paige Kuisis and Monife Obiri.

“Rebecca is deciding between three colleges for soccer,” Cherry said. “She literally plays all 11 positions. She has 21 saves as a keeper, seven goals and five assists on the field.

“Marissa is looking at playing softball and soccer in college. She already has been offered for softball and she may try both in college.”

Mastelle and Reddy also are planning to continue their careers at the collegiate level.

Other freshman prospects in the program include Dyana Escobar, Kyla Cohagen, Rosalia Dipaolo, Meghan O’Rourke and Nicole Abel.

Cherry is in his second season as Seton’s field boss with two section crowns to his credit. Cherry also guided Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to a section title in 2016.

“My basic philosophy is train hard and play with the mentality that every single ball counts,” he said. “I won’t bore you with all the X’s and O’s, but we try to do a good job of possessing the ball with purpose and defending to make it really tough on our opponents.

“A lot of girls play multiple positions. My system dictates that, for sure.”

Seton LaSalle posted a 9-1-2 section mark last year, advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals and finished 10-5-2.

“We lost seven seniors and nine players overall from last season,” Cherry said. “We have 10 freshmen on the roster this year and four seniors. So we had an expectation of learning while playing and training hard, to learn the system and speed of play.”

Killen, who shares the captaincy with Crawford, Shuckman and Small, believes hard work, solid teamwork and the chemistry helped propel the Rebels to this year’s section championship.

“I will admit, I was a little nervous coming into this season,” she said, “because we had lost seven seniors whom I had been playing with for two years. Luckily, we had a large number of talented freshmen join the team and they are doing amazing.”

Killen has a 4.3 GPA, is a student ambassador and is a member of Junior Achievement and student council.

The WPIAL playoffs are set to begin later this week. The finals will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at Highmark Stadium.

“We’re young. We have started as many as five freshmen,” said Cherry, who is assisted by his wife, Jenn. “I hope we are competitive and a tough out for everyone we play. We’re excited to represent Seton LaSalle.”

Killen hopes the Rebels will continue to play winning soccer in the postseason.

“My expectations are the same as they were for the section games,” she said, “to play with the same passion, perform at our highest level and take it one game at a time. We just want play the game that we all love.”

Kuisis led the squad in scoring through 15 games with 16 goals and 7 assists.

“Paige has been our impact freshman,” Cherry said. “She’s an outstanding player and super student.”

The Rebels’ offense will be bolstered for the playoffs with the return of a healthy Small to the lineup. Small was the team’s second-leading scorer behind Vanessa Peretin last year with 15 goals.

“Mikaela is coming back from injury and is gaining her form,” Cherry said. “She had a high ankle sprain and has been playing through it.

“We’ve had eight girls make the scoresheet this season, so we like to try to move the ball around and have fun.”

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