Sewickley Academy girls soccer makes playoffs with young roster, looks to bright future

Sunday, November 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The Sewickley Academy girls soccer team landed in the WPIAL playoffs once again in 2023.

Coached by Dale Giovengo, Sewickley posted a 6-4 record in Section 3-A to end up third behind Freedom (10-0) and Eden Christian (7-3). The Panthers received the No. 11 seed for the postseason.

“I am very proud of the team’s performance this year,” Giovengo said. “From last year’s team we graduated six starters, so we had a very young group. For most of the girls, it was their first experience at the high school level plus they were playing against older girls. That said, we improved our section record, scored more goals and gave up less versus last year.

“Last year we made the playoffs and did so again this year. I believe we could have made a run. Unfortunately, the team was without four starting players for the first-round game.”

Riverside (4-6), Mohawk (2-8) and South Side Beaver (1-9) rounded out the section standings.

“This season held unexpected obstacles,” said Mary Double, Giovengo’s assistant. “Despite everything, every player kept their heads up and continued to give exceptional effort during every practice and game. There were obstacles that could have brought the team down, but the girls continuously pushed each other to perform their best and keep positive mindsets on and off the field.

“The freshmen gained experience and the entire team gained the confidence and skills needed to develop and prepare for the next season. We will certainly be tough competition next year. This season was a building season for the Panthers and we cannot wait to get back on the field.”

Sewickley won four of its first six regular-season games and three of its final five before losing to sixth-seeded Springdale, 10-0, in the first round of the playoffs.

The Panthers outscored the opposition 67-43 in the regular season and section opponents by a 46-25 difference. One of the season highlights was a three-game stretch against Bishop Canevin, Riverside and Mohawk when SA won by 12-0, 9-0 and 10-0 scores.

Katherine Varghese, a junior forward, was the team’s leading scorer with 25 goals.

“I think overall, I was content with our team’s performance throughout the season,” Varghese said. “As a young team, we adjusted well, and I was extremely impressed with the effort our younger players put in.

“I think we faced some heavy setbacks in our playoff match between crucial players facing injuries and unfortunate red cards. I was proud to see some of the underclassmen step up and adjust as they played new positions in a high-pressure game. I look forward to next year as we will continue to grow and improve as a unit.”

Behind co-captains and team leaders Libby Eannarino, the only senior on the squad, Quincy Sirko, a junior forward, and Varghese, Sewickley won four games in a row by a whopping 34-2 margin after that 0-2 start.

“They set the tone for practices and games,” Giovengo said, “and often a captain will make a point or take an individual player aside to provide pointers. This is a great asset to a coach, and I encourage it.

“As with all leaders, they each have a different style and personality. They are similar in that they are all driven to win, are very high achieving with fabulous goals, and they have great family support.”

Sewickley’s starting lineup consisted of junior Marie Bigi in goal, sophomores Marin Edmunds and Isabella Ballard and freshmen Josephine Courtney and Olivia Stefanik on defense, Libby Eannarino and sophomore Makenzie Dice at midfield and freshmen Emma Eannarino and Grace Jardini on the wing with Varghese and Sirko at forward.

“Going into the next season, expectations are for the girls to maintain their fitness efforts and activity leading up to the preseason,” Double said. “This allows more time to be spent on technical skills rather than conditioning.

“The team will be similar to this season, except for one senior. This will allow us to pick up where we left off and continue to build and improve skills.”

Varghese, an all-WPIAL selection, had a career-best five-goal performance against South Side this season.

“I am extremely proud of how our team developed throughout the season,” she said earlier in the year. “It has been so great to see the young players step up, hustle and contribute with positive attitudes and a willingness to learn.

“We were a little worried coming into the season as we’d lost six seniors from last year. There were some big shoes to fill. As soon as we saw the potential and athletic talent in some of our freshmen, we knew that these young players would be crucial to our success.”

Sirko also netted a hat trick against South Side. Libby Eannarino had a hat trick against Ambridge.

“I was apprehensive early in the season since there would be such significant changes to our lineup,” Sirko said. “I was concerned with the dynamic of the team as well. However, as a new and very young team, we’ve developed great chemistry and understanding of one another.”

Rounding out the SA squad were junior goalkeeper Jade Rychel, sophomores Herlynn Niepa and Raneem Wahdan and freshmen Nalani Brayley, Sophia Khan and Bella Menzock.

“The goal is for each (team member) is to become a better player and have an enjoyable experience,” Giovengo said.

Sirko (15 goals), Libby Eannarino (13 goals), Varghese, who scored 14 goals as a sophomore and five as a freshman, and Bigi were voted onto the all-section team.

“This was Marie’s first year as goalie and she was fantastic,” Giovengo said. “I love the team’s future. They should be very competitive next year. It is a gritty, skilled group that enjoys playing together.”


More High School Soccer Girls

Freeport’s Camryn Woods values experience with U.S. ODP national team
Upper St. Clair’s Sierra Dupre called up to U.S. national team for international soccer tournament
New coach brings energy, ‘tough love’ to Norwin girls soccer program
Norwin girls soccer coach steps down
Former Pine-Richland girls soccer coach breaks new ground with Pa. hall of fame induction