Soccer trio fighting through injuries highlights signing day
By: Bill Beckner Jr.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 9:15 PM
Signing day marked the onset of a fresh start for a trio of area standouts, all of whom suffered injuries on their way to college soccer.
Forward Anthony Harding was primed for a high-scoring senior year and a playoff run with his Norwin teammates, but a knee injury ended his season early.
Another Norwin senior, midfielder Alyssa Victor, missed most of her senior season after hip surgery.
And Penn-Trafford senior Mackenzie Aunkst, despite playing a full and prosperous soccer season, also tore her ACL during this basketball season.
But it's not all doom and gloom.
Their stories, linked by setbacks, appear to have upbeat endings — or better yet, uplifting next chapters.
All three signed letters of intent to play Division I soccer Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA's regular signing period.
Harding made official his commitment to Penn State. Victor signed with Duquesne and Aunkst with West Virginia.
“Signing with Penn State is only the beginning of my dream of playing professionally,” said Harding, who had 12 goals and 15 assists as a junior. “I'm going to have to dedicate everything I have to the program over these next four years, and I wouldn't want to do it at any other school. I'm excited for the future.”
Victor returned late in the season and became an instant spark, providing timely passes to the speedsters, handling the ball in key possessions and scoring when needed.
She committed to Duquesne as a sophomore. She is another example of a player whose career was reinvigorated.
“Obviously with a few setbacks in the midst of it all, it wasn't how I planned for it to go,” she said. “I learned a lot from having to sit out and it's made me stronger as a player and as a person. Having a setback isn't always a bad thing, as long as a positive outcome comes from it. And it definitely did for me.”
Aunkst, who could not make the all-state banquet in Harrisburg because of her surgery, was a first-rate presence on both ends of the field, generous on offense and disruptive on defense. She had 12 assists and four goals for the Warriors, setting up key scores in the playoffs.
“Signing with WVU is everything to me,” Aunkst said. “They were the only school I wanted, and when they made an offer, the feeling was unreal. The chance to play for a powerhouse program is something I have always dreamed of.
“Obviously the ACL injury is going to be a challenge, but making an immediate impact in Morgantown is still my main goal.”
Aunkst added the WVU coaches have treated her “like family” and have supported her through surgery and the inroads to recovery.
Harding, Victor and Aunkst were part of a banner day for Westmoreland soccer as 10 local players signed with Division I schools.
They included three more Norwin players: forwards Emily Harrigan (Rutgers) and Lexy Kendro (Duquesne), and goalkeeper Sam Wexell (Ohio), who formed the all-state nucleus of a Knights team that went 21-2-1.
Harrigan, an All-American and two-time Tribune-Review Player of the Year, scored 26 goals to give her a school-record 93 for her career. Kendro had 29 goals and 19 assists, and Wexell posted 16 shutouts in 24 games and finished with 53 career shutouts, third-most in WPIAL history.
The high-scoring Penn-Trafford duo of Hannah Nguyen (Duquesne) and Lauren Stovar (Army West Point) also signed.
Nguyen led the WPIAL Class 4A champion Warriors with 21 goals and 23 assists. She had exactly as many career goals and assists (54). Stovar had 15 goals and 10 assists.
Greensburg Central Catholic forward Sydney Ward, who helped lead the Centurions to a WPIAL Class A title, signed with Akron. She had 17 goals and 10 assists this season.
Penn-Trafford All-WPIAL senior Austin Kreutzberger, who had nine goals (46 career), signed with Radford.
Franklin Regional senior midfielder Sophia Hudson signed with Lafayette.
Local D-II signees Wednesday included Norwin's Emily Arnold and Katy Ericson, who signed with Slippery Rock, and Norwin's Julia Scamardi, Mt. Pleasant's Ally Bloom and Penn-Trafford's Brady Tamuta, who signed with Seton Hill.