South Park girls soccer sets sights on section title, return trip to WPIAL finals

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | 4:14 PM


South Park is the defending section and WPIAL Class AA champion in girls soccer.

The Eagles’ first order of business in 2019 is to clinch a 23rd consecutive section title.

Possession of first place in Section 3-AA will be on the line Wednesday when Yough visits the Eagles for a 7 p.m. matchup.

South Park (8-3, 6-1) and Yough (9-1, 7-1) are locked in a battle for the top spot in the section, followed by Mt. Pleasant (8-3, 5-3) and Brownsville (7-4, 4-4). South Park and Yough were ranked in the top five in Class AA by Trib HSSN.

“Our mentality is always to win section and make it deep into the playoffs,” coach Shelly Thropp said. “But we’ve had a lot of holes to fill from graduation. We also have a few injuries that we are working back into the lineup.

“We had some rough games in the beginning with our injured players out, but things are starting to turn around for us. We had a couple good wins in the last few weeks and we hope to be ready to go in our next round of section play.”

South Park’s starting lineup consists of the tandem of senior Haleigh Finale and sophomore Maya Wertelet at forward; seniors Grace Albitz, Juliana Briggs and Danielle DePrespo, sophomore Nora Ozimek and junior Maddie Raymond at midfield; seniors Maggie Altschaffl and Taylor Glowa and sophomores Lauren Ippolito and Gianna Girol on defense; and sophomore Ali Miklos at the goalkeeper position. Briggs and Raymond also can play defense.

Finale, a fourth-year starter and Robert Morris recruit, discussed some of the team goals for 2019.

“My expectations are to win the section and make it back to Highmark (Stadium),” she said. “We have a lot of returning seniors that serve as great leaders for the rest of the team, and we are very determined to live up to the expectation of getting back to the WPIAL final.

“I expect us to go into all our games with confidence, and I feel we are committed to winning the remainder of our games.”

Albitz, like Finale, is a fourth-year player. She started as a center back as a freshman, then was moved to midfield for her sophomore season.

“We all have the same goal in mind and that is to come out and win our section and then WPIALs,” said Albitz, who plans to continue her career at IUP. ”Our greatest strength is how focused we are to get better each and every day. We all want to succeed and play for each other. By staying focused, we can take each game one at a time and continue to get better.

“A lot of us on the team have been playing soccer together since we were little. Being a senior, this is a special year for us and we are giving it our all. We are definitely ready and excited for the second half of our season.”

The Eagles’ top reserves include freshman forward Amara Battista, freshman midfielders Cassondra O’Connor and Jaycee Lingren and sophomore defender Kierra Moelber.

“Our back line (players), led by Maggie Altschaffl and Taylor Glowa, do not get enough credit for how good they are,” Thropp said. “They are playing with two younger players who are new to the position and they’ve done a nice job of helping them develop through communication and leadership. It’s hard for defenders to get recognized because they aren’t in positions that score goals or save goals.

“Ali Miklos also has really helped us in games recently. She’s really kept scores close for us. She’s only a sophomore and has played in a WPIAL championship and competed deep into the state playoffs last season. She’s getting stronger as a communicator in the back and has also helped in the development of our back line.”

Miklos and the Eagles have achieved three shutouts, outscoring the opposition 20-0 in victories against Brownsville (4-0), Mt. Pleasant (7-0) and South Allegheny (9-0).

Through 10 games, South Park had outscored the opposition by a 50-24 margin.

Thropp, who is in her 19th season at South Park, had a sparkling 332-71-25 career record with the Eagles prior to the 2019 season with five WPIAL crowns, three WPIAL runner-up finishes, one state title and two state runner-up finishes.

The 2018 squad ended up 13-1 in section play and 21-3 overall. Two seniors on the team, defender Cassidy Zandier and midfielder Nicole Clydesdale, are competing at IUP and Pitt-Johnstown this fall.

South Park is looking to make a big splash with a strong playoff run in the second half of this season.

After opening the year with a loss to Mercyhurst Prep, the Eagles captured seven of their next eight games before suffering a 2-1 loss Sept. 28 at Thomas Jefferson.

“Our ability to work together to score goals is one of our strengths,” Thropp said. “We want goals to come from different positions on the field and not just one person. That makes it difficult for other teams to prepare to play us.”

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