Thomas Jefferson soccer teams double up as section champs

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Sunday, October 23, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Back-to-back.

That’s been the theme of the Thomas Jefferson boys soccer season.

The Jaguars won their second consecutive section championship with a near-perfect 13-1 record, fighting off a strong challenge from runner-up Bethel Park (11-3).

“Up to this point, our team has been playing very well,” TJ coach Michael “Doc” Kulish said. “Our defense has been strong throughout the season and our offense is starting to come together and put the ball into the net.

“Our overall team speed is a big strength. Along with our speed, our passing allows us to build up to the attack. Our defense combined with tremendous goalkeeper play has been a strong point of this team throughout the entire season.”

TJ was 16-2 this season and has compiled a 24-2-2 overall record in section competition over the past two years after posting an 11-1-2 mark in league play a year ago.

The Jaguars advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2021 before losing to Plum, 3-0.

“After last year’s success and losing 13 seniors, six or seven of which were starters, we had a lot of question marks as to who would step in a fill the voids lost by graduation,” said Kulish, who has guided TJ to nine section titles. “We had numerous guys step up this year and fill the void offensively, defensively and in the goalkeeping department.

“Our starting lineup has been consistent throughout the season. We also got great contributions from the reserves, as well.”

The Jaguars racked up a 77-12 overall scoring advantage this season and held 15 opponents to one goal or less, including 10 shutouts.

Prior to TJ’s 4-0 win Oct. 18 against Elizabeth Forward, the team’s leading contributors on offense were junior forward Anthony Orlando, with 23 goals and 11 assists, sophomore forward Jake Shoemaker (12 goals, 14 assists), junior midfielder Ray Schrello (11 goals, 2 assists), senior midfielder Andre Bekavac (9 goals, 12 assists) and junior midfielder Sean Shimko (2 goals, 11 assists).

Orlando netted two goals against EF. Shimko and Bekavac added one apiece.

“I think we have played well all season, but especially towards the end,” Bekavac said. “Our team has really come together and gained confidence through every game played. We look to go far this year in the playoffs since we know what we’re capable of.

“The starters have played together since we were little kids, and we all work together great. We plan to play to the best of our abilities and take the rest of the season one game at a time.”

The Jaguars’ defense is led by senior mainstay Robbie Shoemaker, juniors Nate Powell and Robert Kisner and sophomore Logan Shaffer.

“We have completed all of our goals so far this season,” Shoemaker said, “but the job is still not finished. We expected to have a good team since we have been playing together since we were 8 years old. We came into the season with a winning attitude. We plan to have a deep playoff run.”

A pair of freshmen, Cody O’Hare and Sam Wessel, and junior Nick Ditmore have shared the goalkeeping duties.

“We always go into the season with a few goals,” Kulish said. “First, qualify for the playoffs, second, vie for a section championship, and third, compete while in the playoffs to make a deep run to get into the WPIAL championship game.

“So far this year we are able to check off the first two goals.”

The Jaguars took first place in Section 3-3A and were ranked fifth in Class 3A in the Trib HSSN boys soccer rankings. They took a seven-game winning streak into the postseason.

Impact players spark TJ girls

Thomas Jefferson’s girls soccer team also posted a 13-1 record and finished first in section play.

It is the first time in school history that the two TJ soccer teams captured a section title in the same season. The TJ girls compete in Section 2-3A.

“I am very pleased with where we’re at,” coach Sean Richter said. “The girls have responded well to the second half of the season. We have improved, which is what you want to see. A lot of players are impacting.”

Impact players and team leaders for the Jaguars include seniors Bella Vozar and Jordan Sinclair on defense. Junior Natalie Lamenza and seniors Emma Martinis and Olivia Supp have led the attack.

“Bella and Jordan lead our defense. Both have been solid and keep us organized,” Richter said.

A few of the team’s unsung heroes are junior Sierra Frisoli and sophomore Ashlynn Fry on defense and freshman Sami Maglioco at center midfield.

“Sierra and Ashlynn have been lockdown defending the flanks,” Richter said. “They both are adapting well to what we want to do — inserting themselves into the attack.

“Sami is creative, technical and has impacted games for us assisting and scoring goals.”

TJ’s starting lineup for the postseason consists of Vozar, Sinclair, Fry and Frisoli on defense; sophomore Olivia Della Lucia, junior Katie Sukal and Maglioco at midfield; and Lamenza, Martinis and Supp at forward.

Vozar has committed to continuing her career at American University, which competes in the Division I Patriot League.

Senior Abby Atkinson is the Jaguars’ starting goalkeeper. She has terrific stats as all but two opponents were held to one goal or less and 11 were shut out.

“She has been a huge part in our success,” Richter said.

Through Oct. 10, Lamenza led the Jaguars in scoring with 15 goals and two assists and was complemented offensively by Maglioco (9 goals, 7 assists), Supp (8 goals, 1 assist), Martinis (6 goals, 8 assists), Vozar (6 goals) and Della Lucia (3 goals, 7 assists).

“Our senior leadership and young talent are two of our strengths,” Richter said. “And we are faster than we have been in the past. The girls are meshing well and coming together. They are learning how to win.”

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