Thomas Jefferson soccer teams looking to make playoff noise

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Sunday, September 26, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Thomas Jefferson ended up third in Section 3-3A boys soccer last year behind co-champs Belle Vernon and Trinity.

The Jaguars are prepared to leapfrog over both opponents this season.

“I believe we have the ability to compete for a section title,” coach Michael “Doc” Kulish said. ” We are a senior-laden team with a lot of players with varsity experience.”

The veteran field boss wasn’t joking.

There are 13 seniors on this year’s squad, led by eight returning starters: midfielders Marshall Richter, Michael Ngugi and Aiden Mohideen, forwards Jordan Chipprich and Luke Giger, defenders A.J. Getsy and Billy Marshall and goalkeeper Alex Day.

Richter was back at TJ after playing one season with Cincinnati Academy. He was an All-WPIAL and all-section selection as a sophomore.

“Anytime you have a player like Marshall Richter coming back, it’s only going to make our team better,” Kulish said. “He came into camp physically stronger and in great shape. He’s always had a high soccer IQ.”

Unfortunately, Richter suffered a season-ending injury in TJ’s scrimmage with Canon-McMillan.

Robbie Shoemaker, a junior defender, also is a returning starter for the Jaguars.

Richter, Ngugi, Chipprich, Giger, Getsy and Shoemaker are co-captains.

“The nice thing this year is a majority of our players are upperclassmen with a lot of varsity experience,” Kulish said. “We do not need to rely on just one player. We have four or five capable of scoring 10 or 15 goals.

“We are a well-balanced team, and if we play together as a team and up to our ability level, we should make some noise in both our section and in the playoffs.”

The senior class also is represented on the squad by midfielders Rahim Chimbelu and Ian Karel, defenders Dan Bonacchi and Tyler Speicher and goalie Evan Savikas.

Along with Shoemaker, midfielders Andre Bekavac and Jacob Christian, forward Aidan Stella and defender Dan Fitzgerald are juniors.

Top sophomore prospects include midfielder Anthony Orlando, forwards Nathan Powell and Ray Schrello, and defenders Robert Kisner and Sean Shimko.

“These five sophomores give us great depth,” Kulish said.

After eight games, TJ had racked up a 6-1-1 record and was 3-1-1 in the section behind Belle Vernon and Laurel Highlands.

Ngugi led in scoring with eight goals and six assists, and was complemented by Chipprich (6-5), Orlando (6-4) and Giger (4-2).

“Anthony Orlando, who played football last year, has been a pleasant surprise,” Kulish said. “He is an excellent athlete. His skills have improved throughout the preseason camp and during the early season. He will be a contributing positive factor to our team throughout the remainder of the season.”

The Jaguars allowed eight goals in their first eight games and posted three shutouts.

“A.J. Getsy has proven to be an outstanding defender,” Kulish said, “along with both of our senior goalies, Alex Day and Evan Savikas.”

TJ finished at 11-5-1 last year after losing to Moon, 3-0, in the first round of the playoffs. The Jaguars have been a postseason participant seven years in a row.

Kulish is assisted again by his son, Michael, along with Rob Schoemaker and volunteer Brian Thatcher.

TJ graduates playing soccer at the next level include Justin Finnegan (Geneva), Jack Sella (Bethany), A.J. Meshanko (Cal Pa.) and Owen Richter (Pitt-Greensburg).

Sella and Giger led the Jaguars in goals scored last year with 15 apiece. Chipprich led in assists.

TJ girls bolstered by returnees

The Thomas Jefferson girls soccer team finished 14-3-1 a year ago and was a WPIAL quarterfinalist.

The Jaguars are hoping for an even better showing this season thanks in part to a large group of returning letter winners on the squad.

So far, so good.

After two weeks of the season, TJ was 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Section 3-3A . The Jaguars rebounded from a tough 1-0 loss to Plum by blasting Woodland Hills (11-1), Obama Academy (11-0) and Brashear (10-0) in section play.

“We started out getting thrown to the wolves,” coach Sean Richter said. “We had scrimmages with Belle Vernon and Canon-Mac then played USC and Plum in our first two first games. We were in both games and had chances to win; we can play with them. I know we can run with the big dogs.”

Richter expected and is receiving solid contributions from the likes of senior defenders Elana Kondos and Bella Blosl, senior midfielder Hailey Krawczyk, juniors Emma Martinis (F), Olivia Supp (MF), Jordan Sinclair (D) and Bella Vozar (D) and sophomores Natalie Lamenza (F), Abby Ngugi (D) and Cordie Wemyss (GK), among others.

“We only graduated three seniors, so we have a lot of girls who have varsity experience and have played together,” Richter said. “A lot of girls saw a lot of minutes last season. We are still a young team, but we have depth and quality in our underclassmen.”

Top freshmen this year include Olivia Della Lucia at midfield and forwards Ashlynn Fry and Aislin Majoris.

Senior Graci Fairman, who will be a fourth-year starter in basketball, joined the soccer squad as a goalkeeper/defender.

Other players looking to make contributions include Thandar Lin and Ashley Sukal, both senior midfielders, and juniors Abby Atkinson (MF), Camryn Gore (F), Morgan Allan (D), Courtney Laing (D) and Delaney Concannon (GK).

“We want to make a run at the top of the section,” Richter said. “The girls have been working hard since January. We have been organized in the back very well. We need to capitalize on our scoring opportunities. Hopefully, we peak at the right time.”

Two of the team’s leading scorers early on were Della Lucia and Lamenza with five goals apiece.

“We are a young team. We’re getting good minutes out of some of our freshmen. It is a good sign having freshman impact,” Richter said. “The addition of Bella Vozar has organized and cleaned up our back line, and Jordan Sinclair has been very good in the middle keeping the play going forward.”

TJ was the Section 3-3A runner-up last year with a 10-2 record, finishing behind only Plum (12-0), a WPIAL finalist.

The TJ girls logged 10 shutouts in 2020 and outscored the opposition by a 71-17 margin.

Through seven games this season, TJ held a 39-4 scoring advantage with three shutouts.

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