Thomas Jefferson soccer teams start season on right foot

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Sunday, September 25, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Thomas Jefferson’s boys soccer team has been near unbeatable in 2022.

The Jaguars racked up wins in eight of their first nine games and stood atop Section 3-3A with a sparkling 6-0 record, two games ahead of Trinity, Connellsville and Bethel Park.

TJ outscored the opposition by a 26-5 overall margin and had accounted for six shutouts.

The Jaguars, who lost 13 seniors to graduation from last year’s playoff squad, are coached once again by Michael “Doc” Kulish, who is in his 30th season as field boss.

“My expectations have remained the same as the previous 29 years,” Kulish said. “First, qualify for the playoffs, contend and compete to win the section, and continue our quest to go deep into the playoffs. With the addition of Bethel Park and Connellsville along with the other teams coming back, we know we will have to be at the top of our game each and every section game.”

Superb goaltending and outstanding defensive tactics have been key components to TJ’s success this season.

A pair of freshmen, Sam Wessel and Cody O’Hare, are the Jaguars’ top goalkeepers.

“Our defense and goalkeepers have been tremendous,” Kulish said. “Sam and Cody are alternating games. They are two superb goalies who continuously push each other in games and practices. (Junior) Nick Ditmore will also see some time in goal, as well.

“We have a tremendous freshmen class led by Cody and Sam, along with (midfielders) Owen Householder and Andrew Callaghan, who are also on the varsity team. Owen and Andrew have seen their playing time increase with each game.

“I knew we were going to be a young team. Our incoming freshmen class has shown great promise.”

Senior Robbie Shoemaker is the bedrock on the Jaguars’ backline that also includes junior Nate Powell and sophomores Logan Schaffer and Robert Kisner.

Andre Bekavac, a senior, helps to solidify the midfield area along with two juniors, Sean Shimko and Ray Schrello, plus sophomore Brayden Miller.

At forward, junior Anthony Orlando, a 10-goal scorer last year, will look to continue finding the back of the net, along with sophomore Jake Shoemaker.

Robbie Shoemaker, Bekavac, Shimko and Orlando are co-captains.

“We also have great depth on this team from seniors Daniel Fitzgerald, Jake Christian and Aidan Stella,” Kulish said, “and junior reserves Nick Ditmore, Talal Kusti and Logan Yecko.”

Sophomores who have received valuable varsity playing time include Bryce Kameg, Dylan Legeza, Kolten Smith and Sujan Pradham.

The Jaguars’ leading scorers through nine games were Orlando (8 goals, 6 assists), Schrello (5 goals, 1 assist), Bekavac (4 goals, 5 assists), Jake Shoemaker (3 goal, 6 assists) and Robbie Shoemaker (3 goals). Shimko, Miller and Householder had one goal apiece.

“Our defense and keepers have a combined six shutouts and five goals against through the first nine games,” Kulish said.

TJ finished with a 16-2-2 record last season including an 11-1-2 section mark. The Jaguars edged South Fayette, 1-0, in the WPIAL first round then lost to Plum, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.

Michael Kulish III is TJ’s assistant varsity/head JV coach. Scott Graham and Rob Shoemaker are assistants.

Lamenza leads TJ girls

Teamwork and talent propelled the TJ girls soccer team to a 6-0 start, including four wins in section play.

“I’m obviously very pleased,” coach Sean Richter said. “I’m in my third season and this is our best start. We have a talented group of young players who can impact, supported by the upperclassmen. We are learning how to win. A big part of that for us is how we are becoming a team.”

The starting lineup consists seniors Olivia Supp (M/D), Emma Martinis (F), Jordan Sinclair (M/D), Bella Vozar (M/D) and Abby Atkinson (GK); juniors Sierra Frisoli (D), Abby Ngugi (F) and Natalie Lamenza (F); sophomores Ashlynn Fry (F) and Olivia Della Lucia (M); and freshman Sami Magliocco (F/M).

“Abby Atkinson was a junior midfielder/forward who committed in the offseason to the transition to keeper going into her senior year,” Richter said. “She trained for this knowing we needed to fill that void. To date, she has four clean sheets and a monster PK save versus Franklin Regional. She has been a huge part in our success.”

Top reserves on this year’s team include sophomores Aislin Majoris (F) and Sylvi Kashak (D), freshman Aubrey Little (F), and juniors Kara Day (M/D), Katie Sukal (M) and Lex Marcinko (D).

Vozar recorded a hat trick while Supp and Lamenza had two goals apiece to lead TJ to an 8-0 victory over Laurel Highlands on Sept. 12 in a battle for first place in Section 2-3A.

Atkinson recorded the shutout.

“We knew if we could bring this team together, we could do some things,” Richter said. “We have a roster of 36. We are growing and getting better each week. We are on pace to compete for the section title, something the program has not seen since, I believe, 2002.

“As a program, you just want to do something. Win something. That would be a great start: to win section, get a good seed and compete well and deep into the playoffs.”

Through seven games, Lamenza led the Jaguars in scoring with seven goals and three assists. Vozar, Supp and Martinis added three goals apiece.

Vozar, Supp, Martinis, Atkinson and Sinclair are serving as co-captains.

Richter’s assistants are Darin Marcinko, Jess Spina and Matt Mutschler.

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