Top-ranked South Park girls soccer hoping to find championship success

Tuesday, September 25, 2018 | 8:42 PM

The last two seasons, the South Park girls soccer program challenged itself by moving up in classification to Class 3A.

The Eagles, who went 34-7-4 in the last two campaigns, finished third in the WPIAL both seasons and also lost a PIAA first-round game each year.

This season, the Eagles moved back down to Class 2A and have won nine straight games after dropping their opening match, 2-1, against Mercyhurst Prep at the South Hills Classic on Aug. 31.

“We’re in the middle of double-A with our numbers, but we had the talent to play up in triple-A so we played up in triple-A for two years. I think having that experience playing against bigger schools and getting to where we did last year gave us a confidence boosts,” coach Shelly Thropp said.

“Hopefully, when we get to the playoffs this year, we can use some of that confidence to help us get over the hump from the semifinals and get to the finals.”

The Class 2A No. 1 Eagles (9-1, 7-0) have been led by junior forward Haleigh Finale, who has 15 goals, including a four-goal performance in an 8-0 win over South Allegheny in Section 3 action Monday.

Earlier in the season, Finale recorded a hat trick in a 5-2 win at Brownsville.

Thropp has leaned on her senior leaders to guide the Eagles through the first-half of the season whole players adjust to new positions and lineups. The senior class has been led by midfielder Nicole Clydesdale, midfielder Avery Miklos and defender Cassidy Zandier.

Along with Finale, Grace Albitz has been a strong contributor from the junior class as she has filled in at a midfielder role.

On the back line, the Eagles have freshman Ali Miklos taking over goalkeeping duties for the departed Molly Saylor. Miklos has seven shutouts and has allowed five goals.

“We have three players returning in the back that played last year. They played in front of Molly for three years. They were used to her style and how she played and how she communicated,” Thropp said.

“But on the other hand, Ali is so confident in her own play that the girls in front of her are comfortable with her.”

Thropp was pleased to get an idea of where the Eagles stood early in the season as they faced top competition in the state. Mercyhurst Prep is the defending PIAA Class 2A champion.

The Eagles also defeated Waynesburg, the defending WPIAL Class 2A champion, 3-0. South Park, which won a WPIAL title in 2008, will look for the season sweep when they travel to Waynesburg on Oct. 6.

“They are both strong teams. They both have good players on those teams. It gives us an idea where we can go if we continue to improve,” Thropp said.

“We want to get back to playing in the WPIAL final and winning a WPIAL championship. It has been a long time. The girls have had some success in other sports at South Park in softball and basketball. We really want to get back to that in soccer by winning that WPIAL final.”

South Park will look for the season sweep at Derry at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The Eagles defeated Derry, 5-0, on Sept. 5.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.


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