WPIAL champ Owen Christopher of Norwin claims TribLive Westmoreland boys soccer player of year award

Saturday, November 25, 2023 | 5:00 PM

Player of the Year

Owen Christopher

Sr., Midfielder, Norwin

Call him the cornerstone, the building block, the pillar.

Whatever the case, Owen Christopher held the Norwin boys soccer team up as the Knights made history.

Norwin’s world was more interesting with Christopher in it. The Knights won their first WPIAL championship with Christopher holding down the midfield, directing traffic and steering fruitful possessions. Norwin (17-6) also reached the PIAA Class 4A semifinals for the first time.

For his efforts, Christopher is the TribLive Westmoreland Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Jeannette’s Jordan Taylor, Trevor Kovatch of Belle Vernon and Anthony Scalise of Norwin also received consideration.

While those gifted players had indelible seasons, they did not bring the all-around game that Christopher did.

Norwin bounced through the playoffs like it was destined to win, taking three games in penalty kicks, including one over WPIAL top seed and playoff antagonist Seneca Valley in the quarterfinals as the No. 8 seed.

Christopher scored in shootout wins against Seneca Valley, North Allegheny in the WPIAL title game and Abington in the PIAA quarterfinals.

He finished with 13 goals and five assists.

And, as coach Scott Schuchert listed among his final stats, “1 WPIAL championship.”

“We (the seniors) had talked about winning a WPIAL championship together for years,” Christopher said. “For it to come true, and in such dramatic fashion, felt like a dream. It’s surreal to me that we were the first to ever do it. We hit some road blocks in the regular season, but we jelled at the right time.”

Christopher was an all-section, All-WPIAL and all-state selection. He also made the WPIAL Class 4A all-star game.

“It would’ve been very easy for us to get complacent after upsetting Seneca Valley, but we worked even harder after that quarterfinal victory because we felt that we were now the team to beat,” Christopher said.

“Going out of the state tournament in the way that we did really stung, but the drama with the uniforms and the ball boys doesn’t take away from the fact that we just didn’t play our best soccer.”

Schuchert said Christopher and Scalise solidified their place among the best players in Norwin history.

“Their dynamic partnership is inseparable,” the coach said. “Off the field, two of the most likable people and amazing young men. On the field, their performance reminded me of gladiators, captivating the crowd with their talent and determination. Together, they achieved numerous victories that resonated with the entire community.”

Christopher wants this benchmark season to have a lasting effect on the team.

“Hopefully, we gave all future Knights something to look up to and look forward to,” Christopher said. “That is by far the most important thing for me.”

First team

Roman Agostoni

Jr., F, Latrobe

Leading goal scorer for the Wildcats, who set a school record with 12 wins and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2020. … All-WPIAL player finished with 17 goals and 12 assists.

Joey Bayne

Jr., MF, Franklin Regional

Used his speed and control to keep possessions going while providing another scoring weapon for the Panthers. … All-WPIAL selection scored 14 goals and had 10 assists.

Danny Christafano

Jr., F, Franklin Regional

A constant scoring threat on top of the formation, Christafano scored 15 goals and dished 11 assists to the Panthers and earned all-WPIAL Class 3A honors. … Helped 11th-seeded Franklin Regional reach WPIAL semifinals.

Daniel Maddock

Jr., F, Norwin

Led the WPIAL Class 4A champion Knights with 23 goals and added 10 assists. … Had three goals in the playoffs as Norwin reached the state semifinals.

Taylor Kovatch

Jr., F, Belle Vernon

Second-leading goal scorer in the WPIAL with 49. … Was an all-WPIAL selection and the Section 3-2A player of the year. … Has 199 points and 86 goals for his career.

Luke Rivardo

Sr., MF, Mt. Pleasant

An all-WPIAL Class 2A selection, Rivardo has been one of the top goal scorers in the area for much of his career. … Finished with 19 goals and nine assists, while tallying 61 careers goals and 28 assists.

Anthony Scalise

Sr., GK, Norwin

A brick wall during a brilliant playoff surge, Scalise was a vital piece to the Knights’ championship puzzle. … An all-WPIAL selection despite missing five games due to injury, he posted 10 shutouts and won three shootouts in the playoffs.

Jordan Taylor

Sr., F, Jeannette

Led WPIAL with 54 goals and garnered all-WPIAL, all-state and WPIAL 2A Player of the Year accolades. … A three-time all-WPIAL pick. … Finished his career third on the WPIAL’s all-time goals list with 162.

Austin Ulery

Sr., MF, Mt. Pleasant

A dangerous scoring threat from the perimeter with his range, Ulery had 10 goals and three assists for the Vikings, a playoff team. … Named to the All-WPIAL Class 2A list.

Jackson Vacanti

Jr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic

High-energy player in the Centurions’ attack scored 15 goals and delivered six assists as GCC returned to WPIAL playoffs. … Had highlight-reel goal against Ligonier Valley.

Second team

Warren Agostoni, Fr., MF, Latrobe

Collin Barner, Jr., MF, Yough

Ben Bigi, Jr., F, Latrobe

Dylan Moyer, Jr., D, Norwin

George Bunovich, Jr., D, Norwin

Braden Crowe, So., MF, Hempfield

Austin Emery, Sr., MF, Jeannette

Dom Kaforey, Sr., D, Franklin Regional

Ben Luchs, Jr., MF, Penn-Trafford

Brandon Yeschenko, Jr., MF, Belle Vernon

Mason Yeschenko, Jr., D, Belle Vernon

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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