Yough’s Justine Appolonia chosen Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Soccer Player of the Year

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Saturday, November 30, 2019 | 6:24 PM


Player of the Year

Justine Appolonia

Sr., MF, Yough

When Yough needed a goal, it knew where the ball should go.

Of course, opponents knew who was getting the ball, too.

But stopping Justine Appolonia was the challenge, and very few teams managed to even contain the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer.

Appolonia racked up 118 goals in a stellar, four-year career that she capped with a trip to the WPIAL Class 2A championship game.

Yough finished second to North Catholic but went further than any team in program history.

Appolonia netted 33 goals and delivered 21 assists in her final season before she starts her college career at Youngstown State.

For her efforts, she is the Tribune-Review Westmoreland Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Norwin’s Eva Frankovic and Samantha Nemeth of Greensburg Central Catholic also made the ballot.

Appolonia was an All-WPIAL selection four times. She had 20 goals as a freshman, 34 as a sophomore and 31 as a junior.

And while she was an attacker, she showed her passing ability with 61 career assists.

“Justine has had a huge impact on the program over the past four years,” said her coach and father, Dann Appolonia. “Her goal scoring has been consistent from year to year, (but) her passing skills are just as good as her goal scoring ability. She was being recruited by D-1 schools more for her playmaking ability than her scoring ability.”

Dann Appolonia said his daughter’s best attribute may be her work ethic and consistency.

“She never gives anything less than 100%, and that effort leads the younger players by example,” he said. “I had great senior leadership from all of my seniors this year, and that is hard to replace. I’ve coached some very talented girls at Yough over the past eight years, and Justine is certainly one of them.”

Justine Appolonia took some time for a season-ending Q&A.

What was it like finally getting to the WPIAL championship?

It was truly a blessing. I’ve said since the beginning of freshman year that we would make it the whole way at least once before I graduated, and the whole team started this year with the same mindset. We worked so hard to make our dream come true, and I believe making it to that game was a tribute to the many hours of practice. It’s something that we will never forget.

What made this Yough team the one that finally broke through?

Something just clicked in all of us. The first day of mandatories, we had a little pep talk and we looked at each other and said, “This is our year,” and that confidence motivated and pushed us to improve both individually and as a team.

What was your most memorable goal (or goals) this season?

My 117th goal that beat the school record is one I will never forget because it signified all of my hard work throughout the last four years. With that being said, obviously I will also never forget my last goal I scored against Villa Maria in the first round of states.

How many goals did you think you’d score in your high school career?

Honestly, I never thought about how many I would score. I had no clue what to expect. I know I would never have imagined being the all-time leading scorer.

What does it mean to you to be Yough’s all-time leading goal scorer?

It’s crazy to imagine anyone looking up to me. I believe it is a tribute to every one of my teammates over the last four years as well because I couldn’t have done it without them. We created this legacy together.

Do you feel like the program is better now than it was when you started playing?

I believe we have created a great platform for the future and hope we have encouraged younger girls to begin their own soccer journey.

Who is the most inspirational person in your life?

My parents and three sisters. It’s impossible to just choose one. Each of them has supported and encouraged me in everything I do through this crazy journey that I have lived. I am very thankful and blessed to have them.

Your late uncle was Fred Cox, the former Monongahela, Pitt and Minnesota Vikings standout kicker. How proud are you to be his relative and what do you remember most about him?

I am beyond proud to be his relative. I will never forget how down to earth and humble he was. He had such a remarkable outlook on life that no one else I’ve ever met has. I will always look up to who he was as a person.

Uncle Fred invented the Nerf football. Do you have one and did you ever play catch with him?

Of course I have a Nerf football. It would be crazy not to. I have never actually played catch with him, but he has watched a few of my soccer games.

If you could change one rule in high school soccer, what would it be?

That you have to wear white jerseys to away games and colored jerseys for home games. I believe you should represent your school colors at away games to show off your school pride.

How do you want Yough fans and followers to remember Justine Appolonia?

I don’t necessarily want Yough fans to singularly remember me. I want them to remember the team I was a part of when we made Yough history by making it to the championship. One thing I hope people do remember about me, though, is my love and passion for the sport itself. I hope it encourages other people to do what they love.

Let’s say they’re making a movie about you. What actor should they cast to play you?

It’s hard to pick one because I’ve never really compared myself to anyone else. To make the purest movie about my life, I would have to be the one to act in it to truly share my experiences with everyone.

You win $1 million. What do you buy first?

Most likely celebratory ice cream, preferably Cold Stone.

You have sisters who play or played soccer. Where do the genes come from?

My dad grew up playing soccer, so I would assume our love for the sport were the genes that came from him. But my determination, competitiveness and work ethic come from both my mom and dad.

What was it like playing with your twin, Gianna, also a senior?

It’s always been amazing playing with Gianna. We understand each other more than most people understand themselves. It’s kind of weird in a way. But it was very bittersweet when we realized that we had played our last soccer game together after we lost our states game. I still don’t think it has really clicked for either of us yet.

What are you most looking forward to at Youngstown State?

The coaches at Youngstown State are essentially rebuilding the women’s soccer program. It’s an honor to me for them to believe and trust that I will be a part of turning the program around and helping the team excel.

You are a one-sport athlete, but what other sports are you good at?

I ran track a couple years ago and was very good at it because I run all the time, but was too busy with soccer to continue. I also played basketball for one year and was very good at defending but could not shoot to save my life and would usually end up fouling out towards the end of the game. I’m very competitive, so pretty much any sport you put me in, I will be half-decent because I hate losing so I will give it my all.

All-Stars

Gianna Appolonia, Sr., MF, Yough

All-WPIAL player who played a defensive midfield position and had three goals and eight assists for the WPIAL runners-up.

Lacey Bernick, Jr., MF, Norwin

All-WPIAL performer and Pitt commit scored 16 goals for WPIAL runner-up Knights.

Jillian Butchki, Jr., F, Belle Vernon

All-WPIAL and all-section player scord 38 goals and added 11 assists for the Leopards, who won the Section 2-AAA title.

Eva Frankovic, Sr., D, Norwin

Pitt commit and All-American game nominee made All-WPIAL and scored four goals for WPIAL runner-up.

Megan Giesey, Sr., GK, Penn-Trafford

One of the top keepers in the WPIAL during her career, Giesey started every game since she was a freshman and had 38 career shutouts to go with 57 wins.

Katelyn Kauffman, Jr., F, Norwin

All-WPIAL pick and Pitt recruit scored team-best 23 goals for Knights, who reached WPIAL finals.

MacKenzie Leeder, Jr., MF, Mt. Pleasant

Duquesne commit prides herself on defense, but the All-WPIAL selection shined at midfield with 20 goals and 10 assists.

Sydney Lindeman, So., MF, Franklin Regional

All-WPIAL selection and rising player for the Panthers scored five goals for playoff team.

Samantha Nemeth, Sr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic

IUP commit and All-WPIAL selection led Centurions with 29 goals.

Sarah Nguyen, Sr., MF, Penn-Trafford

Akron recruit who made all-state and All-WPIAL scored 11 goals and dealt out eight assists.

Brenna Springer, Sr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic

All-WPIAL player and Akron recruit played a holding midfield role and scored a goal for the Centurions, who finished as a WPIAL runner-up.

Second team

Amber Biros, Sr., D, Yough

Megan Dietz, Sr., MF, Norwin

Tatum Gretz, So., F, Greensburg CC

Marissa Grubbs, Sr., D, Belle Vernon

Dani Iannuzzo, Sr., MF, Norwin

Malia Kearns, So., MF, Penn-Trafford

Emma Rain, Sr., MF, Penn-Trafford

Victoria Rothrauff, Sr., F, Franklin Regional

Ashleigh VanHorn, Sr., MF, Hempfield

Natalie Vilchek, Sr., F, Yough

Bethany Winnor, So., D, Greensburg CC

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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