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Girls Soccer: 2015 North Season Preview

Written by Nicholas Tolomeo on .

Seneca Valley captured the WPIAL Class AAA championship last season and with senior all-WPIAL midfielder Sarah Anderson returning along with senior midfielder Caroline Miller and senior defender Lexus Lambert, a repeat run is not out of the question. The Raiders will have to replace Kelsey O'Connor, another all-WPIAL midfielder, and goalie Jess Neill who was in net for 16 shutouts. The Raiders must also navigate the difficult Section 2-AAA that features North Allegheny and Pine-Richland. The Tigers return senior forward Amanda Miller. Miller was named to the all-WPIAL team after helping lead North Allegheny to the WPIAL playoffs. Junior forward Amanda Kalin led the Rams to the playoffs last year. Fox Chapel returns ten starters from a WPIAL quarterfinal team last year, including all-WPIAL selections Taylor Cohen and Deena Debaldo.

Mars remains the team to beat in Section 2-AA. The Planets have not lost a section contest in four years. They will have to replace Sabrina Edwards, a linchpin in their starting lineup for the past four seasons, but they do have junior forward/midfielder Tori Kopchak, junior goalie Sammy Papik and senior forward Erin Posey. Quaker Valley should challenge for a playoff spot in Class AA with senior forward Moriah Wigley, a 25-goal scorer last season.

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Girls Soccer: 2015 North Players to Watch

Written by Joe Greiner on .

Here are some girls soccer players from the North to keep an eye on this season.

Sarah Anderson, Seneca Valley, Senior, Midfielder
Taylor Cohen, Fox Chapel, Senior, Forward
Deena DeBaldo, Fox Chapel, Junior, Midfielder
Elizabeth Harper, Shady Side Academy, Junior, Forward
Jillian Henley, Springdale, Senior, Midfielder
Casey Hughes, Springdale, Senior, Forward
Amanda Kalin, Pine-Richland, Junior, Forward
Tori Kopchak, Mars, Junior, Forward/Midfielder
Lexus Lambert, Seneca Valley, Senior, Defender
Amanda Miller, North Allegheny, Senior, Forward
Caroline Miller, Seneca Valley, Senior, Midfielder
Kaelyn Oskin, Knoch, Senior, Midfielder
Sammy Papik, Mars, Junior, Goalkeeper
Erin Posey, Mars, Senior, Forward
Moriah Wigley, Quaker Valley, Senior, Forward

 

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Field Hockey: 2015 North Season Preview

Written by Joe Koch on .

When it comes to reputation, both North Allegheny High and Shady Side Academy can be counted on to be at or near the top of the list when it comes to dominance in field hockey on the Class AAA and Class AA levels.

Since the sport was sanctioned by the WPIAL in 1994, these two schools have earned more WPIAL championships than all other schools in their respective divisions.

When North Allegheny blanked section rival Pine-Richland 4-0 for the WPIAL Class AAA championship a year ago, it marked the 13th time the Tigers have hoisted the championship trophy.

Shady Side Academy has had similar success in Class AA, notwithstanding the 1-0 loss to Ellis in last year's title game. The Indians also have won 13 WPIAL titles, and last year's loss prevented what could have been a string of four successive WPIAL titles.

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Field Hockey: 2015 North Players to Watch

Written by Joe Koch on .

Here are some field hockey players from the North to keep an eye on this season.

Meg McCrady, Fox Chapel, Jr.
Abby Pitcairn, Fox Chapel, Soph.
Nicole Susi, Fox Chapel, Sr.
Grace Knepshield, Fox Chapel, Soph.
Paige Ryan, Fox Chapel, Soph.
Katie Norris, Pine-Richland, Jr.
Sammi Pavlecic, Pine-Richland, Jr.
Sarah Metzmaier, Pine-Richland, Soph.
Molly Rottinghaus, Pine-Richland, Soph.
Chalinda Schleicher, Pine-Richland, Jr.

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Boys Cross Country: 2015 North Season Preview

Written by Brittany Goncar on .

North Allegheny will remain the team to beat this year.

The Tigers return from winning their first PIAA Class AAA title since 2010 and their 10th consecutive WPIAL title.

However, the powerhouse will have to rely on their underclassmen to step up after graduating top runners Matt McGoey and Hunter Wharrey. Mike Burchlaw will be the senior representation in the top five this year. He finished 11th at WPIALs and 40th at PIAAs.

Seneca Valley's Mike Kolor returns for another year after placing 23rd at the state meet. Hopefully his experience will push the Raiders onto the WPIAL podium after the team's fifth-place finish last year.

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Girls Cross Country: 2015 North Season Preview

Written by Brittany Goncar on .

North Allegheny finished the 2014 season with a fourth-place finish at the PIAA championships after finishing third at the WPIAL championships.

The Tigers will return senior Madeleine Davison, who finished 40th at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. She also grabbed second place in the WPIAL, third in the state meet and fourth at the regional meet in Van Courtlandt, N.Y.

Davison will easily be the athlete to watch this season as Shaler alum Brianna Schwartz begins her career at the University of Colorado.

Fox Chapel's key runner will be Mary Humphrey. The senior qualified for states the past two years. Her season best last year was a fifth-place finish in 19:06.6 at the Red, White, and Blue Classic.

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Boys Cross Country: 2015 North Runners to Watch

Written by Brittany Goncar on .

Here are some boys cross country runners from the North to keep an eye on this season.

Zach Skolnekovich, Quaker Valley, Jr.
Brandon Grumski, Knoch, Sr.
Nathan Mrdjenovich, Mars, Sr.
John Ejzak, Knoch, Jr.
Max Freyermuth, Knoch, Jr.
Gannon Leech, Shady Side Academy, So.
Connor Colombo, Shady Side Academy, Sr.
Griffin Mackey, Sewickley Academy, Jr.
Colton Fritts, Avonwoth, Sr.
Tyler Wisniewski, Northgate, Sr.
Brendan McGuire, Trinity, Jr.
Riley Lamison, Beaver Area, Sr.
Michael Noethiger, Avonworth, Jr.

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Girls Cross Country: 2015 North Runners to Watch

Written by Brittany Goncar on .

Here are some girls cross country runners from the North to keep an eye on this season.

Madeleine Davison, North Allegheny, Sr.
Rachel Hensler, Seneca Valley, Jr.
Mariah Mack, Seneca Valley, Sr.
Isabelle Biase, Seneca Valley, Jr.
Mary Humphrey, Fox Chapel, Sr.
Ava Pietrzyk, North Hills, Jr.
Emma Sledge, Seneca Valley, Sr.
Hannah Bablak, Quaker Valley, Sr.
Natalie Petini, Mars, Jr.
Mandi Moxie, Knoch, Sr.

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Index to 2015 North Football Previews

Written by Sports Town on .

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Butler 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

Butler is willing to chalk up 2014's 2-7 season to a getting-to-know-you kind of year.

"A lot of what we did last year, the difficulty was installing new systems and acclimating kids to the way you do things, which was a lot different to what they had there before," Butler second-year coach Rob Densmore said. "Now, with the expectations, the kids know that they're going to be held accountable, they know the way we run practice, they know the expectations and the work ethic we require and they've done a great job of living up to those things this year."

Butler finished last season on a five-game losing streak and will have to find a way to turn things around in the Northern Eight Conference, one of the best in the WPIAL. Then again, Densmore knew full well when he took the job just how difficult it would be to turn around a program playing against such stiff competition week after week.

"It's an extremely difficult section. I was the defensive coordinator at Pine-Richland for 15 years and I was part of the section for a while and I knew the teams and opponents," Densmore said. "What we tried to do when I got there was pay attention to the lower levels and make those kids know they're part of a bigger program and help out with the youth leagues. They use our playbooks and terminology when they can so we can get everybody on the same page from the bottom up."

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Fox Chapel 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

Tom Loughran has an impressive coaching pedigree, with a couple of WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles to his credit from his lengthy tenure at South Park.

This season, though, Loughran has moved up a couple of classifications and a few miles north as he takes over a Fox Chapel program that hasn't won a football title since Aspinwall won back-to-back Class A crowns in 1943-44. And the fact he has taken teams to Heinz Field and Hersheypark Stadium before has been an immediate selling point for the Foxes, who haven't won a playoff game since a 35-6 rout of North Allegheny in the 1997 WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals.

"Obviously it's something that's intriguing to them as kids, but the thing is, that's in the past and it's nothing that's going to help us right here, right now," Loughran said. "I know what it takes as far as the preparation and I know what it takes in terms of talent and having good kids to win those types of championships. So from that perceptive, I might have something to fall back on that the average coach doesn't have."

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North Allegheny 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

North Allegheny coach Art Walker is a firm believer that whatever success his team has, it has to start up front.

Of course, it helps when you have a player like Josh Lugg anchoring the offensive line.

Lugg (6-7, 280, Jr., OT), one of the top prospects in the state from the class of 2017, committed to Notre Dame Aug. 14, spurning offers from more than a dozen other schools including Pitt, Penn State and UCLA. But until he heads to college, he'll be a mainstay for the Tigers the next two years, though he'll have another season to be groomed into the undisputed leader of the team's front five.

"We have three seniors up front with Charles Sanders (6-1, 260, C), Nick Burks (6-0, 240, G) and Ryan Jelinek (6-4, 270, T), so Josh does not have to assume that role," Walker said. "Josh is a guy that has tremendous size and ability and now he can worry about just being a full-time starter because the responsibility of being a leader on the offensive line, as far as we're concerned, falls on the seniors."

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North Hills 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

North Hills is up front about the notion that its strength this season will be along the offensive and defensive lines.

After all, those units have several starters returning and will be led by Jacob Buccigrossi (6-4, 280, Sr., T), who in June committed to play collegiately at West Virginia.

What might be a problem for the Indians is developing players at the skill positions to replace several key departures, and it's a process that must occur quickly if they are to make a return trip to the playoffs.

"I think part of that is playing consistently throughout the conference and, secondly, you have to hope you get to the playoffs in a somewhat healthy condition," coach Pat Carey said. "It would be nice if we could have our kids play one way, but we're not the kind of school, size-wise, that has a lot of depth. But the next step for us is to get past the first round and do some damage in the playoffs."

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Pine-Richland 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

It didn't take long before Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz was faced with a dilemma.

Not only does he have to sort through three competitors to take over at quarterback for Ben DiNucci, he has five running backs — Jimmy Graf (6-0, 190, Sr.), Saige Simpson (5-9, 175, Sr.), Jesse Meckler (5-10, 200, Jr.), Jordan Crawford (5-8, 146, Soph.) and Don Bryant (5-7, 180, Sr.) — vying to replace Connor Slomka.

"Running back might be the most hotly contested position we have, and eventually it will sort itself out," Kasperwicz said. "Whether we go with one or whether we go with four, they all have to be ready to compete and they're all really good guys."

With the number of players vying for key skill positions, Pine-Richland might not have enough balls to go around. And the Rams are having a difficult time figuring out if Brandon Ballay (6-1, 170, Sr.), Max DeVinney (6-3, 180, Jr.) or Phil Jurkovec (6-5, 190, Soph.) will be the one distributing them.

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Seneca Valley 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

Dave Vestal had his share of success in his time as head coach at Hopewell.

He compiled a 92-59 record, qualified for the WPIAL playoffs nine times and won the 2002 WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA championships.

One thing he also learned was how to turn around a program after a down year or two, and make it a force to be reckoned with in an ultra-competitive conference. It's also the reason he was hired to revamp a Seneca Valley team that finished 2-7 last season and missed the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs for the first time since 2010.

"It's just the Parkway North to me, and Hopewell was in the Parkway West with great coaches, great traditions and a physical brand of football," Vestal said. "We just have to really worry about ourselves and we're working on relationships and team-building and just being physical up front no matter how we dress it up behind the line."

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Shaler 2015 Football Preview

Written by Keith Barnes on .

It has gotten to the point that Oct. 11, 2011 is like a lifetime ago for the Shaler football team.

That was the night the Titans pulled off a 41-28 victory against visiting Erie McDowell to extend their winning streak to five games and put them in prime position to make the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

It is also the last time Shaler won a game.

Heading into the season, the Titans carry the baggage of a 31-game losing streak, the longest in the WPIAL. When most teams come into a new season with dreams of winning a championship, Shaler does so with the hope of winning a game. Any game.

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Hampton 2015 Football Preview

Written by Ken Wunderley on .

Hampton enters the 2015 season with high hopes as the Talbots claimed their first Greater Allegheny Conference title last season since sharing the crown in 2005. Coach Jacque DeMatteo begins his eighth season with hopes of claiming a fourth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth and a second conference title in a row.

The Talbots posted a 7-1 record in the conference and finished with a 9-2 overall mark after a heartbreaking 21-20 overtime loss to Ringgold in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Quarterback Nick Grabowski graduated, but the Talbots' top two running backs return. Matt Rech (5-11, 175, Sr., RB) ranked second in the conference last year with 1,039 yards and 11 touchdowns on 182 rushing attempts. Nick Worobij (5-11, 190, Sr., OLB-RB) added 385 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries.

"Nick is a hard worker who committed himself over the summer to get ready for his senior year," DeMatteo said. "He's a north-south runner who fights for every yard. We like that about him."

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Knoch 2015 Football Preview

Written by Ken Wunderley on .

Knights coach Mike King doesn't concern himself with what could have been, but no one could blame him if he did.

Two starters from last year's squad — Cole Shinsky and Jordan Geist — have decided to concentrate on another sport. Shinsky, a two-year starter, is one of the best pitchers in the WPIAL and recently accepted a scholarship to Ohio University. Geist is a junior who won PIAA titles in the discus and shot put.

"Cole was a receiver who played quarterback for us the last three or four games," King said. "Jordan was a linebacker. I never want to see a kid pass up an opportunity to play, but I understand and respect their decision. Both are very talented athletes who have a bright future ahead of them."

The Knights tied for fifth place in the Greater Allegheny Conference with a 4-4 record. They finished with a 4-6 record after losing to West Allegheny in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

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Mars 2015 Football Preview

Written by Ken Wunderley on .

Coach Scott Heinauer has led the Planets to 13 playoff appearances in 14 years. The Planets have made seven consecutive postseason appearances since moving up to Class AAA. Mars tied for third place in the Greater Allegheny Conference title last season and finished with a 7-4 record after losing to Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

"Our goal every year is to win the conference," Heinauer said. "But it will not be easy in such a strong conference. Franklin Regional has to be considered the favorite. Gateway, Hampton, Knoch and Indiana also have a good group of kids back. The addition of Armstrong [merger of Kittanning and Ford City] should make the conference even stronger."

Six starters are back on offense, including tailbacks Isaiah Johnson (5-10, 180, Jr., RB-CB) and Eli Brooks (6-0, 190, Sr., RB-DB). Johnson rushed for 506 yards on 82 carries last season. Brooks missed half of the season with injury. Max Chizmar (6-3, 215, Jr., RB-LB) and Nate Rosswog (5-9, 150, Sr., RB) are also in the mix. Rosswog had 223 yards on 35 carries last year.

"We lost three running backs to injuries last season," Heinauer said. "We would have won the conference if it wasn't for the injury to Josh Schultheis. He had 71 in the first quarter of our first game when he got injured."

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Deer Lakes 2015 Football Preview

Written by Brad Everett on .

Steve Sciullo is a former NFL offensive lineman who is in his second season as coach at Deer Lakes. It just so happens that the strength of Sciullo's team appears to be its offensive line. And, boy, it sure is a super-sized one.

Deer Lakes boasts one of the biggest groups of linemen in Class AA. In fact, there probably aren't many Class AAAA teams much bigger. The starters — from left to right — are Brandon Zilavy (6-2, 290, Sr.), Nathan Morrissey (6-2, 290, Sr.), Geoffrey Matthews (6-0, 330, Sr.), Billy Palmiere (5-11, 275, Jr.) and Cody Edwards (6-2, 245, Sr.). Also in the mix are Mark Brenner (6-2, 245, Sr.) and Dan Cervone (5-11, 290, Sr.).

"We have a lot of size, and we have seven linemen with starting experience," Sciullo said.