Eleanor Bailey | The Almanac
Upper St. Clair and Canon-McMillan dominated the girls’ soccer scene this season so it comes as no surprise that the two squads dominate this year’s edition of The Almanac Elite Eleven.
The Lady Panthers, under head coach David Gray, captured their first state championship in program history. Undefeated in Section 5-AAA with a 10-0 slate, USC was the WPIAL runner-up and finished 20-2-1 overall. Meanwhile the Lady Macs ran the table to claim the Section 4-AAA title with an undefeated mark of 12-0. They finished the season at 17-1-1 overall, their lone loss to Fox Chapel in the quarterfinal round of the district playoffs.
Here is a look at the players who comprise the Elite Eleven list. The athletes were selected based on a survey of the area coaches, statistics compiled during the season and games viewed by the staff.
Sabrina Bryan, Canon-McMillan Forward
This junior registered 20 goals and dished up 21 assists this season. So far, she has tallied 63 goals and garnered 36 assists in her career. A three-year letter winner, Bryan earned all-section and all-WPIAL honors for the second straight season.
“Sabrina is a player with a great work ethic, one who never stops moving on the field,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Dave Derrico. “She takes on bigger and stronger defenders. She is very quick, a good finisher and she keeps defenses under pressure.
Carli Chiatto, South Fayette Defender
This senior excelled on a defense that registered 13 shutouts. She also played midfield for the Lady Lions, who shared the Section 5-AA title with South Park and placed fourth in the WPIAL tournament. South Fayette finished 14-6-2 overall. Chiatto earned all-section and all-WPIAL honors.
“Carli was extremely versatile,” said head coach Wayne Capra. “She had the ability to play both midfield and defensive positions at any time.” He added, “Carli was a pleasure to have on the team.”
Morgan Henderson, Chartiers Valley Midfielder
This junior played attacking mid for the Lady Colts, who posted an 8-8-1 overall record. She led the team in goals and with assists, tallying eight of each. Henderson picked up plenty of post-season honors, including all-section acclaim for the third year in a row. She also earned a spot on the all-WPIAL squad.
“Morgan was our most dangerous player,” said head coach Ron Moreschi.
Maddy LaVigna, Peters Township Defender
This senior captained Peters Township to the quarterfinals of the WPIAL tournament. During a rebuilding year, she led the Lady Indians to a runner-up finish in Section 4-AAA behind Canon-McMillan. Peters Township finished 14-5-0 overall. LaVigna helped the Indians register 11 shutouts this fall.
LaVigna earned all-section as well as all-WPIAL honors.
“Maddy made up one of the best center-back tandems in the WPIAL,” said head coach Pat Vereb.
Landy Mertz, Upper St. Clair Forward
Just a freshman, this forward fired in 13 goals and collected five assists as she helped the Lady Panthers to a 20-2-1 record, complete with an undefeated section banner and a PIAA trophy. Using her outstanding speed, Mertz raced to many post-season honors, including all-section distinction.
“Landy exploded onto the scene this year,” said head coach David Gray. “She really took it to anybody. Out on the wing, once you got her the ball, she would hurt you.”
Aideen O’Donoghue, Canon-McMillan Forward
This junior drilled in 20 goals and racked up 11 assists in leading the Lady Macs to a section banner and a WPIAL quarterfinal playoff appearance. According to head coach David Derrico, those numbers are pretty impressive when one considers O’Donoghue missed two weeks of the season because of a concussion. The three-year varsity letter winner owns 40 career goals and 30 assists.
“Aideen possesses an amazing work ethic and speed,” Derrico said. “She really kept defenses under pressure all the time.”
Laura Pryor, Mt. Lebanon Forward
This senior led the Blue Devils in scoring with 21 tallies. She tacked on five assists. Pryor scored the game-winning goal against North Allegheny in the opening round of the WPIAL tournament, propelling the Lebo ladies to their first playoff win in six seasons. Mt. Lebanon finished 12-5-2 overall after falling to Upper St. Clair in the quarterfinals. Three of Lebo’s losses were to the Panthers.
Maddy Rocks, Upper St. Clair Midfielder
This senior capped her career with all-section and all-district honors to go along with a PIAA championship. Rocks led the Panthers’ attack, racking up a team-high 24 goals. She also dished up eight assists. A captain, her primary instinct was to promote the team’s objectives. Her unselfish play propelled USC to an undefeated section title as well as a 20-2-1 championship campaign.
“Maddy was exceptional all year for us,” said USC skipper David Gray. “She was a huge reason why we were successful. She did everything we asked of her and played wherever we needed her to for the betterment of the team. She sacrificed her natural position to help us reach our goals. I am so proud of her.”
Allison Thomas, Canon-McMillan Midfielder
A four-year varsity letter winner, this senior capped a career that featured 48 goals and 98 assists with another double-digit season. She pumped in 24 goals and collected 38 assists. The two-year captain gained all-section and all-WPIAL honors. In addition to guiding the Lady Macs to a 17-1-1 record, complete with section banner and WPIAL playoff appearance, Thomas was a member of last year’s WPIAL and PIAA runner-up club.
“As last season,” said head coach Dave Derrico, “Alli was our most skilled and reliable midfielder, emotional leader for the team, strong work ethic, best distributor of the ball out of the midfield for the team, strong in the air, great foot skills, accurate passes, effective also on the defensive side of the ball,” he added.
Megan Virgin,Canon-McMillan Goalkeepeer
A two-year varsity letter winner, this junior plied her trade under the tutelage of Kyra Murphy, who is now at Duquense. Virgin learned well. She recorded 11 shutouts this season. According to head coach Dave Derrico, Virgin would have had additional shutouts but he opted to use back-up keepers exclusively in two games against lesser opponents. Virgin gained all-section and all-WPIAL honors for her play in the nets this fall.
Mariah Vucich, Peters Township Defender
This senior was the other half of what head coach Pat Vereb dubbed “the best center-back tandem” in the WPIAL. She anchored a defense that posted 11 shutouts. A captain, Vucich helped the Lady Indians to a runner-up finish in Section 4-AAA behind Canon-McMillan. Peters Township finished 14-5-0 overall. She earned all-section as well as all-WPIAL acclaim.
Nikki Gibbons, Upper St. Clair ROTY
On a team that featured five freshmen in the line-up, Nikki Gibbons stood out as she played the vital position of goalkeeper for Upper St. Clair. The all-section performer registered nine shutouts, including three during post-season action. The Panthers allowed 22 goals all season.
“We needed a goalkeeper and Nikki said ‘I’ll play.’ That was remarkable,” said head coach David Gray. “She never played the position before. Yet, she was brilliant all year for us. She played back there like a 25-year veteran.”