North Xtra: Defense has Fox Chapel off to another strong start

GIRLS SOCCER

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Under coach Erik Duffy, the Fox Chapel girls soccer team lives by the philosophy that it is easier to win 1-0 than 3-2.

And it is much easier to win when your defense is playing as well as Fox Chapel's.

Through two preseason scrimmages, and two regular-season games, the Foxes have yet to yield a goal.

It is very similar to the start of the 2012 season when Fox Chapel shut out 10 of its first 11 opponents while starting the season 11-0. Opponents did start to find holes in the Fox Chapel defense as the Foxes were only able to record one shutout in their final eight games and the season came to an end in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs when Fox Chapel was on the wrong end of a shutout in a 2-0 loss to Hampton.

With eight returning starters including four of the top defenders in the section, expectations are ramped up this year for Duffy's squad.

"Through our first two scrimmages we haven't allowed a goal, we haven't even allowed many chances," Duffy said. "In the back is where we need to play well to be successful."

Fox Chapel shut out Springdale and Brashear in a tri-scrimmage and shut out Butler Area in another scrimmage. It opened the regular season with a 7-0 win against Freeport.

Fox Chapel's defense will be led by four returning starters who were named to the all-section team last season: senior defenders Janelle Debaldo, Sarah Friedland and Theresa Scheiffarth and senior defensive midfielder Lauren Kelly. Kelly was an all-WPIAL selection last season.

"Lauren is a big, strong athlete," Duffy said. "She is phenomenal in the air, has great leadership and ability. She is solid on the ball and she is a coach on the field for us, she runs the show out there. Lauren knows her role is to keep the shape in the back."

Kelly has verbally committed to play soccer next season at Division I Winthrop University. Scheiffarth is being recruited by a number of Division I and II schools.

Scheiffarth and Kelly played on Duffy's Beadling club team that reached the U-17 national championship tournament in Kansas this summer. Every starting field player for Fox Chapel plays club soccer.

"We have a good core," Duffy said. "Our expectations are high, the girls are playing well and working hard. Staying injury free is the key to having the season we want to have."

In the attack, sophomore Taylor Cohen is another returning starter and freshmen Deena DeBaldo and Dixon Veltri will also see starting time. Deena DeBaldo, the younger sister of Janelle, had a hat trick in the win against Freeport. Cohen and Deena DeBaldo are attacking midfielders while Veltri is a forward.

Duffy rotated between sophomore Elayna Burdelski and junior Vanessa Blazer in the season opener. Burdelski started last season and Blazer is a converted field player.

Gateway finished 11-0-1 to claim the outright section title last season with Fox Chapel finishing second with a 10-2 record and Plum (6-4-2) and Penn Hills (6-6) rounding out the top four.

The Foxes (2-0, 1-0) opened section play Tuesday with an easy 8-0 victory against Allderdice.

"I think we are obviously in the hunt to be in the playoffs," Duffy said. "Plum is very good, Gateway graduated Carly Seneca but Gateway is always good and then you have Penn Hills with [senior forward] Brie Cook. My expectations are for those four teams to be battling it out."

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