Avonworth hoping to return to scene of big victory


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On Sept. 9, the Avonworth High School girls soccer team left Highmark Stadium with a 1-0 victory against Vincentian Academy.

The Antelopes are hoping to leave Highmark with a similar result later this season.

Highmark Stadium will be the host site of the WPIAL soccer championships for the first time this season, and Avonworth (11-3 overall, 9-2 in Class A Section 3) is one of the favorites to take the title.

"First, we want to win the section, that's always our goal," Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan said. "Then we want to get a good seed in the playoffs. But you know we've already played at Highmark once this season, and we would like a return trip."

The momentum has been building for Avonworth the past few seasons. Mahan took over the team after the 2007 season, when Avonworth went 4-12-1 overall.

He had the Antelopes in the playoffs in 2010, losing a close match to eventual WPIAL Class A runner-up Sewickley Academy.

Then in 2011, the Antelopes went 18-4, won the program's first section title and advanced to the WPIAL Class A semifinals, where they lost in a shootout to WPIAL runner-up Springdale.

Avonworth followed up its record season with a second-place section finish and a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal appearance in 2012.

"We had a little bit of an off year last season, but we had so many good seniors to replace [from 2011]," Mahan said. "We got a lot of players involved [in 2012] and this year, we have really strong leadership from our senior class."

Senior forward Thanna Oddo is the captain and the team's top scorer. She has scored 23 goals this season. She teams with senior Amelia Nahum up front.

On the opposite end of the field is senior center back Hannah Croft, who has started every game since she was a freshman.

"Having [Oddo and Croft] on each end of the field is a big advantage for us," Mahan said.

Croft is joined on the back line of Avonworth's 3-5-2 formation by senior Mairead McDonagh and junior Shelby Golob.

Behind that trio is sophomore goalkeeper Alex Kirsch, a first-year starter. Kirsch had to replace all-section goalkeeper Tara Slenska, who started for 31/2 years.

Kirsch isn't the only new starter making waves, however, The Antelopes have entrusted the important center midfielder spot to freshman Emily Paszkiewicz, who responded by scoring nine goals with nine assists.

"With [Alex] and Emily, I think they both had some nerves in the beginning of the season," Mahan said. "But they've settled in nicely. Both are very good players and are helping in our success."

Avonworth suffered its first loss to a Class A team Friday, a 2-0 defeat against Vincentian. The Antelopes other defeats came against Class AA Highlands, 2-1, and 1-0 in overtime to Bishop Canevin Wednesday.

It could end up being a special season for Avonworth, and the Antelope upperclassmen want it to be remembered at the school.

"Our seniors and juniors know what it was like [to win the section]," Mahan said. "They get a huge banner with all the players' names on it hanging from our rafters in the gym. They want to get that again. This senior class wants to leave its legacy."

With possibly a different kind of banner hanging this time, one that reads WPIAL champions.



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