Canon McMillan's Aideen O’Donoghue (7) will play at Pitt.
By Sarah K. Spencer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Flying more than 2,000 miles from Pittsburgh to California helped Canon-McMillan senior Aideen O’Donoghue realize she wasn’t quite ready to leave home.
This past April, the former Rutgers soccer commit received a call-up to the U-17 national team after it returned from World Cup qualifying rounds, and headed to Carson, Calif., for training. On the plane ride back, O’Donoghue reconsidered her college commitment, eventually opting to stay closer to her big family and play for Pitt.
“I came home from the national camp and it kind of like hit me,” O’Donoghue said. “I don’t know what, really. It was on the airplane home. I felt awesome getting to represent Pittsburgh, and I was very proud to say that was where I was from.”
O’Donoghue, along with 19 fellow Riverhounds Academy players who signed to play in college, officially signed with the Panthers Feb. 1. Riverhounds Academy director and the ‘98 girls’ coach Jason Kutney said he aims to help develop players prepare for the next level, whether that’s college soccer or making a national team.
Kutney, who played at Duquesne, said watching the hard work of 20 players pay off made for a special experience.
“Most of those girls have been with us for many years, so to see them go through that process is pretty interesting, and then, obviously, it’s very rewarding to see them get the prize at the end of the road,” Kutney said.
The Panthers went 2-15-1 last year and had a combined record of 27-43-4 the four seasons prior. When making her decision, staying close to home, the prospect of playing early and helping Pitt to a winning season outweighed the team’s recent struggles, O’Donoghue said.
“I’m very intrigued to potentially go into the program as a freshman and potentially leave it after four years and hopefully get to the NCAA tournament, do some big things there… l want to be an impact when I get there,” O’Donoghue, who plays defense, said.
Two other Riverhounds players signed to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which had six teams rank in the top 25 of the Division I women’s soccer RPI. Alexis Bengel, who attended Highlands High School, also signed with Pitt, and Bailey Cartwright of Greensburg Central Catholic signed to play at Notre Dame. Marissa Dezorzi of Yough signed to play with national runner-up West Virginia, which posted its best finish in 21 seasons.
Like with most athletes who receive college offers early, actually putting pen to paper proved a rewarding experience for Cartwright.
“It’s just like the icing on the cake,” Cartwright said. “I committed my sophomore year so it’s just been a lot of waiting, waiting, and this just makes it a reality.”
Cartwright finished her GCC career with 230 goals and 159 assists in four varsity seasons. Now, it’s a matter of transitioning to college and adjusting to D-I competition.
“Everyone’s going to be bigger, everyone’s going to be better,” Cartwright said. “So while everyone else is progressing, I also have to progress. Not that the competition I’ve been playing with now hasn’t been good, it’s just everyone is going to be amazing in college, especially in the ACC.”
Sarah K. Spencer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @sarah_k_spence
Alexis Bengel (Highlands) — Pitt
Sabrina Bryan (Canon-McMillan) — Hofstra
Bailey Cartwright (Greensburg Central Catholic) — Notre Dame
Chrissy Ciarrocca (Pine-Richland) — Miami (OH)
Eliza Cochran (Shady Side Academy) — Georgetown
Marissa Dezorzi (Yough) — West Virginia
Jayna Fittipaldo (South Fayette) — Illinois
Jamie Frank (Kiski Area) — Rutgers
Kenzie Grenell (Connellsville) — Mercyhurst
Marisa Johnson (Bethel Park) — Ohio State
Tori Kopchak (Mars) — Duquesne
Danielle McNally (North Hills) — Clarion
Ibrokhim Mirzaknohov (Brashear) — Point Park
Aideen O’Donoghue (Canon-McMillan) — Pitt
Brittany Palla (Kiski Area) — Indiana State
Shannon Salley (Greensburg Central Catholic) — Air Force
Abigail Skatell (Greensburg Central Catholic) — Seton Hill
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