Deep junior class ready to help Riverview girls soccer return to WPIAL playoffs
The Riverview girls soccer team traveled a bumpy road last year in terms of wins and losses.
The youthful Raiders squad finished 4-8 in Section 1-A and were 4-12 overall. They saw their playoff-qualifying streak snapped at five.
The team still is young in terms of only having five seniors, but a large group of juniors -- nine in all -- also will contribute to what coach Sean Abraham hopes is an improvement in an always challenging section.
“We’re expecting a good season,” Abraham said. “With the work they’ve put in and a good first scrimmage, we like what we see.”
The Raiders fared well in scoring four goals and not allowing any in a scrimmage against Valley on Aug. 20. It was a good test, Abraham said, to see where all the pieces are starting to fit as the season gets closer.
“They took a lot of what we worked on in training and practice and put it on the field,” he said.
“There were things we saw that we still have to work on, but we liked things like the movement off the ball and keeping possession.”
Abraham said he’s looking forward to the next scrimmage opportunity at 6 p.m. Tuesday at East Allegheny.
The team is fueled by the return of all-section players in juniors Alyssa Cappa (goalkeeper) and Francesca Lio (midfield).
“We are a closer group as players on the field and as friends off the field,” Lio said. “We did lose some talented players, but we’ve gained some new players who are getting better in practices. We’re coming together pretty well. We’re better from all of those experiences last year.”
Lio led the team in scoring last year with 16 goals.
Senior midfielder Leah Ford also is back and ready to have a strong year.
“Over the summer, we had a training packet that we worked through,” Ford said. “We went on runs and followed it up with anaerobic work to get ready for the season. We know we have to be conditioned and in top shape.”
There are 17 players on the roster, down seven from last year. Abraham said a couple of the team members are battling through injuries.
Joining Ford in the senior class are defenders Madeline Katich, Rachel Aber and Summer Girson. Malin Eide, also a senior defender, is an exchange student from Norway who has several years of soccer experience playing for grade-school teams and club squads.
“The seniors are using all of their experiences and channeling them into strong leadership,” Abraham said.
Junior defender Madison Sink and sophomore midfielder Eleni Wyrick, Abraham said, also are back and hoping to make an impact.
Greensburg Central Catholic and Shady Side Academy finished tied for the section championship last year, and the Centurions upended the Indians in the WPIAL championship game. The two teams have combined to win all eight WPIAL Class A titles since the classification was formed in 2010.
Apollo-Ridge and Serra Catholic also were playoff qualifiers from the section.
“It’s going to be a very tough conference again,” Abraham said. “We probably have the toughest conference in single A right now. We hope the girls can put it out on the field, take it a game at a time and get stronger as the season goes on.”
Apollo-Ridge moved up to Class AA for the next two-year cycle, but Springdale, a playoff qualifier in Class AA last year, bumped down to Class A in the offseason and moved into Riverview’s section.
“We want to put it all out there every game and do our best,” Cappa said. “It’s going to be a challenge in the section, but we want to go in with the positive mindset of winning every game. We can’t think about it any other way. We have the talent to win games and make the playoffs.”
Riverview opens its season Sept. 4 against Apollo-Ridge. The Raiders will host section foe Jeannette in the annual night game at 8 p.m. Oct. 4.
“I think some teams take it for granted that they can play all of their games under the lights,” Cappa said. “I think it’s one of our best games. It’s a fun game because everyone comes out to watch. We try to impress. We do extra things for the game because it’s special.”