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Quaker Valley girls soccer aims to continue upward trend of improvement

September 27, 2018

Quaker Valley’s girls soccer team wants to continue its upward trend.

The Quakers narrowly missed qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs in 2015. They got there the next season and reached the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals last fall.

“Every single year I’ve been in high school we’ve gotten one step deeper,” Quaker Valley senior Katherine Blaugrund said. “The goal this year is to make it to at least that next level. Before we think about that, we have to make sure we’re ready.”

The preseason was a unique one for Quaker Valley, which welcomed a large freshman class.

“We have some really strong numbers now. We are around 40 girls,” Blaugrund said. “That seems daunting, at first. But, it creates a really competitive environment in practice in a good way. It creates an opportunity for a bunch of underclassmen to prove themselves. It’s been fun getting to know all the players who will be on the team this season.”

“We have a promising team. I am excited for the future,” QV senior Grace Wirth said. “The younger girls are stepping up, and I think a lot of the returning girls have improved over the offseason. Everyone is dedicated to being more successful than last year. I think we’re having a lot of fun. We’re one big family, and everyone gets along well.”

Up front, Blaugrund and Wirth lead the way at forward for the Quakers. Gabi Saladino will factor in as well once she returns from injury. Maya Smith, Fiona Benge and Sophie Bestermann lead the midfield, while many others are battling for playing time there. Olivia Lehman and Michaela Felix return as central defenders. Courtney Cordell and Grace Shaner are on the outside. Dylan Palmer returns in goal.

“I think we’ve had a lot of continuity at defense, and I think we will defend really well as a team,” Quaker Valley coach Jamie Birmingham said. “The girls work hard. We won’t be outworked by anybody. It’s a long season and I think, over time, the girls are going to be able to possess the ball and move forward. Right now, I think our strength is going to be the ability to defend.”

“It’s really nice to Michaela and Olivia back there. They are solid defenders and we have a lot of faith in them,” Wirth said. “I think, overall, there’s a lot of trust on the team.”

The team faced immediate challenges as it spent nearly a week at a preseason camp at Edinboro. It opened its scrimmage schedule against Moon, which claimed the past two PIAA Class AAA titles. The Quakers begin the regular season against Class AAAA power Pine-Richland.

“I really like that. I think we’re trying to challenge ourselves from the beginning,” Blaugrund said. “Playing the better teams will point out your weak spots right away. I think it’s nice to play them now so early. By the time we get going in (section play), we want to be as perfect as possible. We want to play the teams that’ll challenge us.”

Quaker Valley finished third in its section last year at 8-4. The Quakers have some different section foes as Freedom and South Allegheny moved out and Hopewell and North Catholic moved into the section.

“Both of those teams will be very competitive,” Birmingham said. “It’s a tough section, and it seems like every game is close. We’re looking forward to a successful season, though.”

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