By Greg Hutton

Allied News Sports Correspondent

NEW WILMINGTON — The Third Annual Mercer/Lawrence Counties Senior All-Star Soccer Matches were a success, as 71 athletes from 12 high schools participated in the event Saturday at Wilmington Area Athletic Stadium.

The matches, hosted by the Wilmington Area Soccer Boosters, provided a meaningful end to the players’ high school soccer careers.

In both games, the North squad consisted of seniors from Commodore Perry, Grove City, Hickory, Kennedy Catholic, Mercer, Sharon and Sharpsville high schools, while the South players hailed from Ellwood City, Mohawk, Neshannock, Slippery Rock and Wilmington.

The players were nominated and chosen by coaches of participating schools, and the game was officiated by four referees — Mike Giardina, Jeff Stainbrook, Dave Courtney and Tim Perrine — who all donated their time.

Eight players each received scholarships totaling $4,000. Mercer’s Abigail Juergens, Grove City’s Jordan Nichols and Slippery Rock’s Ryan Gercken were all recipients of the $500 award.

“It’s a great event,” said Slippery Rock boys’ head coach Anthony Buzard, who was in charge of the South squad Saturday afternoon. “It’s just real nice how the kids come together, and being able to work with some players that you coach against. It’s a good opportunity to get to know them in a different way, instead of as opponents.”


ä South 6, North 0 — Shanay Phillian hit the crossbar and post on her first two scoring chances, but the Wilmington forward ended the afternoon with a hat trick, pacing the South squad to a 6-0 win over their northern counterparts.

“The coaches, we all agreed that it was an all-star game, and we wanted to put some goals up,” said South head coach Les Smith. “That’s why we played with three forwards and three defenders. Basically, the game plan was to come in, score goals, and that’s what we did.”

Slippery Rock midfielder Cayla Boyd made the score 1-0 in favor of the South when she tapped in a Marissa Carr cross in the 19th minute. Phillian then added a pair of goals in a three-minute span for a 3-0 halftime lead.

Mercer goalkeeper Brittney Gadd made several acrobatic saves in the second half, but Wilmington’s Rachel Hostetler, Neshannock’s Stephanie Graziani and Phillian all scored in the final stanza to push the score to 6-0.

Nearly the entire game was played in the South squad’s offensive end; the North team recorded just two shots, one of which was on target.

“With 12 defenders on our team, we couldn’t generate any offense,” North head coach Ryan Hoffman said. “We didn’t have any midfielders or forwards.

“We keyed on them to just go out and have fun,” he added. “And I think that was the main thing about it. You don’t have to draw competitiveness out of a kid or ask for that, because as soon as they step out onto the field, they give you that. We just told the kids to go out and have fun.”

Five Grove City players (Christy Allison, Erin Gilmore, Dabney Gordon, Randee Gregg and Rachel Johns) suited up for the North, in addition to Mercer’s Gadd, Juergens and Lydia Munnell. Forward Melanie Prelec was the Lady Rockets’ other representative on the South.


ä North 3, South 1 — While the girls’ game featured plenty of offense, the boys’ contest was largely a defensive struggle…for the first half.

A scoreless first 40 minutes quickly turned into an offensive outburst, as four different players scored second-half goals in the North’s 3-1 victory over the South.

Joe Giglio, of Kennedy Catholic, opened the scoring just 38 seconds into the second half, and Sharpsville’s Josh Rodondi and Hickory’s David Schafer tacked on insurance goals within the next 20 minutes for the North.

Slippery Rock’s Matt Doerr cut the lead to two with 5:13 left to play when he tapped in a loose ball from a corner kick to round out the scoring.

Grove City’s Gildersleeve stopped a pair of breakaways and also made a diving save as he kept the North team off the board in the opening half.

In a move conducive to all-star games, Gildersleeve and Slippery Rock’s Abir Chatterjee, the other South netminder, took the pitch as field players when they weren’t manning the goal.

“I think I did alright in goal,” Gildersleeve said. “It was going on the field — that was a new thing for me. I haven’t done that in a while.”

Mercer’s Joel Pyle split time with Don Kopas, of Kennedy Catholic, in goal for the North.

“It was the most fun I’ve had playing soccer in a while,” Gildersleeve stated. “It was a good thing to get all the seniors together to play for the last time. Everybody here, it’s just like bonding into a new team, so it was fun.”

Mercer’s five representatives on the North squad included Pyle, Trever Kelly, Rich Ligo, Caleb Learned and Chris Buxton. Ten of the 17 South players were from Slippery Rock (Chatterjee, Doerr, Gercken, Josh Powell, Austin Hawk and Ian Campbell) and Grove City (Gildersleeve, Nichols, Matt Kiser and Scott Stein) high schools.

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