The University of Pittsburgh women’s soccer Head Coach Greg Miller announced his incoming class of new freshman recruits that include a pair of homegrown players, Aideen O’Donoghue and Alexis Bengel.
“The 2017 class is a strong, athletic, and talented group of young women,” said Miller. “They collectively have all of the qualities you want in an incoming group on and off the field, and we are excited to get them integrated into our squad this summer.
Graduating some defenders this past season, we had to address that line specifically in this class, but were also able to add some depth to a couple of other lines which will make us a more competitive side in 2017.”
After a promising 2015 season, when Pitt enjoyed its winningest season in the program’s 20-year history going 10-7-1, the Panthers plummeted to the bottom of the ACC standings in 2016.
Miller will be looking to turn things back around with a recruiting class headlined by O’Donoghue, who in spring participated in training camp with the U.S. Women’s Under-17 National Team in Carson, Calif.
In the Fall, after initially committing to Rutgers University, O’Donoghue had a change of heart, and chose to stay closer to home.
“I really wanted to stay closer to home, and I am really excited to be playing at the University of Pittsburgh,” said O’Donoghue, after she spoke with Pittsburgh Soccer Report shortly after making her decision to re-commit to Pitt.
“I feel like I can go into playing with this program, and have an impact, and hopefully have a part in leaving the program in a better place than it’s ever been in the years to come. And that intrigues me, and especially to play for a school like Pitt in a city where I am from.”
O’Donoghue helped lead her high school, Canon-McMillan to a PIAA Title this past fall and has been a part of the Riverhounds Development Academy team that has also achieved its share of success.
According to Pitt’s coaching staff, O’Donoghue, who told me last week at the Hounds Academy’s National Letter of Intent Signing Day that she’s willing to play any position, projects as an outside defender at both the college and national team levels.
“Aideen is another exceptional athlete and local product in this class. She possesses all the characteristics of a shut-down defender,” said Miller.
“Her willingness to get out of the back and provide another savvy piece to our attack will make us a more a dangerous team next fall.”
Bengel was one of O’Donoghue’s teammate with the Hounds Academy, and a standout in high school that led Highlands to its first ever WPIAL semfinals berth, was also stoked about the opportunity to play near her home, and for Pitt.
“I’m really excited about the chances to play at the next level and be close to home so my family and friends can make a lot of the games,” said Bengel.
“They’ve brought in new assistant coaches, and you can see that they’re making every effort to turn this program in the right direction. It’s great that I’ll be playing with Aideen too – as we’vebeen on same team(with RDA) for 4 or 5 years, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Miller also sees Bengel as an outside back for the Panthers.
“Alexis is one of two local players in this class. She is a versatile player who displays tremendous heart, work ethic and a team-first mentality that will deepen our roster. She will play as an outside defender for us.”
Both Bengel and O’Donoghue were very grateful for the intensive training and the experiences that they were provided as being a part of the Hounds Academy.
“To see that we’ve had a lot of players that are coming out of Pittsburgh now, and we’re a part of that — and representing Pitt is great for soccer in our area,” said Bengel.
“I had an opportunity to play at U.S. National Camp, and everything that they prepare you for — I felt like I was ready, and I was prepared. Now, I am ready for the next level,” added O’Donoghue.
Below is a roster and biographical sketches on each of Pitt’s signees.
|Alexis Bengel||MF||5-4||Natrona Heights, Pa./Highlands|
|Kendall Higgs||MF||5-9||Loxahatchee, Fla./Oxbridge Academy|
|Jess McCoppin||F||5-10||Cary, N.C./Cary Academy|
|Aideen O’Donoghue||D||5-5||Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan|
|Kylie Olexa||D||5-6||Raleigh, N.C./North Raleigh Christian Academy|
FROM UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH’S INCOMING PLAYER PROFILES
MF, 5-4, Natrona Heights, Pa./Natrona Heights H.S.
High School: Played high school soccer for Highlands High School her junior and senior years… Named captain her senior season… Selected to the WPIAL 2A All-Section team in addition to the WPIAL All-Conference Team… Part of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Development Academy throughout high school as well as the Olympic Development Program in middle school…Led the Riverhounds to the semifinals of the U.S. Club National Championships.
Personal: Born Alexis Emily Bengel on Oct. 4, 1998.… Daughter of Eric and Carrie Bengel…Has an older brother, Eric… Chosen as the National Honor Society President in high school… Voted the Junior Class Vice President… Volunteers for Toys for Tots, The Salvation Army and the Watson Institute for Children… Plans to pursue a degree in political science.
D, 5-5, Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan H.S.
High School: Played high school soccer for Canon-McMillan High School… Four-year varsity starter… Lead her team to a national No. 9 ranking by Maxpreps as well as a No. 11 ranking by the NSCAA… An All-WPIAL selection her junior and senior years… Named to the Pennsylvania High School Girls Soccer All-State Team her senior season… Named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) High School All-American… Played club soccer for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds… Starter on the 2014 U.S. Club Soccer National Championship team… Invited to the U.S. Women’s U-17 National Team Camp in 2016.
Personal: Born Aideen Rita O’Donoghue on Feb. 20, 1999… Daughter of Tim and Theresa O’Donoghue… Has three younger brothers… An honor roll student… Has two cousins playing collegiate sports… Coaches youth soccer as well as teaches private lessons… Plans to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism.
D, 5-6, Raleigh, N.C./ North Raleigh Christian Academy
“Kylie is a gifted athlete who plays with real bite and composure. She will bring a lot of tools that our team doesn’t currently possess. Kylie hails from a club environment where their players are well-prepared to step onto the collegiate platform and be immediately impactful. Most likely, we see her as a defender.”
High School: Played for the CASL ECNL from 2014-2017… Prior to that played for the CASL Elite team from 2013-2014… Played for the CASL Premier team from 2012-2013… On the Wake Forest United Blue team from 2008-2012…Won the Singer State Cup in 2012.
Personal: Born Kylie Meredith Olexa on April 22, 1999… Daughter of Mike and Kara Olexa… Has three younger sisters… Both parents played collegiate sports… Competed as a level 9 gymnast until 3 years ago… Plans to pursue a degree but is currently undecided.
MF, 5-9, Loxahatchee, Fla./Oxbridge Academy
“We are thrilled to have Kendall on board. She brings leadership, grit, size, talent and a high work rate to our team. The fact that she is left-sided and very strong in the air will give us some additional variety in the run of the play and on set pieces. Graduating early and being here this spring allows her to get acclimated to school, the level of play and our culture, which will pay dividends for her this fall.”
High School: Played high school soccer for Oxbridge Academy before electing to finish as a home educated student… Graduated early after three and a half years of high school… Complied a total of 19 goals and five assists in her first two seasons, playing as a center back… Transitioned to central midfield in her junior season… Chipped in five goals and eight assists as a junior… Was named an All-County First Team Selection all three years of high school… Earned the distinction of Winter All-Star State Team from Top Drawer Soccer as a sophomore and junior… Played club soccer with the Royal Palm Beach Strikers, Team Boca White and Boca United FC ‘97/’98… Finished the 2015-16 season with 11 goals and six assists as a member of Boca United… Played on the Olympic Development Program Florida Team as well as the ODP FL State A Team from 2012-16.
Personal: Born Kendall Nicole Higgs on June 13, 1999… Daughter of Blake and Robin Higgs… Has a younger sibling, Devyn… Member of a leadership program called Student ACES… Enjoys playing the ukulele… Plans to major in bioinformatics.
F, 5-10, Cary, N.C./Cary Academy
“Jess is a nice addition to this class. She is a forward who is capable of scoring goals and is as good as a set-up artist. She plays with great perseverance, grit and is a relentless defender out of possession. She will deepen our frontline group.”
High School: Played high school soccer for Cary Academy… missed her freshman season due to injury… North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) All-State and All-Conference as a sophomore and junior… NCSCA All-State and All-Region as a sophomore and junior… Set the Cary Academy school record for most goals scored in a season in 2015 with 31 goals in 14 matches… Broke the Cary Academy school record for career goals with 61 in two seasons… Played with the CASL ECNL U15, U16, U17 and U18 teams… Was named NC ODP First Team in 2014… CASL went to the ECNL Nationals Champions League Playoffs in 2014… Team advanced to the ECNL Nationals North American Cup Playoffs in 2015… Played in the ECNL Nationals Champions League Playoffs in 2016 and was the leading scorer in the ECNL Mid-Atlantic Conference with 13 goals… Was named ECNL PDP Mid-Atlantic in 2015… The 2017 CASL team is currently ranked to make the ECNL National Finals.
Personal: Born Jessica Ann McCoppin on May 4, 1999… Daughter of Andy and Allison McCoppin… Has an older sister, Lauren… Plays ukulele… Has a pet gecko… Mother was a track and field (heptathlon) competitor for Team Canada and the University of California at Berkley… Father was a member of the varsity crew team at the University of California at Berkley… Uncle, Cary Eades, was an NCAA men’s ice hockey champion at the University of North Dakota in 1982 and 1984… plans to pursue a degree in bioengineering.