We are entering one of the busiest times of year for sports fans and athletes as the MLB, NFL, College Football, MLS, Premier League, College Soccer, High School Soccer and High School Football are all in action.
And soon enough the NHL and NBA will be joining the party when their training camps open up in September.
With the Pittsburgh Riverhounds continuing to climb in the USL Championship Eastern Conference Standings and the local colleges kicking off their seasons, it only makes sense that we have two big High School Soccer Showcases happening in Pittsburgh as well.
The Showcase that will be the focus of this preview is the South Hills Kickoff Classic that will be taking place at South Park High School on August 30 and 31.
The South Hills Kickoff Classic started in 2005 and is a fundraiser for the South Park Girls Soccer Boosters as they manage and facilitate the event.
“The Kickoff Classic offers local high school girls soccer teams some great early season competition,” said Event Committee Leader Ken Miklos. “In addition to perennially strong WPIAL girls soccer programs, we have girls soccer powers joining us from PIAA Districts 6 and 10 as well.”
The teams that will be participating in it are Peters Township, McDowell, Butler Area, Chartiers Valley, Mt. Lebanon, PIne Richland, South Park and Mercyhurst Prep.
Seven of the 8 teams participating in the South Hills Kickoff Classic made the playoffs in District 7 or 10, including 4 teams who made appearances in the State Playoffs and 3 teams who won their District and Classification Championship.
This tournament is a good measuring stick for the teams participating as they learn their strengths, weaknesses and where they need to improve as the regular season gets rolling.
“Yes, especially for smaller schools like South Park and Mercyhurst who are AA,” said South Park Head Coach Shelly Thropp. “When you play against good teams like the teams in the kickoff you expose your weaknesses and it definitely helps you improve your team in those areas.”
A closer look at the schools participating
Includes 2018 season synopsis and outlook from select coaches about their respective teams heading into the 2019 campaign
Peters Township was the runner-up in the Class 4A Championship at Highmark Stadium as they fell to Seneca Valley 2-1 in Overtime. They also advanced to Class 4A State Semi-finals before falling in Overtime to Souderton 2-1.
McDowell is one of two non-District 7 team in this Classic, they are the defending Class 4A District 10 Champions, and they also appeared in the State Playoffs last season, where they fell to Peters Township 3-1 in the 1st Round.
Butler Area defeat Penn Trafford 4-1 in the 1st Round of the Class 4A WPIAL Playoffs before, in what seems to be a theme among these teams, falling to Peters Township in the Quarterfinals 2-1.
“Last year’s loss at Peters sparked a fire in our group that won’t be satisfied until we achieve our goals. Our motto this year is “We attack success! We don’t deal failure” and we are striving to act on that everyday,” said Butler Area Head Coach Stephen Perri. “Our strength is going to be our experience, we return almost all of our starting players from last year and we had other players take a leap this off-season. We also have depth that we are excited about and we can create match-up problems with personnel and we will be a hard team to match-up with.”
Chartiers Valley, after not making the WPIAL playoffs in 2018, will be using this Classic as a measuring stick weekend to see where they stand among some of the top teams in the WPIAL.
Mt. Lebanon defeat Connellsville 2-1 in the 1st Round of the Class 4A WPIAL Playoffs in 2018 before falling to eventual Champions Seneca Valley 6-1 in the Quarterfinals.
Pine Richland defeat Hempfield 9-0 in the 1st Round of the Class 4A WPIAL Playoffs in 2018 before falling to Upper St. Clair 4-3 in Overtime of the Quarterfinals.
“We are excited to open up the season against Lebo in the South Hills Kickoff Classic. Each game looks like it should be a great match-up highlighted by some of the top individual players and teams in the WPIAL,” said Pine Richland Head Coach Jodi Chmielewski. “Our goals remain consistent each year in terms of winning the section/WPIAL. We recognize that we play in one of the toughest sections in the WPIAL and so our immediate focus every year is to make sure we qualify for the playoffs…We like our depth in each area of the field with a solid mix of returning players with experience and young players that have stepped in and are eager to contribute. Overall, I think our team speed and physicality is a strength for us this year.”
South Park is the defending Class 2A Champions as they defeat Hopewell 1-0 in the 2018 Championship Game at Highmark Stadium. They also made a run in the State Playoffs before falling in the Semi-finals to Bedford 3-2* (5-4 on PK’s).
“Our mentality is always to win section and make it deep into the playoffs,” said Thropp. “But we have a lot of holes to fill from graduation. We also have a few injuries that we don’t expect to be back by this weekend. So, we have been working hard to get some younger players ready. Our ability to work together to score goals is one of our strengths. We want goals to come from different positions on the field and not just one person. That makes it difficult for other teams to prepare to play us.”
And finally, Mercyhurst Prep is the other non-District 7 team in this Classic as they are the defending Class 2A District 10 Champions and they also fell to Bedford in the State Playoffs 2-1 in Overtime of the Quarterfinals.
This Classic has provided some quality exposure for the girls participating who want to play in college as it attracts a lot of college coaches over the two days, according to Thropp.
If you are attending the games, admission is $5 adults, $3 students with all games at South Park’s Eagle Stadium
Look for the latest updates on these games throughout the weekend on our daily WPIAL scoreboard blog.