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Staying Close To Home: Pitt women’s soccer 2021 recruiting class includes top local players

Photo courtesy Ellie Coffield Twitter

Staying Close To Home: Pitt women’s soccer 2021 recruiting class includes top local players

Pitt women’s soccer and head coach Randy Waldrum have signed 11 players to National Letters of Intent: Lacy Bernick, Ellie Coffield, Sara Darlington, Briana Hilsenteger, Elena Hinkson, Katelyn Kauffman, Maddie Keister, Ashley Moon, Haley Schmidt, Sarah Schupansky and Madison Vukas. All but Darlington and Schmidt are enrolled in the upcoming spring semester.

The 11 signees join recent transfers Ashton Gordon and Landy Mertz as newcomers for the 2021 fall season.

Lacey Bernick | Midfielder/Forward | North Huntingdon, Pa. | Norwin HS | Century Steel

Club: Plays for Century Steel after being on Northern Steel for the previous seven years … Helped Northern Steel win the 2018 Pennsylvania State Cup Championship … competed at the NPL Nationals in Denver with Northern Steel and the GA League with Century Steel.

High School: Played with current Panther Eva Frankovic and fellow signee Kaitlyn Kaufman at Norwin … Helped the Knights win the PIAA AAAA State Championship and earned the No. 1 national ranking by Top Drawer Soccer in 2017 and reach the WPIAL Finals in 2019 … Scored over 40 career goals … Selected team captain for this year … Named to the All-WPIAL AAAA and All-Section 3 Team the last two years.

Waldrum on Bernick:

“Lacey’s athleticism is exceptional. She has the ability to beat opponents off the dribble or with her movement off the ball that makes a real threat to the opposition. She has the technical quality to combine with teammates and the overall versatility to be able to play in multiple positions for us. We think she’ll be a great asset to the program.”

Why Pitt for Bernick:

“I chose Pitt because I’ve always loved the campus and it just feels like home. Its soccer program is on the rise, and I can’t wait to be a part of that journey.”

Ellie Coffield | Midfielder | Mars, Pa. | Mars Area HS | North United/Beadling SC

Club: Ranked in the Top Drawer IMG Top-150 the last three years … Invited into the US Youth National Team Identification Center in 2019 … Selected to the Great Lakes Conference Best XI and Best XI of the USYS National Championships in 2019 … Ranked as the second leading goal scorer in the National League in 2018 … Attended the US Soccer National Training Centers in 2016 and 2017 … Served as team captain for both Beadling and North United … Led North United alongside fellow signee Sarah Schupansky and Madison Vukas to win the PA West State Championship in 2016 and Beadling to win the National League Division Championships the last two years, the USYS Region I Championship in 2018 and reach the national championships in 2018 and 2020.

High School: Named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania and inaugural Moe Rosensteel Most Outstanding WPIAL Player of the Year in 2019 … Is a finalist for the Moe Rosensteel Award again … Recorded 281 points, 92 goals and 97 assists, in her high school career … Led the Fightin’ Planets to capture the last two WPIAL AAA Championships, the PIAA Championship last year and four-straight section 4 titles with undefeated records each year of her career … Current team is ranked No. 1 in the country, riding a 39-game unbeaten streak entering the state playoffs and outscored opponents 99-5 this season … Last year’s squad ranked No. 4 by USA Today … Selected to the all-state team last season and all-WPIAL and all-section every year … Team was runner-ups in the WPIAL Championship Game in her freshman and sophomore seasons and has an overall record of 74-5-1 the last four years … Selected as a Tribune Review HSSN all-star and team MVP the last two seasons … Picked for Top Drawer All-American Watch List for last two years … Serves as team captain … Lettered every year in basketball as a point guard … Helped the team win the state championship in 2018 … Named BIG 56 honorable mention

Waldrum on Coffield:

“Ellie is an exceptional talent, one of the best players coming out of Pennsylvania. She has a sophistication to her game with an elite level soccer IQ and technical ability on the ball and calming effect on her team and teammates when she is on the ball with excellent passing range and vision. She’s a competitor and high character individual, and has leadership qualities even at her young age. We feel like Ellie will be a huge asset to our program and impact our program from day one.”

Why Pitt for Coffield:

“I chose Pitt because of the environment and the coaching staff. I wanted to compete at the highest level in the strongest conference in the country, all while being coached by one of the best. Being a part of what the Waldrums are trying to do here was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, in addition to being able to represent my home town.”

The Coffield Athletic Legacy at Pitt:

Both parents of Ellie played on teams at Pitt. Her mother, Kelly, was a four-year letter winner for volleyball (1995-98) while her father, Grant, lettered as a kicker/punter in 1997.

Sara Darlington | Forward/Midfielder | West Chester, Pa. | Unionville HS | FC Providence

Club: Played for FC Providence since 2016 and also for Lanc Inferno in the WPSL since 2019 … Helped club team win multiple tournaments … Played in ODP events, Austria Games and Italy Games … Leading scorer for her ODP team that won the gold medal in the World Games.

High School: Has scored over 35 goals in her high school career … Is the current leading scorer for the Ches Mont Conference … Named first team all-conference in her first three seasons … Earned All- All-Southeastern Pennsylvania honors and the conference league MVP runner-up … Helped team win the Ches Mont League Title in 2017 with an undefeated 13-0 record.

Waldrum on Darlington:

“Sara is the definition of a competitor. She’s very athletic and has excellent power and pace to her game. She can be a tough matchup for an opponent on the field. The other thing about her we liked immediately in the recruiting process was her versatility to play up front or even as an attacking outside back. We’re eager to get her into our daily environment, and we feel she will be able to contribute to our program very quickly.

Why Pitt for Darlington:

“I honestly chose Pitt not only for the great academic learning and beautiful city, but for my amazing coach and Panthers alumni Ashley Habbel who convinced me to look deeper into Pitt. Later on I realized its physical therapy program is one of the best around the country, which obviously caught my attention.”

Briana Hilsenteger | Midfielder | Austin, Texas | Vista Ridge HS | Lonestar SC

Club: Played for Lonestar SC for the last 11 years and also for Lonestar in the WPSL the last three seasons … Member of the Austin Elite UWS this year and La Academia, an indoor semipro team, the last two seasons … Participated in U.S. training camps in College Station, Texas.

High School: Did not play soccer at school … served as captain of the track team every year.

Waldrum on Hilsenteger:

“Bri is an absolute soccer junkie! That’s the first thing we noticed about her in the recruiting process. She’s dynamic and versatile and will impact our team right away in the midfield or up front. She has an elite level soccer IQ, technical ability and mobility that stands out when watching her play. Her versatility is unique in that if you need her to be a link up midfielder then she can play that role, but if you give Bri more freedom to play higher up the field, then she has an ability to create and score goals. We’re very excited to get another high-quality player and person into our program.”

Why Pitt for Hilsenteger:

“The main reason I chose Pitt is because the coaches are amazing. I feel like I will fit into the program that they are building because of their style of play and my work ethic. I fully believe this program will become one of the best teams in the ACC, and I am excited to be a part of that process. The University of Pittsburgh is a great school in a beautiful city.”

Elena Hinkson | Forward | Mechanicsburg, Pa. | Mechanicsburg Area Senior HS | Keystone FC Premier

Club: Played for Keystone FC Premier the last seven years … Participated in the Olympic Development Program (ODP) from 2014-19 … Invited to the US Club Soccer ID2 in 2017 … Named to the Best 11 at the USYS National Championships in 2018 … Selected to the USYS ODP East Region in 2019 … Helped Keystone earn EPYSA Team of the Year in 2018 after winning the EPYSA State Cup and Eastern Regional Championships, qualifying for the USYS National Champion and reaching the finals of the National League … Team also won the USYS East Regional Champions for ODP (2018 and 2019) and Eastern Regional EDP Conference Cup Championship and made the final at the EPYSA State Cup in 2019 …

High School: Named to the Top Drawer Soccer All-American Watch List this year … Selected to the Mid Penn Girls All-Star First Team as a junior and sophomore and the second team as a freshman … Picked to the All-Sentinel First Team last year … Helped Mechanicsburg win the PIAA AAA District 3 Championship on Tuesday, the Keystone Division twice, including an undefeated regular season record of 18-0 in 2018, and reach the PIAA AAA Semifinals in 2018 and District 3 Finals last year … Recorded 10 goals and 10 assists as a center midfielder and also forward this fall.

Waldrum on Hinkson:

“Elena is a highly intelligent player with technical quality and pace. She’s versatile and can play in any positional line on the field. A real tough competitor that has an engine on the field. She has an elite work ethic and drive, and throughout the recruiting process she continued to develop into one of the top players coming out of Pa. Her quality will contribute to our team from day one.

Why Pitt for Hinkson:

“Pitt not only has a city atmosphere and great academics, but the coaching staff and top-level facilities have all made this a perfect fit for me. I am beyond excited to play here and improve my skills with a great group of girls.”

Katelyn Kauffman | Forward | Pittsburgh, Pa. | Norwin HS | Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Club: Played for the Riverhounds since 2017 alongside fellow signees Sarah Schupansky and Madison Vukas … Selected for the ECNL Player Development Program in 2018 and 2019 … Helped the Riverhounds win the ECNL national playoffs in the same two seasons.

High School: Four-year letterwinner and played alongside current Panther Eva Frankovic at Norwin … Nominated for preseason all-American this year … Selected to the All-WPIAL Section 3 Team the last three seasons and All-WPIAL twice … Been the leading goal scorer for the team the last two years, including 19 goals as a junior … Helped the Knights win the 2017 PIAA AAAA & two WPIAL AAAA Section 3 Championships … In her four-year career, the Knights went 63-11-2, 40-2-2 and earned a No. 1 ranking in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer in 2017 … Is a third generation of her family to attend Pitt, as her mother Molly (2008) received her master’s degree and grandmother Maryanne Heatherington graduated in 1985.

Waldrum on Kauffman:

“Katelynn’s overall quickness and athleticism combined with her technical qualities will enhance our teams’ attack. She has the strength and power to play with her back to goal as a target forward. She also has the pace and mobility to play more as a winger for us. She possesses a change of pace that’s dynamic and can cause the opposition problems in and around the final third.”

Why Pitt for Kauffman:

“I chose Pitt because of the outstanding education and the women’s soccer program. I live in Pittsburgh, so I have always liked the school and have wanted to go here. I am extremely excited to begin my career and develop academically and athletically. I cannot wait to begin practicing and working with the team to win championships.”

Maddie Keister | Midfielder | Le Roy, N.Y. | Le Roy HS | Western New York Flash

Club: Played for the Flash since 2016, playing alongside current Panther Emily Yaple … Previously played for the Rochester Rhinos … Invited to U.S. ID training three times in the past two years and multiple ODP tournaments … Helped the team win the ECNL Ohio Valley Conference in 2018 and 2019, attend the national tournaments and win every league game the two years … Team finished second in ECNL North East Conference and also attended nationals in Chicago in 2017.

High School: Named the Livingston County Division One Player of the Year, the team’s offensive MVP and the coaches’ award … Scored 25 goals, 23 assists and 73 points so far in her high school career … Helped Le Roy make it to the sectional finals last year as a No. 7 seed.

Waldrum on Keister:

“Maddie is a midfielder with the highest technical quality. She has an elite level soccer IQ and is excellent in her ability to find space and get on the ball. Her passing range and vision makes her an excellent fit in our game model here at Pitt. Her ability to bring others into the game and combine with teammates will be a big asset for the program and contribute right away in our team.”

Why Pitt for Keister:

“I decided on Pitt right after I attended the ID camp in the summer of 2018 for multiple reasons. One being that I felt overly welcomed by the coaches and loved the way they saw the game. I chose Pitt because I envisioned the future and knew it was the right place to further my education and play soccer. I am so excited for 2021 and can’t wait to be competing at the highest level with some of the best coaches and players.”

Ashley Moon | Defender | Somers, N.Y. | Somers Senior HS | New York Soccer Club

Club: Participated in the ODP in 2015-16 with a spot on the ODP Tournament team in 2016 … Attended the US Soccer Club’s Players Development Program from 2014-16 … Selected to the USSF Training Center in 2017 … Helped the NYSC win the state cup championship in 2017 along with a semifinalist appearance

High School: Didn’t player soccer at Somers … Was a standout in track … Qualified in nationals for the 60-meter, 4×400-meter relay and 1600-medley relay and also in the 55 and 100-meter at the state level … Holds eight winter and spring school records.

Waldrum on Moon:

“Ashley is the definition of speed kills. A very pacey outside back that loves getting forward to join the attack. She’s a tough, tenacious defender that has a competitive fire and drive to continue to improve her game. We’re excited to add a player of Ashley’s quality and fully expect her to make a tremendous impact in our program.”

Why Pitt for Moon:

“I chose Pitt because it was a perfect fit for me academically and athletically. I am super excited to come and play with an amazing group of girls and coaching staff!

Haley Schmidt | Midfielder | Franklin Lakes, N.J. | Ramapo HS | PSA National

Club: Played for PSA National since 2020 … Was previously on the NJ Stallions for eight years, serving as team captain … Helped the Stallions win its division in the USYS National League in 2019, play in the finals of the 2018 State Cup and win the NPL League and PDA Girls Showcase Group Championships and the 2017 CASL Girls Showcase Championship … Participated in the Next Generation Regional Team that traveled to Canada during 2015 Women’s World Cup and played international friendlies vs Canadian Teams.

High School: Earned First Team All-Bergen County and All-Group Three honors every year … Named to the all-state team last season … Helped Ramapo win the 2019 league and county titles and state championship appearance and another league title and runner-ups in the section in 2018.

Waldrum on Schmidt:

“Haley’s technical ability and soccer IQ is as high as anyone in the country. She’s an exceptional midfield player with passing range and vision that helps her stand out in the game. She’s a player that brings others into the game and makes everyone around her better. Also, she is the ultimate competitor and teammate with a drive to continue to improve her game and make the team more successful.  She fits excellently in our game model here at Pitt.”

Why Pitt for Schmidt:

“I chose Pitt because I was very interested in the nationally ranked Physical Therapy Program, and I love the city of Pittsburgh. I wanted to be challenged academically and athletically. I am so excited to play soccer for this coaching staff, team, and in the ACC.”

Sarah Schupansky | Forward | Pittsburgh, Pa. | North Allegheny HS | Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Club: Played for the Riverhounds since 2017 and previously for North United Soccer Club … Serves as team captain … Named to the ECNL National Selection Game Starting XI in 2020 … Invited to the ECNL Conference Selection Program Invitee the last three years, ECNL National Training Camp in 2018, ODP National Training Camp in 2017 and US Soccer Training Center for five-straight years starting in 2015 … Selected to the ECNL All-Conference Team in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons … Attended the id2 Training Camp in 2017 … Picked to the ODP State from 2014-17 and Regional Team from 2015-17 … Helped the Riverhounds win the 2019 ECNL Showcase Cup Championship and North United take the 2015 and 2016 PA West State Cup Titles.

High School: Played alongside fellow signee Madison Vukas at North Allegheny and the Riverhounds … Named to the 2019 United Soccer Coaches All-East Region and PCSA All-State Teams … Selected to the All-WPIAL AAAA Team the last two seasons and the WPIAL Big 56 All-Section Team the last three years … Is a two-time finalist for the Moe Rosensteel Award alongside Coffield both times and Frankovic last year … Helped the Tigers win the last two WPIAL titles and a Section One Championship in 2019 … Team advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals in the 2017, 2019 and 2020 with the current season ongoing … Scored 57 career goals, leading the team in scoring this year with 21 and last season with 23 … lettered in track the last two years … Serves as team captain this fall … Lettered all four years as a Tiger … Father, Robert, earned his Law degree at Pitt in 1998.

Waldrum on Schupansky:

“We believe Sarah is the top attacking player coming out of Western Pa. She is dangerous and a threat at all times in and around goal. Her pace, technique, and ability to combine with teammates or go herself to goal is similar to Amanda West.  She’ll impact our program right away and give us another goal-scoring threat in our attack. A high character person that continues to put time in to improve her game, and we are thrilled with adding a forward of her quality to the program.”

Why Pitt for Schupansky:

“I chose Pitt because I know I will be challenged both in the classroom and on the field. I am excited to play alongside great teammates and learn from amazing coaches. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and I am honored to take the field here in my hometown.”

Madison Vukas | Goalkeeper | Pittsburgh, Pa. | North Allegheny HS | Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Club: Played for the Riverhounds since 2017 and previously with North United and Keystone Soccer Academy/Penns Forest … Selected to the ECNL Ohio Valley Conference Program and ECNL Players To Watch in the 2019-20 season … Is on the ODP Region 1 Team … Invited to attend the U.S. Soccer Girls YNT Identification Center … Helped the Riverhounds win the 2019 ECNL Showcase Cup Championship and North United take the 2015 and 2016 PA West State Cup Titles.

High School: Selected to the All-WPIAL AAAA First Team in 2019 and Second Team in 2018 … Helped the Tigers win the WPIAL titles and Section One Championship in 2019 … Team advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals in the 2017 and 2019 … Posted 16 shutouts in her sophomore and junior seasons … Father, Sean, graduated at Pitt in 1995 and got his MBA from the school in 2005.

Waldrum on Vukas:

“Madison is an excellent keeper as we feel she’s one of the best coming out of our region in this class. Her quickness and athletic qualities puts her shot stopping ability at an elite level. She possesses a presence in goal, something you notice immediately in her game. She has exceptional distribution ability with either throwing out or passing out with her feet and has an ability to impact our program immediately.”

Why Pitt for Vukas:

“I was incredibly interested in the coaching staff at Pitt per my many conversations with the coaches, but once I got to visit and saw the high bar they were setting for the team, I couldn’t have been more excited! Being on campus for many hours, watching the team train and bond, meeting the academic advisor, and sitting in the office with the coaches, it felt like home. I plan on going into Pre-Medicine with the hopes of becoming an anesthesiologist in the future. Pitt has both academic support and affiliation with UPMC which makes it an incredibly strong medical program. That makes it even more exciting to be a student at Pitt along with many other opportunities to come. I am beyond excited to see what’s in store for the next four years!

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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