Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Knoch Ace Is Aces Again

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Knoch Ace Is Aces Again

Article excerpt

At age 5, Emma Hasco signed up to play soccer at the YMCA, just one of the many sports she wanted to try. At age 8, she joined Beadling, an elite soccer club established in 1898. Her sophomore year, she decided to not return to the varsity basketball team at Upper St. Clair in order to focus exclusively on soccer. Now a senior, she's committed to play at Penn State, currently the No. 9 team in NCAA Division I.

And Hasco's story isn't a unique one.

Girls across Western Pennsylvania have gravitated toward soccer in the past two decades, with the success and exposure of the U.S. national team influencing young girls to pursue the sport beyond just the youth level. Dozens of WPIAL girls soccer players are moving on to play at Division I colleges every year, and the reason for that rise in talent comes from one main source.

"Just the support we get," Hasco said.

Seeing professional women's players win World Cup titles as well as local players moving on to top college programs makes younger girls want to be a part of that success, Hasco said, because they can see "it could become a reality" for them and success is "within reach." But beyond just more girls just play ing the sport, a solid foundation at the local level is what has made somany players top caliber.

West Virginia women's soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has led the Mountaineers for 20 seasons and has five players from the WPIAL currently on her squad, which is ranked No. 3 in Division I. She said the strong grassroots programs in Western Pennsylvania, from the local recreation leagues and travel teams to Beadling-level clubs, draw her attention for recruiting.

"There's a great development system in place," she said, adding of Beadling, "It's not only developing them but giving them an opportunity to play with each other, and that's really important. And then the exposure to play better teams out of state, I think, is always critical."

Rob Fabean coaches the Under-17 girls team at Beadling and said 15 girls on his team this year already have committed to play Division I, estimating their combined scholarships through their college careers as being in the $3 million to $4 million range.

"Beadling soccer has a track record not just in the last three to five years but over the last 20 years of ... of putting many, many players every year into Division I schools, the majority of them on scholarships," Fabean said, adding the players are usually also starters or significant contributors.

The club starts training players as young as age 6, which Fabean said has really increased the talent in the area, as players are learning much younger the fundamental technical skills.

Lexie Kolano is a junior forward at Norwin and has committed to Cincinnati, which has received votes this year in national polls. …

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