Zach Hamilton expects no sophomore slump in his second season as Upper St. Clair High School’s girls soccer coach. In fact, he anticipates the Lady Panthers to far exceed last year’s 7-7-2 season, especially since they return eight starters.

“We’re in the toughest section in Pennsylvania,” Hamilton said of the division that includes rivals Peters Township, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park not to mention Canon-McMillan, Baldwin, Hempfield and Norwin.

“Every night, it’s a tough opponent but we expect to compete nightly, working to win a section title and a WPIAL championship and be playing in the state tournament this fall.”

So far so good.

After dropping a 2-1 decision to powerhouse McDowell in the South Park Tournament, the Lady Panthers blanked Chartiers Valley, 5-0, and Hempfield, 11-0, then tackled Baldwin, 5-1.

Brooke Bodamer has a pair of goals against CV and Hempfield. Sierra Dupre had two tallies against the Spartans, the lone score against McDowell and a goal against the Colts. Eddy McCurrie and Kaylee Paulick completed the scoring against CV while Morgan Huzjak, Lucy Volpatt, Maeryn Mannix, Helena Walker, Meredith Huzjak and Sarah Ripley had goals in the romp against the Spartans.

In the win against the Highlanders, Mary Mascaro, Bodamer, Volpatt, Ava Fazio and Alex Forney recorded the tallies.

McCurrie and Volpatt are two of USC’s seniors returning to the starting lineup at midfield and forward. Sam Prunzik is a veteran on the front line while Alex Duda and goalkeeper Macie Fultineer anchor the defense along with sophomore Ellie Shanholtzer.

Mannix is a junior along with Anna Synder. They secure a midfield that suffered graduation losses along with the back line.

Shanholtzer along with Natalie Disora, Elizabeth Ripley, Dupre, Walker and Bodamer are among those filling the gaps and providing the Panthers with depth.

“We feel as though we have a very solid roster with more depth than we’ll know what to do with,” Hamilton said.

“We feel as though our depth and experience will be our strengths this year.”

In addition to returning a majority of starters, the Panthers feature a ‘great’ freshman class.

“We have players who have a lot of high school minutes under their belt, as well as plenty of minutes playing at high levels across the country for their club programs,” Hamilton said.

As the season progresses and the Panthers blend together further, look for them to improve.

At the start of the 2022 campaign, USC was ranked No. 5 in Class 4A.

North Allegheny, which has won two of the last three WPIAL titles, is ranked No. 1. The Tigers have six returning starters from a 16-1-1 club that was upset by Fox Chapel in a quarterfinal shootout.

Norwin (13-5), the Foxes (10-8-1) and Seneca Valley (16-5-2) are ranked ahead of the Panthers.

“We’ve got to clean up the little things,” said Hamilton. “We need to be better in the final third so as to give our back line a little more breathing room in games and we need to make good decisions in the back line.

The Panthers could also benefit from one other item.

“We also need to get a few lucky bounces here and there,” Hamilton said.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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