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GIRLS SOCCER: Impressive Opening Performances and Fresh Faces Compile This Week’s PCL Notebook

By Marc Narducci Photos: Donna Eckert, Kathy Leister & Krystal Williams, 09/17/23, 4:45PM EDT


Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, Donna Eckert, Ryan Nix, Marc Narducci, Lennie Malmgren & Krystal Williams

By: Marc Narducci

Archbishop Ryan’s Gianna Rivera Back to Performing He Specialty – Scoring Goals

PHILADELPHIA – Her Archbishop Ryan teammates call Gianna Rivera ‘G’, which is a makes sense, a shortened version of her first name. Yet the G could stand for something else when discussing Rivera – GOAL.

Her nose for the goal and scoring, rivals just about any player in the area. Rivera, often situated on the right flank, has tremendous speed, even better ball control and moves, along with great intelligence. That combination would put fear in just about any defender.

Now a senior, Rivera missed all of last year. She injured her toe in the preseason and was sidelined for seven months.

Archbishop Ryan senior Gianna Rivera - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Archbishop Ryan certainly missed her presence on the field, not to mention her goal-scoring ability.

She dearly missed the game.

Yet now she is back and in fitting fashion, during her first Philadelphia Catholic League game since her sophomore year, ‘G’ got the game-winning goal in a 3-2 home victory over Nazareth Academy, a night game played before an enthusiastic crowd.

While she often is situated outside, Rivera frequently changes course and goes toward the goal. She scored the game-winner by walking the ball on goal and then calmly depositing it in the back of the net to cap a wild comeback.

Ryan, which fell into an early 2-0 deficit, scored three straight in the opening PCL game for both teams.

“We wanted it so hard, we worked so hard, it was the first PCL game, and we worked all week for it,” Rivera said. “Getting past that goalie and seeing it roll in was a great feeling.”

It also made all the months of rehab well worth it. Anybody who is sidelined realizes the frustration of not being able to play.

“It was definitely hard because some of those seniors were some of my closest friends and not being with them out on the field was tough,” she said. “I just wanted to be their biggest cheerleader and I was so proud of them.”

The injury came after a summer experience of a lifetime entering her junior year. During the summer of 2022, she played on a club team, the Philadelphia SC Coppa Rage that won the U17 US Youth Soccer National Championship in Orlando.

Rivera not only won a national title, but she was named to the tournament’s Best 11 squad.

“Being part of that championship was probably the best experience and I will forever remember that memory,” she said.

Here are two of Archbishop Ryan's 2nd half goals vs. Nazareth, the first of Finley Broderick and the second of Gianna Rivera's game-winner - PSD Video by Marc Narducci

Rivera will take her talents next year to Division II Kutztown, one of the top teams this year in the highly competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

“I was interested in a lot of places, but just being on that campus, it felt like a right fit,” Rivera said. “I know girls who go there, I think I will be comfortable there, the coaches are amazing, and I think I will be a great fit.”

Two of her former Ryan teammates, Chelsea Ritter and Carly Walsh, are freshman on the Kutztown team.

Rivera made her college decision late in the spring.

“It was definitely a hard process, but I think I made the right choice,” said Rivera, who plans to study physical therapy.

Now, she is just so excited to be back on the field, doing the things that she has been accustomed to accomplishing throughout her career, namely finding the back of the net with frequency.

More on Archbishop Ryan

After allowing the first two goals against Nazareth Academy, Archbishop Ryan cut the lead late in the first half on an absolute laser from Riley Lukach on a free kick from about 30 yards out.

The second half was all Ryan.

A free kick by Lukach was headed in by freshman Finley Broderick for the equalizer before Rivera scored the game-winner with 12:27 left.

It was quite a PCL head coaching debut for first-year coach Megan Manion, a former player at the school.

“It felt amazing to win the game,” said Manion who won a Catholic League title her senior year in 2012. “When we were down the girls didn’t let it get to them and didn’t put their heads down.”

On Thursday, Archbishop Ryan improved to 2-0 in the PCL with a 6-1 win over Little Flower. Rivera scored a hat truck. Lukach had two goals and Emma Fitzgerald added the other.

A first for Nazareth Academy

Despite the loss to Archbishop Ryan, it was a historic game for Nazareth Academy, the first for the soccer program as a member of the Catholic League. Previouisly, Nazareth Academy competed in the Catholic Academy League.

Natalie D'Alfonso makes PCL history, scoring the first goal for Nazareth Academy in opener vs. Ryan. Teammate Alyssa Browning scores the second goal, which is followed by a goal from Riley Lukach from Archbishop Ryan - PSD Video by Marc Narducci

Nazareth Academy head coach Daniel Bradley - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Nazareth played well early, but after taking a 2-0 lead, it was Archbishop Ryan storming back for the aforementioned 3-2 home victory.

Still, Natalie D’Alfonso made history for Nazareth Academy by scoring the school’s first-ever Catholic League goal.

“I think that goal gave us a good start and gave us a little more energy coming in here being our first PCL game,” D’Alfonso said.

She said she is looking forward to this inaugural PCL season.

“I think it is good, I think more challenges are going to come, but this was a tough one tonight.”

Head coach Daniel Bradley praised the winners in his first PCL game.

“We played 15 minutes, but unfortunately you have to play 80,” he said. “Ryan came out in the second half and just took it to us, and they dominated us in every possible way.”

Like D’Alfonso, Bradley is looking forward to competing in the PCL. Playing against Ryan is especially anticipated since the two schools are located just a few minutes apart.

“Being able to play for a Catholic League championship, that is what we want,” Bradley said. “The opportunity to play our neighborhood rival (Ryan) means that much more to us.”

Also scoring for the Pandas was Alyssa Browning.

And then the neighbors from Ryan came storming back.

Nazareth Academy rebounded with a 1-0 win over Lansdale Catholic, with Browning scoring the goal.

Defending champs open with two wins

Archbishop Wood, the two-time defending PCL champion, won its first two league games. After a convincing win over Bonner-Prendergast, the Vikings then beat Cardinal O’Hara 1-0 on a goal by Regan Kelso. Despite the close score, the Vikings put continual pressure on Cardinal O’Hara.

“We had at least 25 shots,” Wood coach Tom DeGeorge said. “I thought we were able to stay patient and get that goal. Also, their goalie (Ava Hnelski) was very good.”

Cardinal O’Hara’s Coleman on a scoring spree

Cardinal O’Hara opened its Catholic League schedule with a 2-1 overtime home win over Conwell Egan. Carly Coleman scored both goals for the winning Lions. Ava Hneleski made nine saves in the win.

Cardinal O’Hara stepped out of the Catholic League to face Barrack Hebrew and the Lions came away with a 3-1 win.

Coleman provided all the offense Cardinal O’Hara needed with a hattrick.  Hope Scolis and Greta Miller added assists. Keeper Kaelynn DiEnnis made three saves for the winners.

On Thursday, O’Hara played a strong game in a 1-0 loss to Archbishop Wood. Hneleski made 10 saves.

In an earlier 6-1 non-league win over Sun Valley, Coleman had a hat trick, Miller added two goals and Analise Albertini scored once. Hneleski made one save while DiEnnis also played in goal but wasn’t forced to make a save.

Impressive start for Archbishop Carroll

Archbishop Carroll’s impressive non-league performance carried into the opening of Catholic League play. In the Patriots first Catholic League game, they defeated Little Flower, 3-0. Maddie McFillian, Colleen Lloyd and Solei Redner were the goal scorers. Freshman keeper Grace Wilson made eight saves to earn her third shutout.

Archbishop Carroll then beat Conwell-Egan 5-1 with two goals each from Lloyd and Maddie McFillian and one from Olivia Stout. Wilson made seven saves.

That improved Archbishop Carroll to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the PCL, with Lloyd scoring seven goals, and Stout and McFillian each adding five.  

Archbishop Carroll vs. Little Flower - PSD Highlights by Lennie Malmgren

New coach debuts for Lansdale Catholic

Lansdale Catholic has a new coach, Nykie Beuke, who replaces Bree Benedict. The Crusaders graduated a large number of players who advanced to the Philadelphia Catholic League championship before losing 2-1 in OT to Archbishop Wood.

Lansdale Catholic opened up Catholic League play with a 2-1 loss at St Hubert’s. Beuke said there were positives in defeat.

“Outstanding defensive performances from Kate Norbury, Maddie Calafati and Holly Wunder,” she said. “These three senior defenders have been having a standout year while Liv Boccella has taken a more central role in the midfield.”

The Crusaders scored with around six minutes left in the second half on a penalty kick from Mia Norbury.

Lansdale Catholic made a late push at the end of the game, but St. Hubert’s stood its ground.

The Crusaders then lost a hard-fought home game, 1-0 to Nazareth Academy.

Norbury suffered a knee injury early in the game and was unable to return.

According to Beuke, the Crusaders had multiple chances coming from crosses from freshman Mattie Williams and senior Kate Norbury. In addition, Beuke said that sophomore, Ava McCafferty, came into the middle for Mia Norbury and worked with Molly Norbury and Liv Bocella to control the middle of the field.

Maddie Calafati, Holly Wunder, Natalie Oliveri and Kate Norbury along with Shea Maxwell had strong defensive plays throughout the entire game,” Beuke said. “Kate Norbury was pushing forward to create offensive threats with freshman Mattie Williams, working together to get crosses in the box for Alyssa Kafel and Carolyn Moore crashing the net.”

It was a physical game and Beuke said her team had some great defensive performances.

“Some thankless play and hard work came from junior Alyssa Kafel and Kate Norbury, working hard on the outside of the field,” she said. “Senior Holly Wunder and senior Maddie Calafati had shut down physical defensive play as middle defenders throughout the entire game and played solid in front of senior goalie Shea Maxwell.”

Maxwell came up with several big plays in goal.

Despite two losses, the Crusaders played one-goal games and showed that they will be competitive this season.

Big start for St. Hubert’s

In its opening 2-1 Catholic League win over Lansdale Catholic, St. Hubert’s got big performances its young players as the goal scorers were sophomore Luca D’Andrea and freshman Saige Primavera.

That was a big opening win for St. Hubert’s, which despite the youth, figures to contend for a playoff berth.

“I think we did a good job of defending as a unit and that started with our forwards,” coach Jeannette Hibbs said. “Ang Kinniry and Hayden Clark did a great job of being the first defender and applying pressure to their back line. This helped relieve some pressure off of our back line and we were able to get defenders forward.”

St. Hubert vs. Bonner & Prendie - Highlights by Krystal Williams

D’Andrea got things rolling with a shot from 25 yards out and St. Hubert’s played well throughout the game.

“Our work ethic defensively in the midfield was high and we were able to transition quickly when we won the ball,” Hibbs said. “We created some really great scoring opportunities off of Loie D’Andrea’s services from the midfield.  Saige Primavera was able to slot a goal in from the midfield.  Luca D’Andrea, Grace Smith, Riley Roesner, Sam Kinniry, and Kady Donnelly kept the back line well organized and composed against LC’s attacks.”

PIAA Classifications and playoff dates:

Here are this year’s PIAA Classifications for the Catholic League teams:

4A: Archbishop Carroll 
3A: Archbishop Ryan, Archbishop Wood, Bonner & Prendie,  Cardinal O’Hara, Little Flower, St. Hubert’s
2A: Conwell-Egan, Lansdale Catholic, Nazareth Academy


The first round of the PCL playoffs begins on Oct. 19, with the semifinals on Oct. 24 and the finals either Oct. 28 or 29. 

PCL Standings (through Sept. 14)

Archbishop Carroll 2-0

Archbishop Wood 2-0

St. Hubert’s 2-0

Archbishop Ryan 2-0

Nazareth Academy 1-1

Little Flower 0-2

Bonner-Prendergast 0-2

Lansdale Catholic 0-2

Conwell-Egan 0-2