New Castle News

July 2, 2013

Athletes of the Year Nominees: Today, meet the female standouts from Lawrence County

Andrew Petyak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County wasn’t without its fair share of girls superstars this season.

Whether it was on the track and field, softball diamond, basketball court or even the gridiron, 15 separated themselves from the rest.

However, only one will conquer the field when the New Castle News announces its Female Athlete of the Year on Thursday.

Individuals who participate in one sport qualify, but special consideration is given to multi-sport athletes.

Following are the candidates in alphabetical order:



LAUREN BARBER

Barber made waves in the pool for Wilmington this year.

She earned the first state gold medal in school history at the PIAA Class AA Swimming Championships in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.63, just .08 off the PIAA record. She also grabbed a silver in the 200 freestyle.

Perhaps one of the more impressive aspects of the sophomores accomplishment was that she took down 15-year-old phenom and participant in the latest Olympic trials, Allie Szekely.

Barber is no stranger to success, grabbing a second-place medal in the breaststroke and a third-place finish in the freestyle last year.



SHELBY BROWN

Brown emerged as a superstar in two sports for Mohawk — softball and basketball.   

On the court, the offense went through the 5-7 guard, as the all-star compiled a county-high 17 points a game, finished second with 122 of 154 free-throw shooting (79.2 percent) and was runner-up in 3-pointers with 41, earning first-team section and MVP honors.

Brown was too much for Wilmington in an early-season contest, earning a season-high 31 points and draining six 3-pointers.

She led her team on a wild ride in the playoffs, as the Lady Warriors won their first state postseason game since 1983.

As the games got more important, Brown only got better. In her team’s final three state playoff games, Brown upped her point per game average to 22.3, including a 27-point effort against Everett in the PIAA opening round.

Brown, who also doubled as a softball all-star, led her team to the postseason on the diamond as well. She paced Mohawk with 27 hits, a .415 average, 23 RBIs and a home run.

As a senior, her leadership at shortstop helped the Lady Warriors to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals, an 8-4 defeat to Chartiers-Houston.  



JULIE FALVO

Falvo proved her abilities were medal-worthy.

The track and field star for Wilmington delivered on the big stage, taking first in the District 10 Class AA Championships and third in the PIAA competition in the discus.

Her first-place finish in the D-10 finals came with a distance of 127-4. Falvo also performed well in the shot put placing third at 37-7 3/4, a state-qualifying standard.  

With gold already in her trophy case, Falvo wasn’t done, adding bronze in the discus at the state meet with a distance of 130-3, a personal record that was nearly three feet better than her district mark.

She also had a strong showing in the shot put, earning seventh with a heave of 38-6, another personal record.

The junior also played for the Lady Greyhounds volleyball team that went 10-6 overall.



ALEXANDRA FISCHER

Fischer is a star on the rise in Lawrence County.

She had her coming-out party for the Neshannock softball team in the team’s recent run to a second consecutive PIAA championship game appearance.

In the three games leading up to the finals against Williams Valley, Fischer went 6 for 9 at the plate, drilling three triples, two doubles and four RBIs.

For the season, the all-star batted .492 with a team-high 11 doubles and six triples.

Fischer also was able to utilize her 5-11 frame on the basketball court for the Lady Lancers. She flirted with the county leaderboard in scoring with 8.9 points a contest. She finished 10th in free-throw accuracy going 58 for 93 (62.3) and her 19 3-pointers was 11th best.

Fischer racked up a season-high 21 points in a 64-42 early-season loss at Riverside.   



RAYANNA FURST

Furst was a pace-setter in a pair of sports.

Batting leadoff in softball, she led all Neshannock batters with a .568 average and 40 runs. Her average also topped all girls in Lawrence County.  

Furst also was a formidable center fielder with speed to burn and the technique of a four-year starter.

Her talents will land her on the softball team of Division I Robert Morris University next spring.

The Lady Lancers made two consecutive PIAA championship game appearances with Furst being an all-star in both seasons. She was rewarded co-MVP honors by the New Castle News sports staff in softball this season.

 Her older sister, Amanda, was the starter from the circle in the Lady Lancers first state title in school history, a 4-3 win over Warrior Run, last season and also won a co-MVP nod.

Neshannock failed to repeat this year after a 13-0 loss to Williams Valley.

Rayanna wasn’t limited to just softball, as she also was a WPIAL Section 1-A first-team selection in volleyball.    

From the outside/middle hitter position, Furst finished with 137 kills, a 63.7 kill percentage, 44 aces and 133 total points.



MIRANDA HEANEY

Heaney made life difficult for opponents of the Union basketball team.

The 5-8 guard, along with twin sister Marissa, was the heart and soul of the Lady Scots’ offense.

 Miranda ranked fourth in the county with 12.7 points a game last season, placed second in free-throw shooting by knocking down 65 of 90 attempts (72.2 percent) and finished fourth in 3-pointers with 34. Because of her efforts, she received all-section first-team honors in WPIAL Section 1-A.

Union finished its season 11-11 with a loss to Winchester Thurston in the opening round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs. Heaney led the team with 14 markers.    

She will join her sister on the court for Geneva College women’s basketball team next season.  



AMANDA HERB

Herb kept active in sports all-year round.

Her excellent senior season began with WPIAL Section 3-A first-team honors in volleyball. As a right-side hitter, Herb finished with 91 kills, 41 errors, 307 attempts, 53 block assists, 14 solo blocks, 37 digs, 22 aces and a 2.0 serve/receive ratio. The Lady Wildcats went unbeaten (12-0) in section play.

As the season changed, Herb replaced her volleyball uniform with a basketball jersey. She did her part on the court, averaging 8.8 points a game, including 26 in a 61-48 victory over Freedom. Shenango struggled throughout the year, ending with a  7-14 overall mark.

When basketball season was long gone, Herb changed her look again with track and field attire.

She was a fixture in the field events for the Lady Wildcats, placing second in the WPIAL Championships in the shot put at 38-11. In the WPIAL qualifiers a week earlier, she took first in the shot put (37-9) and discus (100-9).

Herb would go on to finish 12th in the state competition with a 36 3/4 distance in the shot put.  



KYLER LUM

Lum was the best of the best in District 10 soccer.

The junior was named District 10, Region 1 player of the year. It was Lum’s third straight MVP, as she became Wilmington’s first three-time winner.

 Lum finished with 22 goals and nine assists. In addition, she was named to the Erie Times-News All-D-10 team, as selected by the Erie Times-News staff.

Overall, the Lady Greyhounds finished 8-9-1, dropping a 4-1 decision to Fairview in the District 10 Class A semifinals to end their run as two-time district champions.

Lum also broke a gender barrier, becoming the first female placekicker on Wilmington’s varsity football team this past season.



EMILY MAXWELL

Maxwell ran to the mountaintop of WPIAL cross country this year at Laurel.

The Laurel star led the pack in the district championships at Cooper’s Lake in the fall, leaving the competition with gold around her neck.

With a time of 20:14, Maxwell became the first girl to win the WPIAL individual championship in Laurel history. She also became the first girl in school history to make the state meet four years in a row.

Led by Maxwell, the Lady Spartans also earned their first WPIAL team title in school history. The team finished the regular season with a perfect 9-0 record.

At the state meet, Maxwell also performed well, wrapping up a fifth-place finish in 19:53. Her team placed sixth with 179 points.

Through the course of her senior season, Maxwell was able to trim her fastest time to 19:36 heading into the WPIAL Championship, knocking almost two minutes off her time as a freshman.

Maxwell will compete in cross country at Youngstown State University. She’ll likely participate in track and field there as well.



ANGELA MCCOWIN

McCowin used her height to rise above the competition her senior season.

The 5-foot-11 athlete played volleyball, basketball and ran track and field in her final year at Ellwood City Lincoln.

McCowin’s best sport was track and field, where she competed in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and high jump.

This season, she claimed the 100 hurdles and high jump crowns at the Tri-County Track and Field Championships. She also earned a medal at the WPIAL Track and Field Championship, placing eighth in the 100 hurdles.

McCowin went undefeated in section play in individual events during the season. In the process, she broke her previous school record of 16.8 in the 100 hurdles with a time of 14.8. She had the best distance for girls in Lawrence County this year in the high jump at 5-2.

On the court, McCowin was a key contributor for the Lady Wolverines, notching 4.7 points a game. However, the team finished with a disappointing 9-13 record.

She also was a first-team all-section member of the Ellwood City volleyball squad.

McCowin will attend Seton Hill University on an academic and athletic scholarship in the fall. She hopes to become an elementary education teacher.



MADISON MCHALE

There wasn’t a return more welcome then when McHale stepped back onto Neshannock’s basketball court.

The 5-8 sophomore moved to Minnesota just before the start of the 2012-2013 basketball season, but family couldn’t keep her away from the area long.

Her re-emergence boosted a Lady Lancers team that struggled to a 1-3 start to the season. She quickly made her presence known, depositing 24 points and 23 points in wins against New Brighton and Rochester, respectively.

McHale’s 16.8 points a game was second only to Shelby Brown in Lawrence County and her 93 of 106 free-throw attempts (87.7 percent) was the top mark. She also was a first-team selection in WPIAL Section 2-AA.

Despite missing most of four games, McHale still managed to finish fifth in the county with 29 total 3-pointers, including five in one game in a 28-point performance against Clairton.

McHale gave life to the Neshannock offense, as the team earned its way to the Class AA playoffs. In a preliminary-round matchup against West Shamokin, she scored another 28 in a 47-38 victory.  



DANA PERROTTA

Perrotta’s star shined the brightest for the New Castle girls basketball team. Although the squad’s first season under head coach Scott Dibble ended with an 8-14 overall record, Perrotta ended her senior season among the county’s best.

She finished the campaign 14th in the county with 31 of 51 free-throw shooting (14th overall) and also led her team and placed sixth overall with 26 3-pointers.

Perrotta’s best game was an 18-point outburst in a 73-26 rout of West Allegheny.

As the lone senior on the Lady ’Canes softball team, she guided her troops to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. The team finished the regular season 8-6 before running into Elizabeth Forward in a 6-2 opening-round loss.

Perrotta, an all-star, was third on the team with a .400 batting average and led New Castle with 10 stolen bases. She also knocked four doubles and drove in eight.

She will attend Hiram College in the fall where she will play both basketball and softball.



TESSA SIKORA

In need of a three-sport star? Look no further than Sikora.

She finished in the top 10 on the court in two major categories —scoring average and free-throw percentage. Sikora also was rewarded with Region 2 second-team honors.

She twice scored a season-high 18 points on the way to a 10.8 points per game average, good enough for ninth in the county. Sikora’s 45 of 65 free-throw shooting was sixth best in the area.

The Lady Greyhounds started the season 1-7, but came on strong by winning three of their last four to finish 9-13.   

Sikora also earned second-team honors for her work in volleyball. The junior middle hitter was part of a team that finished the year 10-6 overall.

On the track, Sikora impressed in the District 10 Championships, claiming third in the high jump with a distance of 5-0, fourth in the long jump with a distance of 15-9 and seventh in the triple jump at 32-4.

She finished with a Lawrence County Track and Field honor roll time of 27.0 in the 200.   



ABBY SOTTER

You’d be hard-pressed to find a pitcher as consistent as Sotter.

In her senior season with the Lady Greyhounds, Sotter finished 16-3 with a 1.55 ERA and 139 strikeouts. She appeared in every game for Wilmington, starting 19 contests.

Sotter, an all-star, pushed the Lady Greyhounds to the District 10 Class AA quarterfinals, but six errors doomed the team in a 9-5 loss to Northwestern.

She will be attending Edinboro for softball in the fall.  

An outside hitter for Wilmington volleyball, Sotter also excelled with first-team honors. For the season, she recorded 21 aces, 139 serving points, 141 kills, 21 blocks and 156 digs.

The Lady Greyhounds finished 7-5 in Region 3 and 10-6 overall.  



MCKENZIE STELTER

Stelter made history on the diving board.

The Mohawk junior became the first athlete at the school to claim a WPIAL  and PIAA championship in the sport.

Performing a difficult reverse one and a half twist, Stelter bested the field by the slimmest of margins in the district meet — 2.2 points.

The championship allowed Stelter a berth in the PIAA Championship, her third appearance in a row at the event.

She wouldn’t let that go to waste, taking home Class AA gold with a score of 460.70 to edge Holy Redeemer’s Kelsey Williams by 7.35 points.

Later in the season, Stelter was named an All-American from the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association, an honor given to just 100 high school divers around the nation.

Stelter went undefeated in regular-season dual meet six-dive competitions with a high score of 278.55.

She also is swift on dry land, providing winning performances on the track in the 400 relay, pole vault, triple jump and long jump.

Stelter also was a member of the Lady Warriors volleyball team.