EDINBORO — When it comes to recruiting players in Butler County, veteran Edinboro University women's soccer coach Gary Kagiavas accepts his fate.
“I know the Northern Steel (club) program down there pretty well,” he said. “I'm always down there looking.
“Sometimes we hit, sometimes we don't.”
Two years ago, he hit the jackpot.
And the Fighting Scots are reaping the dividends.
Four sophomores — forward Brittnie Spithaler and goalkeeper Anna Voelker from Butler, forward Jessica Frank and defender Mary Sinan from Seneca Valley — have anchored Edinboro's quick start this season.
Entering this week's play, the Scots were 6-2-1 overall, 6-0-1 in PSAC West play. Edinboro finished 5-11 last season with these four playing as freshmen.
“I can't say I'm surprised they're contributing the way they are,” Kagiavas said. “All four are extremely talented players who have played this game at a high level.”
Spithaler has four goals and five assists to lead the team in scoring thus far. Frank has scored three goals.
Sinan is one of the team's top defenders and Voelker has made 43 saves through nine games.
Spithaler, Voelker and Sinan were teammates with Northern Steel. Frank played club soccer for Beadling.
“We all knew each other from club soccer and playing with and against each other in high school,” Frank said. “When we all wound up here, we became family instantly.”
The four are roommates together.
“We have become very close,” Spithaler said. “Even though we played for rival schools, we always had mutual respect for each other.
“Gary was one of the deciding factors for me to come here. He takes a genuine interest in you as a student and person. He really made me feel wanted by this school.”
Spithaler is a criminal justice major. Sinan carries a 3.74 grade point average as a pre-chiropractic major. Voelker is a pre-physical therapy major with a 3.47 GPA. Frank has not declared her major.
“I feel like we laid a foundation last year,” Sinan said of the soccer team. “As a freshman, I was just hoping to earn some time on the field.
“When I became a starter, all I wanted to do was improve and help the team. I think that's why we're capable of going a long way this year. We all want it so badly.”
Voelker is the third member of her family to become a goalkeeper. Older brothers Aaron and Adam were goalkeepers for Butler and Adam went on to play at Geneva College.
“I played in the field during my first couple of years in soccer,” Anna Voelker said. “But playing goalkeeper came naturally to me.”
Kagiavas said the team only had one goalkeeper last year.
“Anna was it. She played every game,” the coach said. “Now we have another keeper, but Anna is still our starter. She's been playing fantastic.”
Frank and Spithaler combined to score half of Edinboro's 12 goals in the team's first six games this year.
“We play so well together and we've been in a lot of tight games,” Frank said. “Our attack is balanced. All of the forwards and midfielders work at setting each other up.”
While this quartet is anxious to continue making a positive difference for Edinboro soccer over the next couple of years, Kagiavas sees a more important trend.
“We may never win another soccer game,” he said. “Of course, you want to win and you work toward winning, but playing soccer doesn't last forever.”
“Friendships are for life. Seeing what these four have developed that way ... It's one of the big reasons why we do what we do.”