Apollo Ridge brings back a familiar face to girls’ soccer coach


Wednesday 15 June 2022 | 20:26

Sarah Bonelli Christopher graduated from Apollo Ridge in 2013 and played as a linebacker for Lock Haven for four years.

She simply missed the opportunity to play for her alma mater in high school, as a couple of years later the Vikings girls football program was formed.

“I was sad that I couldn’t make it, but I was definitely excited that there was one start because both of my younger sisters (Emily and Megan) had to play on the team,” Christopher Bonelli said.

Fast forward a few years and she now plays a major role at Apollo-Ridge Football Club as the new coach.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Bonelli Christopher, who has taken over from Matt Ross, the coach since the Vikings first team took the field in 2015.

Ross remains in the program as an assistant coach.

“It’s great to see the girls playing as well as all the younger kids (27 kids from kindergarten to sixth grade) at our football camp this week,” she said.

“It gives me great hope that this program will work and be strong for a while. I hope these younger kids keep their interest and want to play when they move on to middle and high school.”

Bonelli Christopher, hired two weeks ago, said she jumped right into the job. No player left last year’s team, which posted an overall record of 8-5 and 7-5 in Section 1-1A.

Rising sophomore Paige Crawford led the team in goals with 17 goals, while the forward joined rising high schooler Kira Myers (defense), Sidney Durianczyk (linebacker) and Sidney McCray (goalkeeper) on the all-round team.

“We’ve already had a big turnout for training and conditioning over the last couple of weeks,” Christopher Bonelli said.

Apollo-Ridge will once again be a joint program with neighboring Leechburg. Bonelli Christopher said the five from Leechburg will join 15 Apollo-Ridge players to form a team that will advance to the 2A class this year.

“We had more turnout than in previous years,” she said. “Hopefully it will be interesting to see how they continue to work hard until the end of the summer.”

Bonelli Christopher said she is happy to have Ross.

“He helped me a lot, and the three or four other dads who have helped me over the past few years have been by my side every step of the way,” she said.

“I don’t think I could have done it without them, to be honest. They know all the players, the team’s movement and expectations. They were so important during the transition.”

Ross reciprocated his excitement and said that Christopher Bonelli brings new energy and enthusiasm to the program.

“It’s a good match for the program and we’re happy to have her on board,” Ross said.

“I think the girls are happy to be coached by someone other than their father’s group. On the day (hiring) was confirmed, she sent out a training schedule for the entire first month through our team app. She met the girls and they went the distance. She adds spark and we all really have confidence in her ability to lead the program.”

Bonelli Christopher will lead the Vikings to Section 2-2A, a group with a distinct local flavor.

They will face Burrell, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Highlands, Knoch and Valley.

Deer Lakes, Burrell and Freeport represented the playoff section of last year’s WPIAL.

Knoch drops out of class 3A.

“I think every game in this section is going to be a pretty competitive battle,” Christopher Bonelli said. “It’s going to be tough games, close games, and we have to be ready every night.”

Apollo-Ridge is free from the playoff restrictions it has experienced in the past two years, when a clerical error in a report to the PIAA resulted in the Vikings being relegated to Class 2A for the playoffs.

They played in class 1A sections. The PIAA required the team to win their division in order to qualify for the Class 2A playoffs.

Although Apollo Ridge has performed well in the past two years, it has not won its section in 2020 or 2021 and has not been able to enter postseason play.

“That’s in the past and now the girls are here and ready to work hard,” Christopher Bonelli said. “They’re excited about everything that’s going to happen to them this season.”

Michael Love is a staff columnist for the Tribune-Review. You can contact Michael at [email protected] or via Twitter. .

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