Gass named Herald Athlete of the Week |

Gass named Herald Athlete of the Week

Fox Chapel’s shutout streak was in jeopardy.

The Foxes had blanked Penn Hills, North Hills and North Allegheny in consecutive games heading into last Saturday’s showdown with Mt. Lebanon, which is traditionally one of the WPIAL’s Class AAA powers.

Stopping Mt. Lebanon would be difficult. Making matters worse was the absence of starting defenders Sarah Kwoh and Melissa Marsico, who sat out the game.

“That made it a lot harder,” said senior defender Jamie Gass. “It made us all more aware of where we needed to be and who we had to mark.”

Gass and Fox Chapel’s defense was up to the task.

The Foxes held the Blue Devils without a goal but had to settle for a 0-0 tie.

It was the first time Mt. Lebanon has been shut out during the regular season since 2001 and the first time the Foxes have blanked the Blue Devils since 1998.

The Mt. Lebanon game capped a week in which the solid defensive work turned in by Gass helped the Foxes post three shutouts.

For her performance, Gass has been selected The Herald Athlete of the Week.

Gass moved to the middle of the field against Mt. Lebanon. She normally plays right outside back in Fox Chapel’s defensive scheme, which utilizes four defenders in front of goalkeeper Emily Niman.

“We play four across, which is easier than playing a diamond,” Gass said. “You have more space to roam, and the outside backs can push up and help out on offense. It’s not like you’re leaving only one defender back there, because there will still be two back on defense.”

It was in such a situation that Gass scored her only goal this season. She moved up during a scoreless game against Penn Hills and scored the game’s only goal on a header off a corner kick by teammate Carolyn Coulson.

“It went right in. It was exciting,” Gass said. “Scoring on a header is a great feeling.”

Gass, a four-year starter, began her high school career as a midfielder before switching to defense as a junior.

“I was nervous about it,” she said. “But even when I was younger I was always able to play anywhere.”

Gass, a team captain, normally marks the opponent’s top offensive player each game.

“(Gass) is one of our best defenders,” Fox Chapel coach Rick Nese said. “She’s strong in the air, she tackles pretty hard, and she’s one of the leaders on the team. She’s vocal, and she keeps everyone organized back there.”

The Foxes allowed only seven goals and posted five shutouts in their first eight games while going 4-2-2.

“We’ve been playing very well defensively as a team,” Nese said.

That solid defense could carry the Foxes past the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs this season. Fox Chapel has been eliminated in the first round three years in a row.

“We have 10 seniors, and this is our last season,” Gass said. “We’d like to go further than we have.”

If Gass needs advice on how to play defense, she can get it from a familiar source. Her older sister, Penny Gass, is one of Fox Chapel’s assistant coaches.

“(Penn Gass) played at Slippery Rock, and she’s been a defender all her life,” Jamie Gass said. “She knows what she’s doing.”

The way she’s been playing defense this season, little sister looks like she knows what she’s doing, too.

Additional Information:

Jamie Gass

School: Fox Chapel.

Class: Senior.

Sport: Soccer.

Last week: Gass, a right outside back on defense, was instrumental in helping the Foxes post shutouts against North Hills, North Allegheny and Mt. Lebanon, pushing their shutout streak to four straight games.

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