HS: Penn, Pennington start No. 1 in FAB 50s

HS: Penn, Pennington start No. 1 in FAB 50s
by Sheldon Shealer
July 31, 2017

Thanks to longtime national powers Carmel (Ind.) and St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.), Indiana and New Jersey are no strangers to SIMA FAB 50 national champions.

But in a twist this year, two emerging powers from those states occupy the SIMA FAB 50 Preseason No. 1 positions.

Penn (Ind.), coming off a 22-0-1 state title season and with eight returning starters, begins the year as the SIMA FAB 50 preseason No. 1 girls team. This year’s squad is led by returning TeamSnap Fall First-Team All-America selection Kristina Lynch, who is committed to Florida State. Brooke VanDyck, ranked among the top 2019 prospects, recently committed to Notre Dame. Team captain Molly McLaughlin committed to Xavier. As if the team was not already loaded, goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood, a Northwestern commit, returns to high school play after sitting out last season to focus on club ball. Overall, Penn coach Jeff Hart expects to have 10 NCAA Division I-bound players in the lineup.

Penn is 43-1-3 over the past two years, and the team’s quality and depth made it an easy choice for preseason No. 1 over defending SIMA FAB 50 fall national champion Davis (Utah), which starts at No. 2. 

Click here for the complete SIMA FAB 50 girls preseason rankings

In the boys preseason rankings, Pennington School (N.J.), a rival to St. Benedict’s, gets the preseason No. 1 nod over a strong field of contenders that include No. 2 Rockwood Summit (Mo.), No. 3 Lower Dauphin (Pa.), defending SIMA FAB 50 national champ No. 4 St. Ignatius (Ohio) and No. 5 Barrington. This year features the strongest preseason Top 10 since the Development Academy mandated that DA players could not participate in high school play. No. 6 St. Benedict’s, No. 7 Bradley-Bourbonnais, No. 8 Conestoga (Pa.), No. 9 Christian Brothers College (Mo.) and No. 10 Naperville North (Ill.) easily could find themselves in the SIMA FAB 50 national title chase this fall. 

Pennington School is led by scoring sensation Ibrahima Diop, one of the nation’s top uncommitted seniors who has narrowed his choices to Wake Forest, Connecticut and Virginia. Midfielder Jared Panson is down to Georgetown or Penn. Defender Jared Subarsky, a junior, is leaning toward committing to Penn State. In addition, the team is adding center back Marco DiNatale, a native of Italy who missed last season due to an ACL injury. Pennington School capped an undefeated season and a SIMA FAB 50 No. 4 finish last year with a state final win over St. Benedict’s, ending St. Benedict’s national record of 27 straight state titles. Diop scored all three goals for Pennington in that historic 3-1 decision. 

Clcik here for the complete SIMA FAB 50 boys preseason rankings


In Transition

This will be the year of transition for girls soccer with the advent of the Girls Development Academy. Many of the GDA programs are requiring their players to stick exclusively to club soccer. However, a few GDA teams, including a New Jersey powerhouse, has made high school play optional for the upcoming school year. The first school to have its potential fortunes changed in a negative way through the GDA is Cumberland Valley (Pa.). This recent PIAA power had a potential lineup that included a North Carolina and two Tennessee commits. However, all three players confirmed to TopDrawerSoccer on Monday that they are skipping the high school season to play in the GDA, turning CV from a national Top 5 prospect into a big question mark for 2017. 

If the GDA has the same affect on high school soccer as the DA, expect some or all of the following to happen: 1. Since DA/GDA programs are concentrated in the more densely populated and soccer talent-rich areas, high school programs in those areas could see a downgrade in quality (four GDA programs in the D.C. Metro area, four GDA programs in and around the New York City/Long Island area are sure to negatively impact the high school player pool. This will be even more drastic in the winter with 13 GDA programs in Southern California, a number that could pull upwards of 1,000 players out of the high school ranks in that area); 2. Suburban or rural schools that were once state quarterfinal/semifinal fodder may emerge as title contenders. (The best example of this has been in Texas where the Brownsville area, well outside the reach of the DA, has turned out more boys state champs in recent years than the perennial powerhouse Dallas-Fort Worth region.); 3. States without a GDA presence — and top teams in those states — that were considered “secondary” a decade ago could now find themselves on more even footing with the traditional “power” states. (This has become evident in boys spring soccer as programs from Alabama and South Carolina have claimed the past two SIMA FAB 50 national titles as many of the Georgia and Virginia powers have taken a backseat due to the loss of high-end talent.); 4. A competition gap may widen between strong private schools/excessively large public schools and their instate competition. Strong private school programs tend to have a better chance at pulling a DA player back into the high school game. The very large public schools have quantity and depth that can often help offset the loss of top-end quality, allowing it to remain competitive. (Just scanning the nation for the fall, Christian Brothers College (Mo.), the defending state champs, lured a pair of former DA players into the lineup this fall to complement an already strong lineup.)

Sidelined by Age

A record six underclassmen were named to the TeamSnap Boys Fall All-America First and Second teams last school year. For certain, one player is not returning to high school play — and it has nothing to do with club soccer. Louisville Collegiate coach Chad Wozniak confirmed Sunday that Louisville commit Haji Abdikadir has "aged out" and will not be able to play high school soccer this fall. Abdikadir was a TeamSnap First-Team All-America pick and No. 39 player in the 2018 IMG Academy 150 after scoring 40 goals last year. A New Jersey media source said Monday that John Murphy, a TeamSnap Second-Team All-America pick, was not returning for his senior high school season. Murphy’s junior year was interrupted with US Soccer Youth National Team commitments. The other four underclass All-America selections are expected to play high school soccer this fall: Ibrahima Diop of Pennington School (N.J.), Billy Hency of Rockwood Summit (Mo.), Nick Richardson of Archbishop Curley (Md.) and rising junior Jacob Shaffelburg of Berkshire School (Mass.). 

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