Four coaches who have 20 WPIAL championships between them. A three-time Parade All-American basketball player. A two-sport star who had her college jersey retired. A basketball player who went to be part of a national championship team at the University of North Carolina.
Those are some of the headliners of the WPIAL Hall of Fame class of 2014.
The WPIAL held a news conference this morning to announce its eighth annual class. All inductees will be honored at a banquet June 6 at the Doubletree Hotel in Greentree.
A WPIAL Hall of Fame committee picks inductees in seven different categories – athlete, coach, team, official, Heritage Award, contributor and Courage Award.
The four coaches inducted will be Bob Jacoby, Don Yannessa, Tom Sankovich and Dave Meloni. The three-time Parade All-American is Shannon Daivs. The two-sport star who had her college jersey retired is Beth Friday. The University of North Carolina basketball player is Dante Calabria.
Here are thumbnail sketches of the WPIAL 2014 Hall of Fame class.
DANTE CALABRIA, BLACKHAWK CLASS OF 1992 – Scored 2,252 career points and averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds as a senior. Won three WPIAL titles, one state title and helped the 1992 team average 91 points. Won a national championship at North Carolina and played in another Final 4. Played 16 seasons professionally overseas.
RALPH CINDRICH, AVELLA CLASS OF 1967 – A successful sports agent these days, Cindrich was an outstanding football player and wrestler at Avella. He helped Avella to a WPIAL title game in 1966 and twice finished as runner-up in state individual wrestling. Played both sports at Pitt before playing in the NFL for four years.
SHANNON DAVIS, SACRED HEART CLASS OF 1989 – As a senior at Sacred Heart, which closed in 1989 and became Oakland Catholic, Davis was a first-team USA Today All-American, which meant she was ranked one of the top five basketball players in the country. Was a three-time Parade magazine All-American and two-time Post-Gazette Athlete of the Year. Scored 2,275 career points.
KELLY DEEP, MOON CLASS OF 1987 – Doubles tennis was Deep’s thing and her siblings made for great partners. Deep won an unprecedented four consecutive WPIAL doubles tennis titles and four consecutive PIAA titles. Her sister, Colleen, was her partner two of the years and she also partnered with her brother Don to finish third in PIAA mixed doubles. Kelly went on to play at Memphis State.
BETH FRIDAY, UPPER ST. CLAIR CLASS OF 1999 – At Upper St. Clair in the last 1990s, it was TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). She was a two-sport star, averaging 21 points and 16 rebounds in basketball as a senior and led the Panthers to a state championship. She also was a standout goalkeeper for a WPIAL championship girls soccer team, recording shutouts in 17 of 26 games. She played basketball at Duquesne University, finished with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, and the school retired her jersey.
ERIC KASPEROWICZ, NORTH HILLS CLASS OF 1994 – Few WPIAL football players were as accomplished offensively and defensively as Kasperowicz. He finished his career with 6,869 yards and 20 career interceptions as a defensive back. Still one of the WPIAL’s top 20 passers in career yardage, but also rushed for 1,369 yards. Led North Hills to a state championship as a senior when he had more than 3,600 yards offense. Was a Parade All-American QB as a senior and went on to play linebacker at Pitt.
MIKE VERNILLO, FORT CHERRY CLASS OF 2000 – When Vernillo finished his career at Fort Cherry, there wasn’t a running back in WPIAL history who could claim to “be like Mike.” He finished his career as the WPIAL’s all-time leading rusher with 7,646 yards, a mark that stood for 11 years. He once rushed for 424 yards as a sophomore. He signed with West Virginia University and ended up playing at Slippery Rock.
BOB JACOBY, BISHOP CANEVIN FOOTBALL-SOFTBALL – If you count Jacoby’s years as a head football coach and head softball coach, he coached for seven decades. He was Canevin’s football coach for 40 seasons and had a record of 230-170-7 with one WPIAL title. He was Canevin’s softball coach for 30 years and won two WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship. He played football at North Catholic and also was Canevin’s athletic director for a long time.
DAVE MELONI, SPRINGDALE SOCCER – The leader of the dynamic Springdale Dynamos boys soccer team in the 1960s and 70s. It was unusual when he did NOT win a WPIAL title. He won nine in 15 years as Springdale’s coach and his teams once had a 72-game winning streak, which is still the longest in Pennsylvania history. He accepted a football scholarship at North Carolina State and played that sport for three years before playing one year of soccer.
DON YANNESSA, ALIQUIPPA-BALDWIN-AMBRIDGE FOOTBALL – When Yannessa took over as Aliquippa’s coach in 1972, the Quips were a terrible program. In his 17 years as coach, Yannessa built Aliquippa into a power, making the WPIAL AAA title game seven times and winning four. A former player at Aliquippa and also New Mexico State, Yannessa left Aliquippa for Baldwin in 1989. He coached 14 years at Baldwin and six at Ambridge before retiring after the 2008 seasons. His all-time record is 249-137-7, which is 10th on the all-time WPIAL wins list.
TOM SANKOVICH, CONNELLSVILLE BASEBALL – Sankovich started Connellsville’s baseball program in 1971 and won a WPIAL title two years later. He ended up winning four WPIAL titles and had a record of 422-105 (.801 winning percentage). His 1989 team was ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today. He was a football player at the University of Maryland.
BEAVER FALLS FOOTBALL 1960 – This team was quarterbacked by a three-sport star named Joe Namath, who would go on to future stardom and eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Tigers, coached by Larry Bruno, were 9-0 and outscored opponents, 305-63. Back then, there were no playoffs. Only teams that were undefeated played in the WPIAL title game. Because there were no other undefeated teams in Class AA, Beaver Falls was declared WPIAL champion. Namath completed 85 of 164 for 1,564 yards that season. His favorite receiver was Tom Krzemienski. Receiver Tony Golmont went on to play at North Cartolina State and running back Butch Ryan at Iowa.
BALDWIN GIRLS VOLLEYBALL 1989 – This team was literally unbeatable. The first team had a match record of 51-0 and the first team had a record of 118-2 in games. This team, coached by Paul Hindes, won WPIAL and PIAA titles. Sue Reiff and Julie Fernacz were first-team all-WPIAL and Kelly Kovach second-team. Mary Doerzbacher was honorable mention. Kovach went on to be an outstanding softball pitcher at the University of Michigan and is in the WPIAL Hall of Fame along with Hindes.
ARNOLD GALIFFA, DONORA CLASS OF 1945 – The Heritage Award goes to someone who made an impact on WPIAL sports before 1959. Galiffa was an athlete for the ages. In high school, he won 12 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was a quarterback of the football team and helped Donora become the first school to win WPIAL football and basketball titles in the same school year (1944-45). He went on to win 11 varsity letters at West Point (Army). He played two years in the NFL and was eventually selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
LARRY MAGGI – Maggi’s impact on wrestling is extensive. A PIAA wrestling official since 1971, he has worked 26 PIAA regional finals, 18 WPIAL team championships and nine PIAA championships. He was selected the Pennsylvania Wrestling Official of the Year three times.
JON VALLINA – Vallina has been on the WPIAL Board of Control for 12 years and also served as chairman of the golf steering committee. He also has been president of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association. He is a longtime coach of the Burgettstown boys golf team and has won five WPIAL team titles and collected 370 wins.
BILL SUIT – Suit was a former principal at Shaler Area High School who served on the WPIAL board of control for a number of years and also on the WPIAL Hall of Fame and scholarship committees. He battled sarcoma cancer for several years before passing away in December of 2013. He co-founded the Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma Committee and was instrumental in raising over $300,000 for sarcoma research by serving as race director for the Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma 5K run.