Wallenpaupack Area standout hopes to star in multiple sports again
If all things fall into place, by this time next year Wallenpaupack Area senior Rachael Tirjan will be a part of a very elite group of Buckhorn athletes.
She is poised to join just seven others that have earned twelve varsity letters during their tenure wearing Purple and White.
Already committed to continue her soccer career at Messiah College, she’s also formidable on the basketball court and ranks among some of the best softball players in the state.
Despite all of her personal success, Rachael is the humblest of players and has been her entire career. If she wanted to, she probably could have just as succeeded as well at individual sports, but she’d rather be a team player.
“I just want to help the team any way I can and enjoy the season with the other senior girls,” Rachel said of her upcoming term on the soccer squad.
On the Pitch
Usually at the center of the action, since freshman year, Rachael racked up 78 goals on 109 shots for an average of 1.4 goals per match.
To the point where there’s been criticism about her seeing too much action, but the fact of the matter is Tirjan will be the first to point out that she can’t put the ball into the net without her team behind her.
While many are anticipating her breaking the 100 goal mark this season, she’d rather win the district championship, something the Lady Buckhorns haven’t done since her freshman year.
“We have four strong seniors coming back this year,” she said. “We want to win the Kotula Tournament again, because that’s always fun, and we want to win districts.”
Tirjan has been named to the Lackawanna Soccer League First Team All-Stars three years in a row and was the league MVP her junior year.
She’s made the All-Region Team in tenth and eleventh grade and was included on the All-State roster this past season.
Her softball resume is just as impressive.
On the Diamond
As a freshman she was given an All-State honorable mention and was put on the All-State First Team as a sophomore.
During those two seasons, she made the league First Team and was the divisional Player of the Year and posted to the All-Region First Team as a sophomore. The 2018 season awards haven’t been released yet, but don’t be surprised if more honors fall upon her soon.
Rachael enjoyed her junior season on the diamond and marked their no-hitter game against Honesdale near the end of the schedule as her most memorable one of the spring.
She’s spent three seasons behind the plate catching for classmate Maddie Schmalzle. Both ends of the Paupack battery share similar attributes. As good as they are defensively, both are keys to the Lady Buckhorns’ offense. The two are also both three-season athletes and each have collected nine letters since freshman year.
“I’m looking forward to catching for Maddie in our last season,” Rachael said.
“We lost some great seniors this year and I want to see what the other girls can do and who will step up.”
Off the Field
How Tirjan fits in school work is a mystery. She’s noted in the past that balancing her studies and sports is due to structuring.
She’s a National Merit Scholar and has earned the National Honor Society Gold Award. She is a member of the NHS Executive Council and is the secretary of her class.
Additionally, she is a member of the Athletic Council, SADD, has been a state qualifier for FBLA, and is a Student Ambassador.
Like the rest of her family, she is a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Her great-grandmother has been a season ticket holder and thus became the impetus for the family’s continued membership in Steeler Nation.
Rachael also looks to Olympian and Washington Spirit player Mallory Pugh.
Only two years older than Tirjan, the explosive Pugh plays with energy and is creative with the ball, two things Tirjan admires.
Summer is an endless preparation for the upcoming year.
While she’s played travel softball in years past, she focuses on travel soccer exclusively now. In addition to working as a councilor at the Blooming Grove Club, Rachael plays with the Back Mountain Fury and also has been practicing with Keystone Athletic’s U23 women’s team based out of Stroudsburg.
“Playing with collegiate level players is definitely more physical,” Tirjan said.
“It’s something I think will really help me in the upcoming season and also to prepare to play in college.”
Officially, fall sports begins on August 13 but for Tirjan and the Lady Bucks, the traditional summer Kick-A-Rounds will no doubt start up well before that.
However, given her club and travel commitments already, her soccer season has already begun.