Villa Maria football stars reunite for Erie City-County All-Star Game

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Ella Raimondi and Lauren Baloga believed they were last football teammates in November.

It won’t, thanks to Friday’s City vs. County All-Star Game.

Raimondi and Baloga will represent the now-closed Villa Maria in the girls’ game, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Gannon University’s McConnell Family Stadium.

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The boys game follows at 7 p.m.

Raimondi and Baloga were seniors for the 2021 Victors, whose season ended in a 3-0 loss to North Catholic in the PIAA Class 2A quarter-finals.

This loss doubled as the last women’s game in Villa’s 130-year history. The Catholic Diocese of Erie closed the girls’ school in early June. Students will participate in co-ed preparation at the cathedral beginning this fall.

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“There were a lot of tears at the end of last season,” Raimondi said. “Lauren and I don’t play for the same (summer) club team, so I really thought it would be the last time we played together. It’s amazing that I can play with her one last time.

Midfielder Raimondi has been named District 10 Women’s Soccer Player of the Year by the Erie Times-News. She is playing this summer as a defenseman for the Internationals Soccer Club in Akron, Ohio.

For subscribers: Meet the 2021 Erie Times-News Girls Soccer District 10 and Region All-Stars

Raimondi will return to Ohio to begin his college football career. She signed with NCAA Division I Dayton, a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Baloga, who was a defenseman for the Victors, appeared in summer games with the Erie Admirals. She is set to attend West Virginia University and play club soccer.

Baloga plans to major in psychology and become a therapist. She offered some self-analysis when talking about how football has emotionally helped her feel good.

“I’ve been playing since I was five,” Baloga said. “Whenever I feel sad, it always helps clear my head. I could always go there whenever I’m having a bad day.

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Schedule change

Raimondi is due to leave for Dayton on July 31. It’s the same day that she will learn if she was named Women’s Soccer Player of the Year at the USA Today High School Sports Awards.

Raimondi was one of 24 nominees for this honor.

Raimondi’s stature as a Division I rookie, combined with that departure date, are the reasons City vs County organizer Pedro Argaez moved the games from early August to late July.

Argaez said the schedule change will likely be permanent.

“Kids who go to DI leave early (for college) and they just can’t participate anymore (in August),” he said. “I would much rather have (smaller rosters) because of people who may be on vacation than have it on a date when it’s impossible for (college-bound) players to play. It’s just too late now.

Argaez, chairman of staff at Erie Premier Sports, also cited the abundance of local summer football camps as another reason for the earlier start time of matches.

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Gannon is recruiting

Fort LeBoeuf graduate Maggie Morrison will represent the county girls on Friday.

Slated to play in the boys game are Joshua Howells (Girard) for County and Amar Al Balkhi (Erie High) for City.

The next time these three appear on McConnell’s new ground will be as Gannon’s freshmen.

Morrison is listed as a freshman forward for his women’s soccer team, which is coached by Colin Petersen. Howells and Al Balkhi are listed as midfielders for coach Billy Colton and Gannon’s men.

For subscribers: Meet the 2021 Erie Times-News Boys Soccer District 10 and Region All-Stars

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14th Annual City/County All-Star Football Game Postgame Interviews

14th Annual City/County All-Star Football Game Postgame Interviews

JOSH REILLY/ERIE TIMES-NEWS

Back to McConnell

Gannon also hosted the 2021 All-Star Games. Each was played after a year-long absence due to COVID-19 safety measures.

McDowell graduate Alayna Wicker scored the only goal in City Girls’ 1-0 win a year ago. The Town Boys, behind a hat trick from Cathedral Prep graduate Jack Foht, won 4-3.

2021: City win both games in 14th Annual City/County All-Star Football Game

Wicker scored five times in his first season for Division II Clarion. Foht had nine goals as Division III forward John Carroll.

Contact Mike Copper at mcopper@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.