Spring-Ford senior Megan Giannopoulos signed her letter of intent to play soccer at the University of Pittsburgh. Giannopoulos is seated with mother, Anne
Spring-Ford senior Megan Giannopoulos signed her letter of intent to play soccer at the University of Pittsburgh. Giannopoulos is seated with mother, Anne Giannopoulos, left, father, John Giannopoulos, top left and head coach Sheldon Chamberlain, top right. (Photo courtesy Spring-Ford athletics)

Time was passing Megan Giannopoulos by.

By her estimation, the most pivotal time, too.

While her peers were showing their stuff in the peak college recruitment period — the fall and winter of a player's junior year — Giannopoulos was sidelined by a stress fracture in her tibia.

Finally, on March 3, 2013, while playing in a showcase with her club team, Penn Fusion 96, in San Diego, Calif., Giannopoulos got to join the party. She quickly proceeded to show how well she can dance.

"I was really nervous that I wasn't going to be able to go to school and play soccer,' the Spring-Ford senior said. "I had worked so hard to get where I am now and it was really hard for me. So getting on the field and going through the recruiting process and have it go so smoothly was such a relief.'

It went smoothly because of the mutual interest between her and the coaching staff at the University of Pittsburgh.

The alliance became official in February when Giannopoulos signed a letter of intent to play women's soccer at the University of Pittsburgh.

On talent alone there was little doubt Giannopoulos had the quality of a player destined for NCAA Division I soccer. In her senior season with Spring-Ford, the fleet-footed winger scored 21 goals and six assists in the greatest season in Rams girls soccer history. Giannopoulos and the Rams won their first PAC-10 championship, qualified for the PIAA Championships for the first time and advanced all the way to the state final. She scored a goal in the PAC-10 final, both goals in the Rams' pivotal PIAA first round win over top-ranked Cumberland Valley and the overtime game-winner in the PIAA semifinals against Seneca Valley.


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She was an All-Area and PAC-10 first team selection and was named to the Southeastern Pa. Coaches Association team.

Pitt was a school on Giannopoulos' radar for a number of years thanks in part to a bit of sibling rivalry. Her sister, Jenny, attended West Virginia (Class of 2011), historically Pitt's top rival.

"I have always thought of going to Pitt because my sister went to West Virginia. I joked I would go to Pitt to annoy Jenny,' Megan said. "It's always been one of my top schools and when they liked me I was so thrilled.'

It still took a visit the school's campus in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh to solidify things.

"I went out for a visit and as soon as I stepped on to the campus I knew I was going here. I didn't have to look anywhere else,' Giannopoulos said. "The soccer program was the biggest thing (that drew me to Pitt). I love the city and needed to go to a city school. And Pitt is a great academic school. The facilities, the girls, the coaches, it's all just so amazing.'

In 2011, Pitt unveiled a state-of-the-art on-campus athletics facility, the Peterson Sports Complex, a major upgrade from previous years when the women's soccer team played its games 20 miles away from campus.

Pitt, under head coach Greg Miller and assistant coaches Mike Baker (Giannopoulos' primary contact in the recruitment process) and Ileana Moschos, struggled in its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, historically the top conference in women's soccer. Pitt went winless in the ACC (0-13) and 4-14-1 overall in 2013.

Always up for a challenge, Giannopoulos wants to be at the forefront of helping the Panthers gain traction in the ACC.

"I wanted to go to a school where I wasn't going to sit the bench for the three years,' she said. "I wanted a place where I would work my butt off and be able to contribute right away. I want to be on a team building a program and I can help build that program. And hopefully I can get a good amount of (playing) time as a freshman.'

Despite the stress fracture temporarily derailing her aspirations, playing soccer in college was always important to Giannopoulos.

"From the time I was a little kid, soccer was really the biggest part of my life. It's something I've put so much time, effort and heart into, playing Division I soccer was something I needed to do. I've always known I was going to try to do it. I've wanted it for so long and now it's going to pay off,' she said.

That tenacity paid off for Giannopoulos in her senior season for Spring-Ford. She, fellow senior Aley Kate McKinley and sophomore Gabrielle Vagnozzi, formed one of the most potent attacking units in PAC-10 girls soccer history that sparked the run to the PIAA championship game — with Giannopoulos scoring crucial goal after crucial goal.

The final chapter ended poorly for Spring-Ford, worse for Giannopoulos. She tore ligaments in her ankle after just 10 minutes of the state final, which the Rams ultimately lost to Neshaminy 2-1 in overtime. Giannopoulos departed in an ambulance while the game was ongoing, a painful blow for a player who was so important in getting the team to that stage.

"That was definitely hard on me,' she said. "Myself and the team had worked so hard to get there and I felt like I didn't get to contribute. I didn't get to experience any of it. It was really hard on me. I was really upset.'

She's able to look back fondly on the journey though.

"The more important thing I try to keep in mind was that it was the most incredible thing I've been a part of in my whole life,' Giannopoulos said. "The season before, we barely won eight games. It was such an amazing group of talented girls. I loved every part of it. Being able to be a part of a team that wasn't well respected at all and take it all the way to a state final was the coolest thing ever.'

Giannopoulos is now fully recovered and back to playing with her Penn Fusion team, getting ready for her next chapter at Pitt, making sure no more time will pass her by.