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Expectations high for Elizabeth Forward girls soccer

| Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, 12:03 a.m.

The Elizabeth Forward girls soccer came into this season with something rarely experienced in the history of the program — expectations.

“It's a little bit different, but the teams I've had my first two or three years had some of the same expectations. Not as lofty as this year, but some of the same expectations,” Elizabeth Forward first-year coach Brandon Gerba said. “They wanted to make playoffs and get those wins and they were solid teams. This year, it's a little different because the girls had a taste of getting those wins that they never had.”

Gerba is in a bit of different position this year. He had been a co-coach with Gary Meyers the last few years, but took over the top position this year when Meyers stepped aside. Meyers is still with the program as the team's top assistant, but holding the top spot is a bit of a change.

“I've coached with Gary for five years and we kind of co-did everything anyways, but it's more the girls getting used to me being in charge than anything else,” Gerba said. “It's really the same responsibilities and the same job, it's just a different title. At least that's how I look at it.”

Elizabeth Forward (12-9-1 last season) was the underdog tale of the 2011 WPIAL Class AA playoffs. A fourth-place finisher in its own section, the Warriors pulled off the biggest upset of the postseason with a stunning 1-0 shootout victory over third-seeded Southmoreland, followed by a 3-1 win over Knoch that gave the school its first-ever berth in the semifinals and also clinched another first — a slot in the PIAA Class AA tournament.

Though Elizabeth Forward lost to eventual WPIAL champion Mars in the semifinals and dropped its state tournament opener, 2-0, to Harbor Creek at Erie Memorial Stadium, the seeds were sown for success in 2012. The Warriors return eight of their 11 starters from last season, including senior midfielders Macy Pekala and Miranda Steinkopf and goalkeeper Jennifer Keefer.

Perhaps the toughest task for Elizabeth Forward this season will be qualifying for the playoffs. Section 4 is loaded, as perennial contenders South Park and Belle Vernon, the Trib Total Media Nos. 3 and 4 ranked teams in WPIAL Class AA, respectively, are expected to vie for the title with the rest of the teams fighting it out for one remaining playoff spot. Because of the WPIAL's biennial realignment, there are only three slots in each section and just three WPIAL spots in the state tournament instead of the four from last year.

Still, Elizabeth Forward is undaunted by the task of making it to the playoffs. And, despite playing just over 10 minutes of its season opener against Chartiers Valley on Tuesday before the game was called because of lightning, the team is believes it is ready to pull off an upset or two in the regular season.

“I see them making the playoffs again,” Gerba said. “We see ourselves being competitive and beating the South Parks and Belle Vernons at least one of the times we play them and, if all goes well with the playoff seedings, we can make another run. We know that making it to states will be harder with the consolation game, but they still have that as their goal.”

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.

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