Gateway claims Section 3 championship
Battling down to the wire for a section title has become old hat for both the Gateway and Fox Chapel varsity girls soccer teams.
For the third time in the past four seasons, the Gators and Foxes were at the top of the standings with a lot on the line heading into the final week.
In 2009, Fox Chapel (12-1-1) edged Gateway (11-2-1) by one game for the crown.
The Gators returned the favor in 2010, when they won the section title with an 11-1-0 mark, as a tie was the only thing that separated them from Fox Chapel (10-1-1).
Even last year was a fight to the finish, as Fox Chapel (9-2-1) narrowly beat out Gateway (9-3) for second place in the section behind champion Franklin Regional.
It was all there for the Gators on Monday in this year's series finale between the two teams at Gateway's Antimarino Stadium. A win meant claiming the outright Section 3 title.
They had to come from behind in the second half, but the Gators got the job done, 2-1, over the Foxes.
“The girls were committed to offseason training, and they bought into what they could accomplish,” Gateway head coach Kevin Sanders said.
“I told them that hard work will pay off in the end. We had several goals at the start of the season, and we've accomplished two — the section title and the playoffs. We have a couple of other goals for the postseason, and the girls have to stay focused on them. Hopefully, we can check those off, too.”
Gateway improved to 10-0-1 in section play heading in its section finale Wednesday at Plum.
Fox Chapel fell to 9-2 and was scheduled to play Oakland Catholic on Wednesday.
Both games were to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.
Plum clinched the third playoff spot from the section with a 2-0 triumph over Penn Hills on Monday. It is the Mustangs' first trip to the WPIAL playoffs since 2002.
“The team has worked really hard this year, and it's a great feeling to be No. 1 again,” said Gateway junior Emily Stevens, who scored Monday's game-winner off a corner kick with 4:51 left.
The game-winning score was set up by an initial Gateway corner kick that was unsuccessful.
The ball went out of bounds, and the official closest to the play ruled that the ball deflected off a Fox Chapel player before leaving the field of play.
The Fox Chapel coaches and players disagreed with the call, but the official didn't change the ruling.
Sophomore Maggie Hilton delivered the corner kick, and junior Emily Stevens leaped in the crowd to head the ball past the Fox Chapel keeper.
It was Stevens' seventh goal of the season and Hilton's 10th assist on the campaign.
“My freshman year, I wasn't that good in the air, so I've been working really hard on it,” Stevens said. “I was just happy to score that one.”
The teams played to a scoreless tie through the first 55 minutes.
“We played some tight marking and just smart defense overall,” Sanders said.
“We wanted to keep their players in front of us.”
Fox Chapel broke through and took a 1-0 lead with 24:33 to play in the second half, as Emma Slevin scored past Gateway junior keeper Allie Warsaw.
Warsaw came out to challenge the play, and Slevin slipped the ball past her.
Fellow junior Jackie Warsaw tried to save the ball from going into the net, but the ball found its way past the line.
“I didn't have to say anything (after the Fox Chapel goal),” Sanders said. “They knew what was at hand. It was still a game with 25 minutes left.”
Gateway responded quickly — 24 seconds later to be exact — as senior Carly Seneca blasted a free kick from about 40 yards out that sailed past the Fox Chapel keeper.
“That was Carly's best free kick of the season,” Sanders said. “It looked good from the second she hit it.”
Seneca's goal was her team-leading 16th of the season.
“This is overwhelming,” Seneca said. “Every girl on the team deserved this. We played hard and got the win.”
Sanders credited Allie Warsaw with making some nice saves throughout the game, especially in the second half, that kept the win within reach.
Fox Chapel finished with 14 shots, while Gateway had 13.
The Foxes held a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.