Kiski Area girls soccer brimming with confidence
Updated 21 hours ago
Among the typical goals a team lays out for its season — a winning record, playoff appearance and postseason success — Kiski Area's girls soccer set another.
“We wanted to beat a team we really weren't supposed to beat,” coach Melisa O'Toole said.
Cross that one off the list.
Often competitive in games against top opponents, Kiski Area's breakthrough came last week with a 2-1 victory at Class 4A No. 1 Canon-McMillan, the defending PIAA champion.
It's the type of victory the Cavaliers (6-3, 4-2 Section 4-AAAA) hope could make for bigger accomplishments later this season.
“We played really well and hard, and we were really determined to beat them, and it paid off,” sophomore defender Alyssa Poleski said. “I think a lot of teams weren't expecting that, so we showed them that we're actually capable of beating a team like that. It built our confidence, and now we know we're just as good as other teams and can beat them also.”
Although Kiski Area qualified for the playoffs each of the past two seasons, the Cavaliers bowed out in the first round with one-goal losses to Pine-Richland and Upper St. Clair. Those losses were motivation and created a mission to perform better against highly touted opponents.
The Cavaliers' section provides ample opportunities for upsets, with the presence of No. 2 Norwin, the two-time defending WPIAL champions, and No. 5 Penn-Trafford.
And the nonsection slate includes matchups with Seneca Valley, Canon-McMillan, No. 4 Pine-Richland and Plum.
“We like to put it where we can see where we're at and push the girls, make them better each game, as opposed to having games that really don't mean much,” O'Toole said.
Kiski Area lost a strong core of seniors from last season, including a pair of Division I recruits, but an experienced group of underclassmen are making sure the team doesn't lose any ground. A sophomore class that includes twins Christa and Sidney Palla, Poleski, leading goal scorer Reagan Frederick, Brooke Bires and Emily Aller played significant minutes last season.
“We did lose a lot of seniors, but there are so many girls who had the varsity experience and could only grow from that point on,” senior forward Lexi Moyer said.
Moyer, another of Kiski Area's top scorers, and seniors Camrynn Morlacci and Kelsey Craig — who split time in goal — provide on-field leadership for Kiski Area.
The Cavaliers also ramped up their conditioning in the offseason in order to better prepare. O'Toole and her husband, Ryan, run a training business.
“There's a lot of girls that are really willing to play and to do anything for our team to make it to playoffs,” Moyer said. “It's a big difference. And our preseason, we've been doing workouts and conditioning, and it helps because you need to play a full 80-minute game.”
O'Toole said Kiski Area's goal scoring is showing much improvement from last season, when they scored 29 goals in 18 games. They have 34 in nine contests this season, with Frederick already at double-digit tallies and Moyer approaching it.
While the Canon-McMillan game provided a confidence boost, Kiski Area wants to get more than one such victory.
With games against Penn-Trafford, Norwin, Pine-Richland and Plum remaining in the regular season, plus a potential playoff berth, the Cavaliers will have chances.
They want to make the most of them.
“How we played against (Canon-McMillan), I really truly think we can go against any team in the WPIAL,” O'Toole said. “We just need to be consistent and do that every time we do play a team. … If we put our best performance forward for them, who knows what can happen? That can really put our team in a good position.”