Norwin, Penn-Trafford girls draw in Section 4-AAAA finale
Chants of “overrated” from the Penn-Trafford student section still echoed loudly in the minds of Norwin girls soccer players. It fanned the flames of an already heated rivalry.
The Knights were serenaded with that deadpan chorus late in their first meeting of the season last month. That's when they left Harrison City shellshocked after their first regular-season loss since 2014.
Maybe the students should have chanted “underrated” to their own team.
Fourth-ranked Penn-Trafford played No. 1 Norwin razor-close again — for 100 minutes of speed-on-speed, physically demanding soccer — before the rivals settled on a 0-0 tie Wednesday night in their much-anticipated Section 4-AAAA rematch in North Huntingdon.
The draw clinches Penn-Trafford's first section title since 2013. Two-time defending WPIAL champion Norwin was seeking a section four-peat.
No goals? No problem. This one will go down as an unforgettable classic before several hundred fans at Norwin Stadium.
A game of close calls, clanks off goal posts and stellar goalkeeping left both teams with wobbly legs, but also confidence. And the hopes they see each other again in the postseason.
“The girls played great,” Penn-Trafford coach Jackie Bartko said. “They went to every ball, they played with great control. Norwin played great, as well. It was a hard-fought battle. ... I am so proud of our girls for their effort. It's a great thing going into the playoffs winning the section. That's huge for us because our girls have never won it.”
Norwin (12-1-1, 8-1-1) was energized by the return of senior Alyssa Victor, who once was thought to be out for the season after hip surgery.
The Knights outshot Penn-Trafford, 23-16.
“Both sides played great soccer for 100 minutes,” Norwin coach Lauren Karcher said. “There is a lot to look at and work on, but at the end of the day, both sides played great. That's great preparation for both teams as they head to the playoffs. That's the fuel we're using that as.”
Goalie Sam Wexell finished with 10 saves for Norwin, while Megan Giesey had 21 for Penn-Trafford.
Penn-Trafford (13-2-1, 9-0-1), which has not lost in 13 straight games, did not lose to the Knights in two more tries; that had been an annoying habit in the past. The Warriors played 13 girls the entire night.
“There were a couple times you could see girls getting tired,” Bartko said. “We had to pick them back up on the sideline. They really busted their butts.”
On Sept. 25, Penn-Trafford rocked Norwin's season, toyed with its psyche even, when it stunned the Knights, 1-0, to end their 47-game regular-season unbeaten streak.
Norwin at the time was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. The loss booted the Knights from the top 50, and they haven't sniffed the rankings since.
Back to No. 1 in the WPIAL, Norwin is getting healthier for the stretch run.
“P-T has always been a good team,” Karcher said. “Even when I played ... we have never underestimated them. Maybe some other people out there have. I think they showed how good they are in both games. They have a great chance when they get into the playoffs too.”
But Norwin wasn't quite itself that night. Emily Harrigan was running on a sprained ankle and Victor was in street clothes.
On Wednesday, both teams had chances in the first OT. Harrigan's shot hit the football crossbar with 55 seconds left. Katelynn Kauffman's shot was deflected as time expired in the first 10-minute session.
Wexell made back-to-back stops in the second OT, one off her chest and she pawed the other away, to keep it scoreless.
“There are always positives when you have a hard battle with a good team,” Wexell said. “Getting back injured players is big for us. I thought the defense was phenomenal and made my job easier. We don't walk away with a good taste in our mouths, but we know in the grand scheme of things we have a lot of work to do.”
Penn-Trafford played aggressively in the first half and because of it, came up with scoring chances. At the 16:55 mark, the Warriors managed to draw Wexell out, almost to the 10-yard line. With the net open, Samantha Nemeth shot, but it sailed high.
Only seconds later, Hannah Nguyen, who assisted Lauren Stovar's goal in the first meeting, found a seam in close but her shot hit the right post.
Abby Bartos got close enough to look Giesey in the eye with 3:25 left in the first half, but Giesey snared the attempt.
Lexy Kendro had a direct kick for Norwin with 1:22 to go before the half but missed wide right and it stayed 0-0.
Kauffman came set and delivered a blast for Norwin at the 32-minute mark of the second half, but Giesey stood tall.
Dani Iannuzzo lasered a shot from the 20-yard line for Norwin, but it clanked off top-right post in the 56th minute.
Nguyen made a nice move in front of the net to shake a defender and had Wexell, beat but her shot also richocheted off the post with 16:15 left.
With four minutes to go in regulation, Stovar kicked a dribbler toward the net after Wexell came out, apparently to help reset the defense after an injury delay. Again, just wide.