North Allegheny girls advance to PIAA tournament
Suffering through a valley in the program made the current peak for the North Allegheny girls soccer team sweeter for senior goalkeeper Julia Correa.
Following a season where the Tigers didn't qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, they rebounded this season to qualify for the PIAA tournament with a 2-1 win over Upper St. Clair on Nov. 1. Its the first time NA reached the PIAA Class 4A playoffs since reaching the quarterfinals in 2011.
“That (is) definitely something special, considering we came into this season with our No. 1 goal of just making it to the playoffs,” Correa said. “No one expected us to get this far, but we took it one step at a time and kept pushing from there. We don't want to stop now.”
Navigating through the WPIAL playoffs wasn't going to be easy for the Tigers (12-7-1).
Finishing third in the section stuck North Allegheny with the ninth seed. The Tigers took down Plum, 5-1, in the first round before upsetting top-seed Pine-Richland, 2-0, in the quarterfinals.
“There's been a belief that we struggled with first-round games,” North Allegheny coach Chuck Kelley said. “The belief we could win has always been there. We've just been sidetracked by things that were out of our control. We wanted to foster competitiveness throughout the season and not put it all on one game.”
That was a seminal moment. Pine-Richland had only lost one game entering the match and recorded a 1-0-1 mark against North Allegheny in the regular season. Tigers forward Alex Adams scored both goals against the Rams to secure the win.
“One of our goals was to beat our top rivals, and we beat Seneca (Valley) once in the regular season and I'm happy we got Pine in there too. Probably my favorite moment of beating them was hugging my teammates after and cheering really loud.”
Norwin, which was the fourth seed and at one point ranked No. 1 in the United States, beat the Tigers, 2-0, in the semifinals.Correa and Olivia Ruppersberger have rotated halves in the playoffs. It's a system that has worked out well.
“We support each other either way,” Correa said. “It helps having someone to lean on and learn from each day.”
That's something the entire program has learned. “We changed the attitude and got more involved with the young girls,” Correa said. “Instead of staying as an exclusive upper-class group, we made friendships with each class and that bond really helped us connect.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.