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Heartbreaking end to 2012 season drives Penn-Trafford field hockey team

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Fox Chapel's Sammi PItz celebrates her game winning goal behind Penn Trafford's Amanda Steffey to win the girls AAA field hockey Championship in overtime at North Allegheny Oct. 31, 2012.

Nearly 10 months after her team's loss in the WPIAL field hockey championship game, Penn-Trafford coach Cindy Dutt still can't watch the tape.

“That was a very, very tough loss,” Dutt said of the game, a 1-0 overtime victory by Fox Chapel. “We won that game in every way except for on the goal. We possessed (the ball) for pretty much the entire time, (and) we had shots on goal. We just couldn't manage to put it in.”

As the Warriors prepare to begin the 2013 season, Dutt expects the memory of that loss to motivate the team.

Penn-Trafford returns several key players from last season's team but also has some key holes to fill.

The biggest losses for Penn-Trafford come on the offensive side of the ball as forward Amanda Steffey — the leading scorer in the state in 2012 — graduated, as did key midfielder Sydney Pribanic.

“I think if we're going to have a problem, it might be on forwards right now,” Dutt said. “We have more inexperience up front than we did last year.”

To make up for the loss of Steffey, Dutt said she anticipated moving junior Isabel Siergiej — whom she labeled “one of the best players in the region” — to a scoring position on the front line. Penn-Trafford also will look to seniors Angela Sciulli and Morgan LeVeille, who both missed time last year with injuries, to make up for some of the lost scoring.

Dutt said up-and-coming underclassmen such as juniors Julianna Donald, Karen Postupac and Maggie Saunders also could help at forward or midfield this season.

“There were some girls on JV who ended up starting on varsity at the end of last year due to some injuries and illnesses,” Dutt said. “They've worked really hard over the winter and over the spring. We've been playing pickup frequently, and I think they're going to be ready to step in.

“They might not be as quick as far as feet are concerned, but they're smart, their passing is good and some of their shots are really coming along. I'm confident that the girls who are moving up will be able to fill those spaces in a pretty solid manner.”

Defensively, Penn-Trafford will be led by a strong core of seniors in Tori Lago, Lindsay Loughner and Taylor Nedley.

Senior Jessica Wisniewski will start in goal after splitting time with the graduated Harry Miller the past two seasons. Wisniewski was named to the all-section team as a freshman.

“We still have our pretty strong defense,” Dutt said. “Pretty much our whole defense is returning, (and) we have an experienced goalie who's going to be stepping in to start on varsity.”

Dutt said some of last season's defensive success came because the team's forwards were aggressive and were able to possess the ball frequently. This season, the defenders will play a bigger role.

“I think our defense will be able to hold (teams) down to a minimal amount of goals,” she said. “I don't think there are going to be a lot of blowouts this year.”

Penn-Trafford finished in second place in Section 2-AAA last season with a 7-2-1 record behind North Allegheny (9-0-1) and just ahead of Pine-Richland (7-3). Dutt expects another tight race between those three teams again this season.

The team is scheduled to play scrimmages at Greensburg Central Catholic and at Peters Township before opening the regular season with a home game against Oakland Catholic at 1 p.m. Aug. 31.

The Warriors won the WPIAL title in 2011, and Dutt believes the memory of that — as well as last season's defeat — will drive the team in 2013.

“I think there are girls that really don't want to graduate without seeing that medal again,” Dutt said.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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