The top Penn-Trafford Star sports stories of 2013
Repeat performances highlighted a strong sports season for Penn-Trafford.
From the girls golf team's second consecutive WPIAL championship to successful section title defenses by the boys tennis and girls soccer teams, Warrior squads showed they had staying power in Class AAA and Class AAAA. On top of that, several other teams showed they had the potential to come through with championships of their own in 2014.
Here's a look at the top five sports stories of 2013, plus a few deserving honorable mentions:
1. Golden girls
After losing three starters from the 2012 WPIAL champion squad to graduation, the Penn-Trafford girls golf team may not have been the favorites heading into 2013. But the Warriors showed they still had plenty of talent left over.
P-T (17-1, 14-0) won its fifth straight section championship, finishing with an undefeated section mark for the fourth consecutive year. The Warriors followed that up by outlasting North Allegheny by four strokes to win the WPIAL Class AAA championship.
“It's a really good feeling, especially for the seniors, that we were able to do it again,” senior Rachael Huber said afterward. “It's such a big accomplishment, and we're just really proud of each other and how we worked well together to do it again.”
The WPIAL championship wasn't Penn-Trafford's only repeat, as the Warriors also finished second at the PIAA tournament for the second straight year.
“There's very few kids even in the whole state of Pennsylvania that have won back-to-back WPIAL championships or league championships and then (were) able to get to the states two years in a row and then finish second two years in a row,” coach Ed Herbst said.
Seniors Royse Bachtel, Casey Doran and Huber, junior Elisabeth Papa and freshman Amanda Conner started every match for Penn-Trafford in 2013. While Bachtel and Doran were four-year starters, Conner, Huber and Papa stepped in for departed seniors Mia Barchetti, Haley Borkowski and Morgan Rector.
Among the individual accomplishments for the Warriors was a hole-in-one for Papa in a win over Fox Chapel, as well as WPIAL individual championship-qualifying performances by Bachtel, Conner, Doran and Huber.
2. Party like it's 1997
The Penn-Trafford football team began the 2013 season with the goal of making it to Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game. While the Warriors ultimately ended up one win short of that goal, the Warriors did finish with their best postseason run since 1997.
Penn-Trafford (8-4) defeated Penn Hills and McKeesport in the WPIAL playoffs, advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 1997. The Warriors fell to eventual WPIAL champion Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the semifinals.
That postseason run came after the Warriors found themselves in a difficult spot in the final two weeks of the regular season. After a 34-14 loss to Kiski dropped Penn-Trafford to a tie for third place in the Quad East, the Warriors responded by beating Gateway and Hempfield to finish in second place.
The wins over Gateway and Penn Hills both came in the waning seconds of the game as Penn-Trafford overcame late deficits.
“Their resiliency and their ability to perform under pressure was really something to watch,” coach John Ruane said.
A total of 19 Penn-Trafford players were named to the All-Quad East team after the season, with seven earning first-team honors.
3. A perfect year
The Penn-Trafford boys tennis team did more than just win its third consecutive Section 1-AAA championship in 2013: The Warriors did it with a perfect record.
Penn-Trafford won all 14 of its section matches in 2013, knocking off Latrobe, 3-2, in its final match to clinch the undefeated season.
“The team is very competitive,” coach Linda Michaux said. “They're very good friends. They enjoy winning, and they work hard.”
The Warriors' bid for a perfect season ultimately ended with a 4-1 loss to Pine-Richland in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
In addition to the team success, junior Cullen Price had a strong individual season, finishing second in the Section 1-AAA singles tournament and teaming with senior Alec Gugliano to finish second at the Section 1-AAA doubles tournament.
4. Achieving goals and scoring them, too
The Penn-Trafford girls soccer team achieved one of its yearly goals in 2013, winning a solo Section 1-AAA championship for the second consecutive season. It was the Warriors' third title in a row overall, as they tied with Norwin in 2011.
“Every year, we go in the preseason and our goals are (to) win the section, get ourselves in the WPIAL final four and take our chances with the final four,” coach Rick Nese said.
Penn-Trafford ultimately came up short of the WPIAL semifinals, as the Warriors fell, 1-0, in a shootout to Pine-Richland in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
“We didn't get into the final four, but everybody you're playing right now is a good team,” Nese said. “So we fell in a penalty-kick shootout to a very good team. I'm proud of the girls. We have a section championship. There's only going to be one team that ends up winning the WPIAL. We've got a section championship to hang our hat on.”
The Warriors earned the section title in large part thanks to a 2-0 victory against second-place Norwin in the teams' first meeting of the season. While Norwin returned the favor later in the year, Penn-Trafford still finished with a better section record.
Penn-Trafford was led by all-section players Casey Aunkst, Athena Biondi, Italia Biondi, Morgan Casario, Kayla DiPaolo, Maggie Mastrogiacoma and Kayla Novosel. Aunkst, Italia Biondi and DiPaolo were named all-WPIAL.
5. A big finish
The Penn-Trafford boys volleyball team came up short of winning its first section championship in 2013, but the Warriors still accomplished program history later in the spring.
Thanks to a 3-0 victory over Fox Chapel in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals, Penn-Trafford (15-4) advanced to the semifinals for the first time in its history. There, P-T lost to eventual champion North Allegheny, and followed that up with a 3-2 defeat against Norwin in the WPIAL consolation match. If they had won the consolation match, the Warriors would have advanced to the PIAA tournament for the first time in their history.
“That game (against Norwin) really did not define our team this year,” senior Jacob Byers said. “We came a long way. We took the program farther than it's ever gone this year, and we're very grateful for that. We're proud of ourselves for that and all that we accomplished this year.”
Penn-Trafford overcame injuries and illnesses to win its first 13 matches of the season before losing to Plum. The Warriors still had a chance to win the section title, but rival Norwin rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win, 3-2, in the regular-season finale.
“It would've been great to win another match, but the guys really played hard (and) battled all year,” coach Jim Schall said. “Even with (the 13-0 start), we had some injuries, some significant injuries we had to deal with, (and) some sickness. Guys battled through it. I'm real happy with the way the guys handled the whole year and proud of how much we accomplished.”
All-WPIAL selections included Cameron Artz, Byers and Sam Kavel.
• PIAA playoff run. The Penn-Trafford girls basketball team finished second in Section 1-AAAA last season and beat Plum in the playoffs before falling against eventual WPIAL champion Bethel Park. The Warriors beat Hollidaysburg in the first round before falling to Mt. Lebanon.
• More playoff teams. In addition to the aforementioned playoff qualifiers, the Penn-Trafford baseball, softball, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams all made runs to the postseason in 2013.
• On the rise. The Penn-Trafford hockey team is leading its division 10 games into the 2013-14 season after finishing with just three wins last season.