Norwin girls soccer begins season with OT win
Norwin was one of the last WPIAL girls soccer teams to begin its season, so when the season opener came, the Knights stayed on the field a little longer.
Freshman Micayla Livingston scored the only goal of the game with 3:03 remaining in the second half of overtime, as the Class AAA No. 3 Knights opened their season with a 1-0 nonsection win at Baldwin last Thursday.
The Knights (3-0-0) backed up that win with road wins Friday over Mt. Lebanon, 4-1, and Monday over Kiski Area, 3-0, to start their season on the right note.
Norwin's win over Baldwin (3-1-0) came just moments after the Highlanders nearly stole the game themselves.
Baldwin swung a corner kick toward the top of the goal box, and Knights' goalie Cayla Imbarlina was unable to get a hand to the ball, which allowed it to fall between the feet of two Highlanders players at the back post. Another of Norwin's freshmen, defender Jess Boytim, charged out to clear the ball from the goal line and send the Knights the other direction.
“We work on (set pieces) for about half of practice,” Boytim said. “I saw the ball fall into a bunch of Baldwin's feet, and I ran through them to kick the ball away. I was just thinking about getting it out of there.”
The ball then came to the feet of Livingston, who took on her defender on the right side near the midfield stripe. Livingston used her speed to get behind the defense on the right side and began to cut to the middle at the top of the penalty area. As Baldwin goalkeeper Liz Spegar advanced, Livingston slotted the ball into the left corner of the net for the sudden-death winner.
“It was pretty nerve wracking,” Livingston said of the final play. “I was hoping there would be a counter attack because there was only a few minutes left in the game. I'm glad I got the opportunity and was able to score it to get a win for my team.”
The Knights were deserving winners based on possession and territory throughout the game, but Norwin's finishing was lacking, as a number of shots went wide, high or directly to Spegar, who played an excellent game to keep her team in the game.
Though she wasn't tested nearly as often, Imbarlina also was solid for the Knights to earn a season-opening shutout. Her biggest save came at the 58-minute mark, when she charged off her line to smother an chance at the top of the box before Baldwin's Gwen Schemm could control the ball and shoot.
Livingston performed well working with senior striker Rachel DelleFemine, junior center midfielder Sierra Vecchio and junior outside midfielder Melissa Harris, as the Knights created repeated chances in the Baldwin half. The freshman striker had a chance to win the game with seven minutes remaining in regulation, when Brea Bolden's pass hit her in stride on a diagonal run behind the Baldwin defense.
Spegar was up to the challenge, however, as she came off the line to block Livingston's shot away and send the game to overtime.
“I was making sure I got it around her (on the goal) that time,” Livingston said.
That a pair of freshmen combined to open the season with a win for Norwin shows how deep the talent runs for a team that has high expectations, in spite of having just four seniors.
Judging by the opener, the young players are ready to contribute.
“I'm so happy, I can't get the smile off my face,” Boytim said after the win. “I'm excited for this season, and I'm happy just to play varsity this season.”
“All I want to do is help my team out and make sure we have a great season,” Livingston said.
The Knights had their home opener scheduled for Wednesday, after this edition's deadline against Section 1-AAA opponent Hempfield. Norwin's next game is a nonsection meeting with Mars, at home Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.