The seniors on the Norwin girls soccer team have won two section titles, advanced to the PIAA Class AAA semifinals twice and played in a WPIAL championship game during their three-year careers.
Quite a resume.
Just not one that is complete.
“They've been close the past three years they've been here,” Norwin coach Jeff Palm said of his seniors. “This year, they don't want to have the end they've had in the past.
“They want to end a state champion.”
Norwin is off to a good start, going unbeaten in its first six games, including an overtime win over Section 1-AAA rival Franklin Regional on Monday. Continuing on a trend that had them shutting out 11 of 20 opponents last season, the Knights (5-0-1, 3-0) allowed just three goals in those six games.
Dating to early last season, Norwin has lost only two of its previous 22 games played.
That kind of record can lead to the team setting some pretty lofty goals.
“We want to win everything,” senior defender Marissa Antrilli said. “The expectations are high.”
“We want to make it,” senior midfielder Rachel DelleFemine said, “to the WPIAL championship and also the state championship. It's a bar set high, but it's a goal we think we can reach. And that's what we're pushing to reach.”
Norwin returned more than half of its starters from last season's 16-4 team that lost, 1-0, to Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL quarterfinals and thereby failed to reach the PIAA tournament for the first time in the tenures of any of the current players on the roster.
The fleet-footed and highly skilled DelleFemine and Antrilli are in their fourth seasons of being major contributors for Norwin — DelleFemine as the team's leader in goals and Antrilli as its stalwart final line of defense in front of junior keeper Cayla Imbarlina.
Palm said that DelleFemine will play at West Virginia Wesleyan and Antrilli at California (Pa.).
“This season is basically programming them for their college careers,” Palm said. “But they're working their hardest to go out on top.”
But DelleFemine and Antrilli aren't the only talented seniors Norwin boasts. Defender Kensey Johnson and forward Brea Bolden have worked their way into prominent roles.
Center midfielder Sierra Vecchio, the team's second-leading scorer last season, and fullbacks Abby Churchfield and Samantha Farabaugh are junior standouts. Sophomore outside midfielder Kara Batey has shown off her game after suffering a knee injury last season.
Freshman forward Micayla Livingston burst onto the scene by scoring five goals in her first five varsity games.
“We have a great team this year — and we also are very deep off the bench,” DelleFemine said. “We have a lot of girls who can play. We're all a year older, and it shows.”
Palm was a student at Norwin and a player on the Knights' boys team in the late 1990s, when the Norwin girls won consecutive WPIAL championships in 1996-97.
“We've been trying to get back there ever since,” Palm said. “I was part of that as a fan, and I was able to witness that knowing the amount of work and effort they put in. That's what I'm trying to instill in this year's team as well.”
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