Plum ends WPIAL playoff drought
Back in the summer, the Plum varsity girls soccer team worked out at Larry Mills Park, and the players would run up a particular hill and scream, “Playoffs!”
The motivational tool got the team focused on a big goal for the season, senior defender Kara Ioannou said.
On Monday night, Plum realized that goal and put to bed a decade-long drought.
The Mustangs defeated Penn Hills, 2-0, to clinch the program's first trip to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs since 2002.
“I am so excited,”said Ioannou, who was charged with the task of marking Brie Cook, Penn Hills' top offensive threat.
“The seniors and the whole team talked about this since the summer. Those summer workouts were for moments like this.”
Plum improved to 6-3-2 in section play and held an insurmountable five-point lead over Penn Hills for the third and final playoff spot heading into the teams' section finales on Wednesday.
Gateway and Fox Chapel will be the top two teams representing Section 3 in the playoffs.
The Gators clinched the section title Monday with a 2-1 victory over the Foxes.
“The girls have fought hard all season for this,” Plum head coach Mike Proviano said.
“We played hard in the second half and wore Penn Hills down. For some reason, I was thinking 2-0 all day (before the game). I am so glad it worked out that way.”
Plum has had some close calls and experienced some frustration since making the playoffs in 2002.
In 2003, the Mustangs went 9-4-1 in section play but finished fourth to Franklin Regional (13-0-1), Penn Hills (10-3-1) and Gateway (8-3-3).
Plum also was 9-4-1 in 2007, but finished just behind Gateway (10-4) for the final playoff spot from the section.
The 2004, 2005 and 2006 teams also finished with above-.500 records in section play but weren't able to crack the top three in competitive sections those years.
“It feels good, because we've worked so hard this season,” junior forward Aaliyah Odom said as tears filled her eyes and her voice cracked with emotion.
“I'm so happy we were able to work as a team and get this.”
Odom had a hand in both goals on Monday.
She crossed a pass to freshman Ashley Amato, who put the ball past the Penn Hills keeper to break a scoreless tie with about 26 minutes left in the second half.
The Mustangs got the insurance goal they were looking for with six minutes left to play, as freshman Alyssa Proviano beat a Penn Hills defender down the left wing and set Odom up with a left-footed cross.
Odom did the rest, as she headed the ball into the back of the Indians' net.
“They were two beautiful goals,” coach Proviano said.
The defense and freshman goalkeeper Chelsea Hubner kept Penn Hills off the board the rest of the way, and then the celebration was on.
“There's no stopping us now,” senior Megan Reddick said.
“We can't wait for the playoffs.”
Plum was scheduled to close out section play Wednesday at home against Gateway.
The match was to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.
The regular season concludes Thursday with a nonsection game at Knoch at 3:45 p.m.
Plum's win over Penn Hills on Monday avenged an earlier 1-0 loss to the Indians.
The Mustangs have only lost two section games in regulation and three overall, including a tough 2-0 setback to District 6 power Hollidaysburg at the Indiana Tournament in early September.
Reddick and Ioannou, along with fellow seniors Jordan Campeau, Mikayla Ferchaw, Kristina Ioannou and Emily Kieffer were honored in a ceremony prior to a 4-0 victory over Allderdice on Sept. 28.
“It's such a great group,” coach Proviano said.
“Kara, Kristina and Megan Reddick are four-year starters, and Jordan Campeau has scored some big goals for us. Emily Kieffer has been a strong player for us, and Mikayla Ferchaw gives us good minutes. They are great leaders and great role models for the younger girls.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.