An almost entirely new lineup, same old positive results for the Penn-Trafford girls soccer team.
The Warriors replaced nine starters from last season's 17-5 team that advanced to the WPIAL semifinals. But they, in some ways, improved their standing. While Penn-Trafford shared the 2011 Section 1-AAA title with Norwin, this season they swept the Knights and finished a game ahead of them for first place in the section.
“We've had to use a lot of young players, but we've done just fine,” Warriors senior co-captain Alexa Williams said. “We knew they could fill in well, and they have. We've done what we've had to do to put our minds to it to get wins.”
Many of the departed graduates were replaced with younger players — the Warriors typically start six sophomores and a freshman.
That led to some growing pains at the beginning of the season. Penn-Trafford fell to 2-3 overall and 2-1 in section play after a 3-2 loss to Franklin Regional Sept. 12.
What followed, however, was an 11-game winning streak.
“It took us the early part of the season to figure out how we could put the best team on the field and who was going to play where,” coach Rick Nese said. “We used the early part of the season to answer those questions, and once we got people in the right positions, we won a bunch of games in a row.”
Despite a loss Monday to Class A No. 1-ranked Greensburg Central Catholic, Penn-Trafford (13-4, 11-1) still heads into the playoffs, which begin this weekend, with momentum.
Williams, a center midfielder, is in her first year as a full-time starter but was a significant contributor last season. Other “veteran” players include senior goalkeeper Kayla DiPaolo and senior forward Miranda Wallace.
Wallace is the team's goals leader, and DePaolo settled into a full-time starting role this season and was the final line of defense for a unit that allowed only eight goals during the 11-game winning streak.
But as strong as Penn-Trafford's defense has proven to be this season, it's the Warriors' offense that has, at times, overwhelmed opponents. They averaged four goals per game during their winning streak.
“We have some fast forwards, and we put a lot of pressure on other teams,” Williams said. “I think our midfield works really well together running down balls in the air. Defensively, we tried to find our niche, and it's worked.”
Steady senior Aubree Furrer was out briefly due to injury but has returned and provided leadership. Furrer, Williams and DiPaolo are team captains.
Nese said about sophomore center midfielder Casey Aunkst: “I think she's the best player in our section.”
Another young player who is developing into that type of impact player is freshman Maggie Mastrogiacomo. A forward, she is second on the team in goals.
“She and Miranda Wallace complement each other well,” Nese said. “Miranda's a strong, physical forward, and Maggie is just so fast — pure speed.”
Senior Ali Bosco is another dangerous forward.
“We're playing well right now, but honestly, I think the playoffs come down to matchups,” Nese said. “It all comes down to who you match up against.”
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