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Plum girls soccer team realizes goal by making playoffs

| Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

In the summer, the Plum 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.

Plum has since realized that goal, while ending a decade-long drought.

The Mustangs defeated Penn Hills, 2-0, last Monday 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 6-4-2 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.

Plum finished 9-6-2 and will await its first-round opponent, which the WPIAL will reveal 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 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 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 behind Gateway (10-4) for the final playoff spot from the section.

The 2004, '05 and '06 teams also finished with above-.500 records in section play but weren't able to crack the top three in competitive sections.

“It feels good, because we've worked so hard this season,” junior forward Aaliyah Odom said. “I'm so happy we were able to work as a team and get this.”

Odom had a hand in both goals last Monday. She crossed a pass to freshman Ashley Amato, who scored to break a scoreless tie with about 26 minutes left in the second half.

The Mustangs got an insurance goal 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 Indians' net.

The defense and freshman goalkeeper Chelsea Hubner kept Penn Hills scoreless the rest of the way.

“There's no stopping us now,” senior Megan Reddick said.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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