Plum soccer teams gearing up for playoff runs
By Michael Love
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
For the first time in about a decade, both the Plum varsity boys and girls soccer teams will enter the WPIAL playoffs in the same season.
The Mustangs girls squad beat Penn Hills, 2-0, on Oct. 8 to clinch their first trip to WPIALs since 2002.
The Plum boys, the third team from Section 3-AAA, will take part in the playoffs for the second year in a row after missing the postseason from 2008 to 2010.
The playoff pairings for both the boys and girls teams were expected to be released Wednesday, past the deadline for this week's edition.
Check triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourplum for information on the Mustangs teams' first-round matchups.
The Plum girls team concluded the regular season with a 4-2 run, including the emotional two-goal triumph over Penn Hills that clinched the playoff spot.
The Mustangs finished section play 6-4-2 and enter the postseason with a 9-4-2 overall mark.
The top three teams from each of the five sections in AAA will fill out the playoff field, and Plum is third behind section champion Gateway (11-0-1) and Fox Chapel (10-2-0).
Plum head coach Mike Proviano said he thinks his team most likely will open the playoffs on Saturday.
There will be seven first-round games in AAA, with the top seed receiving a bye.
“As the third seed, we will probably be the underdog,” Proviano said. “The girls have been dealing with that the whole season. They just want to go out and put in a hard effort.”
Proviano said his team has been in every game this season, including last week's 2-0 loss to Gateway at Plum High School in the section finale for both teams.
“We made two mistakes in the first half, and Gateway capitalized on them,” he said. “We controlled the game in the second half and outshot them, 10-3. It was a lot like how we controlled the second half against Penn Hills.”
In the game against Penn Hills two days earlier, Plum broke a scoreless tie with second-half goals from freshman Ashley Amato and junior Aaliyah Odom.
Plum put the Gateway loss behind them and routed Knoch, 6-2, the next day.
“The whole team got to play against Knoch, and that was a nice win for us,” Proviano said.
“There are a lot of positives to take away from the (regular) season. We're excited for the playoffs and the opportunity to make a little noise.”
The Mustangs boys squad has overcome the ups and downs of a soccer regular season — including injuries to a couple of key players — to solidify its place in the WPIAL playoffs.
Like the girls side in AAA, the boys bracket will feature 15 teams — three from each of the five sections — and the top seed will receive a bye in the first round.
Plum suffered a 5-1 loss to Seneca Valley in the first round of last year's playoff tournament.
“If you look around the WPIAL, all the teams are beatable,” Plum head coach Mike Baleno said. “We're excited to see what we can do. We want to use the experience of last year's game against Seneca Valley and go out and do better.”
Plum, which finished 6-3-3 in section play, grabbed the third-place spot in Section 3 behind section champion Pittsburgh Central Catholic (11-1) and Fox Chapel (9-2-1). The Vikings' lone defeat in section came at the hands of the Mustangs, 2-1, in early September.
Plum ended the regular-season on a six-game unbeaten streak, including a 2-1 win against Gateway and a 1-0 win against Penn Hills.
Baleno also worked on getting his players past the frustration of 1-1 ties down the stretch to Penn Hills and Woodland Hills, the bottom two teams in the section.
Plum was able to build some additional momentum on Monday with a 3-2 triumph over Shaler in a nonsection game.
Senior Shane Rings scored two goals, while fellow senior Matt Baleno tallied the other. That victory lifted the Mustangs' overall record to 9-4-3.
The game against the Titans was rescheduled from the season-opening Shaler Tournament.
The two teams were to play in the championship game on the second night, but bad weather forced the game to be postponed.
“We played well (against Shaler) and created a lot of opportunities,” coach Baleno said. “It was a nice win for us.”
Senior defender Bryan Parker returned for the final two games of the regular season after missing eight contests with a concussion.
“Bryan has really looked solid since he's been back,” coach Baleno said.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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