Norwin girls get big win in playoff opener
Playoff time has arrived, and that's where Norwin's girls soccer team traditionally has shined.
The Knights are in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals for the 13th straight season after winning their first-round match, 4-0, at home against Mt. Lebanon on Saturday.
Sami Farabaugh, Brea Bolden and Rachel DelleFemine scored first-half goals to put Norwin (14-3-2) in control, and Micayla Livingston added a second half strike for the sixth-seeded Knights to eliminate the 11th-seeded Blue Devils (9-10-0).
“We've been trying to get to the point all season where we put together a complete game, and I thought we did that against Mt. Lebanon,” Norwin coach Jeff Palm said.
“We did a lot of things right that we've worked on in practice, and it's the right time of the year to be playing well.”
In the quarterfinals, which were scheduled for Wednesday, after this edition's deadline, the Knights were scheduled to face No. 3 Bethel Park (18-1-0).
Bethel Park's lone loss came by a 4-0 against No. 1 Peters Township on Oct. 10, but the Black Hawks nearly got bounced in the first round of the tournament by Franklin Regional.
A goal late in regulation for the Panthers tied the game, 1-1, and after 30 scoreless minutes of overtime, the match was settled on penalty kicks, which Bethel Park won, 4-3, on the sixth kick.
“I think they're going to be prepared. Every game is different, no matter what happened previously,” Palm said. “We won't think we'll win just because they had to beat Franklin Regional in a shootout. We had two tough games against Franklin; they're a good team.”
One thing that bodes well for the Knights is that the team's health has been steadily improving over the last two weeks. Norwin went through much of the second half of the season missing players for various reason, but nearly the whole roster is available to Palm for the playoffs.
“The past few weeks, we've been without players due to injury, illness and concussions,” Palm said. “Now, we're starting to get some of them back, and they're working their way back into game fitness.
“We've had some younger players get good experience, and hopefully, we can get everyone involved. If we make it past Wednesday, I think we'll have everyone back.”
Should the Knights advance past the quarterfinals, they would next face the winner between No. 2 Seneca Valley and No. 7 Upper St. Clair on Tuesday at a neutral site to be determined.
Although Norwin was beaten out for the Section 1-AAA title by Penn-Trafford, Palm said, missing out on that prize doesn't affect the team's quest for a WPIAL championship now that the playoffs have begun.
“At the start of the year, we established our goals of winning a section title and a WPIAL title,” Palm said. “I don't think because we lost to P-T motivates us any more to win a WPIAL title.
“Apart from (two losses against) P-T and a loss to Peters Township, we've put together a good season. We only lost 2-1 against Peters, so we know we can play against the top teams.”
On the opposite side of the Class AAA playoff bracket, No. 4 Penn-Trafford was upset, 3-1, by Canon-McMillan in the first round.
That, coupled with Franklin Regional's elimination against Bethel Park, leaves Norwin as the only remaining team from Section 1.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.