Kovalchuk's two goals lead Belle Vernon past EF
Elizabeth Forward needed a win over Belle Vernon on Thursday and a South Park loss to McGuffey to win the Section 4-AA girls soccer championship.
As it turned out, nothing went the Warriors way.
Lauren Kovalchuk scored two goals, including the eventual game-winner at 15 minutes of the second half, to lead Belle Vernon (14-1-1, 10-1-1) to a 4-2 victory over Elizabeth Forward (11-4-0, 9-3-0) at James Weir Stadium.
Instead of Elizabeth Forward winning the section title, Belle Vernon finished tied with South Park for its first section title since 2009, while the Warriors had to settle for third place.
“These girls have a lot of fight in them and, honestly, I fear any team that plays us in the playoffs because we're going to be a tough team to play,” EF coach Brandon Gerba said. “There's no doubt about that. We did it last year and we'll do it again this year.”
After Alison Pastore tied the game with a goal 7:47 into the second half, Kovalchuk took a pass 40 yards away from the Elizabeth Forward goal and dribbled past Warriors defenders. After avoiding several marks, Kovalchuk slammed a shot past Elizabeth Forward junior goalkeeper Jennifer Keefer from 18 yards to give Belle Vernon a 3-2 lead.
“You could see it in her eyes, how focused she was before the game and she just had that refuse-to-lose attitude,” Belle Vernon coach Paul Sasko said of Kovalchuk. “That second goal she scored was just fabulous.”
Elizabeth Forward took a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the match when junior midfielder Rachel Collage slipped it past goalkeeper Ashly Gagliardi.
The complexion of the game altered dramatically later in the first half. With the ball in the Elizabeth Forward zone, the Warriors could not clear it. Suddenly the ball came out to a wide-open Kovalchuk, who lined up a 14-yard shot and fired the ball in the left side of the net past Keefer to tie the game, 1-all, with 6:45 remaining in the first half.
Belle Vernon struck again 39 seconds later. This time, defender Kylie Kikta laid a perfect corner kick in front of the net where Hayden Pascoe headed it past Keefer to put Belle Vernon ahead, 2-1, at 33:53.
“I think you can tell by the way they were playing, they were getting nervous,” Gerba said. “But they settled down and at the end of the half they played our soccer.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.