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Elizabeth Forward girls soccer team has difficult playoff path

| Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, 1:31 a.m.
Yough soccer player Mikayla Mance Submitted

Elizabeth Forward was the Cinderella story of the 2011 WPIAL Class AA girls soccer playoffs, a 13th seed that took third place and earned the school's first visit to the state tournament.

This year the Warriors will also have a difficult road if they hope to repeat last season's success.

EF enters the playoffs as the No. 10 seed and will face seventh-seeded Section 1 champion Yough (15-3-0) on Cougar Mountain at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Overall, we were pretty pleased with how things turned out,” Elizabeth Forward coach Brandon Gerba said.

“We knew going into the pairings that we kind of figured we'd end up with an 8-9 (seed) or 7-10 (seed) game like we did being the third team out of our section, but at the same time, we played in an extremely competitive section.”

Elizabeth Forward (12-5-0) lost twice in section play to South Park (12-3-1) and split with Belle Vernon (15-2-0), the co-champions of Section 4. The Warriors' other losses were to Class AAA fourth seed Penn-Trafford and the Canon-McMillan team it will host in the first round.

Though Yough was undefeated in section play, it counts a 3-1 loss on its home field to Elizabeth Forward on Sept. 26 as one of its three defeats. How the two teams change their attacks and modify their game plans after the first encounter will certainly go a long way toward determining the winner this time around.

“There are upsides and downsides to play someone you've already played, especially in our case where we've already won the first time around,” Gerba said.

“A team like that, that's very skilled and pretty decent offensively, they're going to find ways this time around to score a couple more goals and they're going to be tough for anyone to play.”

Yough certainly has the firepower to run and gun with the best of them. The Cougars have scored 107 goals in 18 games (a 5.9 average) and have one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the WPIAL in freshman striker Mikayla Mance.

Elizabeth Forward has scored only 54 goals, but hits the back of the net when it needs to and has limited its opponents to 17 goals (1.0 per game) and posted five shutouts thanks to a defense led by junior goalkeeper Jennifer Keefer.

“We feel like we have experience on our side,” Gerba said. “The girls are going to work their butts of this week, we're going to put a game plan together and hopefully come away with a win on Saturday.”

While Elizabeth Forward tries to make a repeat visit to the state tournament, undefeated Section 2 champion and fifth-seeded South Allegheny (16-0-0) will begin its quest to its first WPIAL Class A title at 2 p.m. Saturday when it takes on Ellis School (9-7-0) at Norwin.

The sixth-seeded Knights (12-3-2) will play at 4 p.m. against Mt. Lebanon (9-9-0), a team it beat, 4-1, on Sept. 7, in their Class AAA playoff opener.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.

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