Gateway among elite teams with 2012 postseason run
Two years ago, the Gateway varsity girls soccer team was very close to moving into the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals.
A quarterfinal battle with Pine-Richland went into a second overtime tied 0-0.
Then, the Gators players had their collective hearts broken, as the Rams scored late in the second overtime to seal the win and end Gateway's season.
Fast forward to this season, and the Gators again found themselves on the doorstep of the WPIAL semifinal round.
This time, Canon-McMillan stood in Gateway's path to uncharted territory.
But the Section 3 champion and No. 5-seed Gators wouldn't be denied. They kicked down the door to the semifinals with a 2-1 shootout victory.
“We've worked together a lot and put a lot of time in,” senior Danielle Kravits said. “We deserve this. We've expected to achieve our goals. We have a lot left.”
Gateway qualified for the WPIAL semifinals for the first time in the 27-year history of the program. The Gators were scheduled to play top seed Peters Township on Wednesday with a trip to Saturday's championship game on the line.
The game ended past the deadline for this week's edition.
Check out triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmonroeville for a recap of the semifinal game with Peters Township.
Regardless of how Wednesday's game turned out, Gateway knew it would be playing Saturday and with a lot on the line. A third-place consolation game also will be Saturday.
“The kids are excited for what they've accomplished,” Sanders said. “But they don't want it to end. There is still a lot to play for.”
Wednesday's other semifinal game involved second seed Seneca Valley and No. 3 seed Bethel Park. Both teams beat the Gators during the regular season, and Gateway will get another crack at one of them.
The top three teams from the WPIAL will enter the PIAA playoffs, which begin this Tuesday.
“We've played our best defensively since the Bethel Park game (a 4-0 loss Oct. 1),” Sanders said.
“You sometimes have to play teams like that to get better. The girls aren't afraid to play the top teams. They've felt they always belonged among the elite teams. This is the time to play like an elite team. You want to peak during playoff time.”
Gateway was 7-1 in eight games from after the Bethel Park loss through the Canon-McMillan victory.
“It's great to be included in that group of respected teams. We're honored to be a part of the final four,” said senior Carly Seneca, who scored Gateway's regulation goal against the Big Macs.
The shootout against Canon McMillan was Gateway's first since beating Springdale in an early-season tournament game last season.
Gateway won the shootout, 3-2, and scored on goals from Seneca, junior Emily Stevens and sophomore Maggie Hilton.
Junior Hanna Crable was stopped on her attempt, and Gateway's fifth shooter didn't have to kick.
Gateway junior goalie Allie Warsaw stopped two shots and one went wide.
“I was a little nervous in the beginning, but we've practiced it so much,” Warsaw said. “We were prepared. I am glad we were able to get to the shootout, so we had the opportunity to win the game.”
Canon-McMillan and Gateway played to a scoreless tie in the first half, and the Big Macs got on the board, 1-0, in the second half.
“They scored on a loose ball in the goal area, and the shot hit the far post and went in the goal,” Sanders said. “It was a very nice and tricky shot. (Allie) had zero chance.”
Gateway responded, as Seneca scored on a kick from about 40 yards out to tie the game.
“It was a quick shot and caught the goalkeeper off her line,” Sanders said.
“After that goal, everyone's attitudes changed. We just picked it up after that. It wasn't our best game, and it wasn't our worst game. It was just a battle.”
The goal was Seneca's 23rd of the season, and freshman Kayla Trozzi recorded an assist.
“It was probably one of the highlights of my career at Gateway. It was exciting,” Seneca said.
“Someone had to step up, and it happened to be me in that situation. But everyone was playing hard all game, especially in the shootout. It was a total team effort, and it was great to be a part of it.”
The shootout came after two scoreless overtime periods.
“I thought we were going to score quickly in the first overtime,” Sanders said. “We just missed a goal off a corner, and we were pressing. Both teams were getting a little tired in the second overtime. There were a lot more long shots.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.