Talent-rich Gateway girls soccer squad sets goals high again
For the first time in the 25-year history of the program, a Gateway varsity girls soccer team advanced to the WPIAL semifinals.
The Gators went undefeated in Section 3-AAA (11-0-1) to capture its second section title in three seasons and seventh overall.
Gateway punched its ticket to the semifinals with a 3-0 win over North Allegheny and a 2-1 overtime triumph against Canon-McMillan in the quarterfinals.
A 3-0 loss to Peters Township in the semifinals and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bethel Park in the consolation game ended Gateway's run and set its overall record for the season at 16-5-1.
As with any successful team, senior talent moves on because of graduation. That was the case with Gateway, but a great deal of talent remains.
The mission this year's players have set for themselves, Gateway second-year head coach Kevin Sanders said, is to get back to the WPIAL semifinals and take that next step.
“They know what it takes to get there,” Sanders said. “It will take consistent play from everyone.”
A core of starters and lettermen are back with a mission to get the job done, Sanders said.
Four-year starter Carly Seneca, an all-star at every possible level — from section and WPIAL to the state of Pennsylvania and nationally – now is a freshman starter on the University of Pittsburgh women's soccer team.
Seneca tallied 24 goals and added nine assists as a senior, and she finished her four-year Gateway career with 66 goals and 44 assists.
A pair of returning players — senior Emily Stevens and junior Maggie Hilton — produced a combined 23 goals and 25 assists for the Gators in 2012.
Hilton scored 13 goals and added 15 assists.
Stevens produced 10 goals and 10 assists. She scored the game-winning goal in the section-clinching win over Fox Chapel at Gateway's Antimarino Stadium at the end of the regular season.
On the play, Hilton delivered a corner kick that Stevens headed in past the Fox Chapel goalkeeper.
“Stevens and Hilton should start out where they left off last year,” Sanders said. “It comes down to being consistent with their games.”
Sanders said that as much as he will be counting on Hilton and Stevens to produce offense and play well, he will be looking for more players to put goals in the back of the net.
Also back to form the core of this year's team are lettermen in seniors Hanna Crable, Hannah Feinberg and Jackie Warsaw; juniors Cara Finoli, Lizzie Pendice and Rachel Giannangeli; and sophomore Kayla Trozzi.
Feinberg and Trozzi each had three goals last season, and Feinberg's third goal was the team's final one as it came in the 3-1 season-ending defeat to Bethel Park.
Pendice also netted a pair of goals, and she added three assists. Giannangeli and Crable also tallied three assists in 2012.
Senior Allie Warsaw is a veteran in net for the Gators, and she's there for her third season as a starter.
She is a combined 27-8-1 in two seasons at the varsity level, and she played all but 20 minutes of the team's 22 games last year.
Sanders said freshmen Macenzie Reed, Madeline Hansmann and Stephanie Vojtek have challenged for starting time in preseason camp.
Another freshman, Kristen Greggerson, is expected to play a lot on varsity this season, Sanders said.
Sanders said the defender depth took a hit this summer as Marina Miglioretti suffered a knee injury and is lost for the season.
Gateway faced Elizabeth Forward in a scrimmage last week, and, Sanders said, he expected to see more from his team.
“They didn't play the way they are capable,” he said. “We were slow getting going. We had higher expectations. We played better in the second half of the game.”
Sanders said Fox Chapel will be strong again this season. Plum returns several key players from a team that punched its ticket to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Gateway's lone blemish on a perfect section record came in a 2-2 tie against the Mustangs at Antimarino Stadium.
Plum led the game, 2-0, in the first half before the Gators rallied in the second half.
Gateway won the rematch, 2-0, at Plum High School.
In addition to section games, Gateway will play Bethel Park and Hampton in nonsection action and will take part in the Hampton Tournament on Sept. 14.
For the second year in a row, the Gators open the season with a matchup against Franklin Regional.
The game against the Panthers is set for noon Saturday and is the first game of a varsity doubleheader. The Gateway and Franklin Regional boys will do battle at 2 p.m.
The Gators girls edged the Panthers, 3-2, in last year's opener at Antimarino Stadium.
Franklin Regional, last year, won five in a row after the loss to Gateway and qualified for the playoffs out of Section 1. The Panthers were eliminated by Bethel Park, 2-1, in the first round.
“Franklin Regional gives us a good look because they are very skilled, and they play quick,” Sanders said.
“It makes us play quicker. I like playing a rival right at the start. It has a different tone to it, and we might see them in the playoffs.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.