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South Allegheny girls soccer looks to build on last season's exploits

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

South Allegheny girls soccer coach Jesse MacPherson could not have asked for much more from his team in 2012, when the Gladiators reached all of their goals.

Yet, this season they're setting their sights a little higher.

After going undefeated through the regular season, breezing to a Section 2-A championship and winning its first playoff game over Ellis School, South Allegheny's season came to an abrupt end in the quarterfinals with an 8-0 loss to Shady Side Academy.

“For us, it was a very successful season,” MacPherson said. “We had never won a playoff game, never won our section, so we met all the goals we set in the preseason. Even though the last loss was pretty ugly, it didn't take away from the season for us.

“Our goals are to win the section again, go undefeated in the regular season again and this year we want to win two playoff games. … We want to get to the next step, if not more.”

The Gladiators return almost the entire lineup from last year's 17-1 squad, led by senior three-time all-section center midfielder Audra Lewis.

“From the time she was a freshman, she was one of the strongest players on the field,” MacPherson said. “She's very strong on the ball, she wins every ball in the air, her touch has gotten tremendously better. … She's unselfish, sees the other players well and she's a great finisher.”

Lewis will be joined by another returning all-section player, forward Amber Brownfield, as well as junior forward Nina Tyszkiewicz. MacPherson believes the Gladiators' offense will effectively complement their defense, a unit that surrendered only eight goals in the 2012 regular season.

“We have a strong defense, but we also have a very quick-paced offense,” MacPherson said. “We have a lot of speed up top, and we're very strong at the center midfield.”

After entering last year's playoffs as a No. 5 seed despite a perfect regular-season mark, the Gladiators have beefed up their nonsection schedule this season with the likes of Seton-La Salle (twice) and Bishop Canevin.

If they can impress in those games, MacPherson said he hopes his team can earn a higher seed if the Gladiators are able to return to the playoffs.

“Our schedule was a little weak last year, and I think a fifth seed being undefeated reflected that,” he said. “If we can beat those teams, then I think we're going to get more respect.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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