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Kittanning notches 1st win since reviving girls soccer program

| Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times
Kittanning freshman midfielder Natalie Kriess (18) gets a pass away as a Riverview defender closes in during their match Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, at Lenape Tech. The Wildcats collected their first win, 6-1.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times
Kittanning junior forward Kayly Lazaroff dribbles up the field against Riverview on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, at Lenape Tech. Lazaroff scored two goals for the Wildcats in a 6-1 win, the first for Kittanning's recently revived program.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times
Kittanning sophomore defender Gina Roncher clears the ball during the first win for the Wildcats program, 6-1 over Riverview, on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, at Lenape Tech.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times
Kittanning junior defender Erica Petras (21) pushes through a crowd to leap for a corner kick in the Wildcats' 6-1 win over Riverview on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, at Lenape Tech. The win was the first for Kittanning's recently revived program.

Chalk up the first “official” win for Kittanning girls soccer.

Junior Kayly Lazaroff scored twice, and the Wildcats scored four times in the first half on their way to their first victory since the program restarted last season, a 6-1 win over Riverview on Thursday at Lenape Tech.

Emily Knepshield, Kylie Hagofsky, Natalie Kreiss and Sydney Dunmire also scored for Kittanning (1-1-0), while Erin Joyce scored for Riverview (0-3-0) early in the second half.

The reason the word “official” was thrown around in the mostly muted postgame celebration was that the Wildcats already had won two preseason scrimmages this year — against Redbank Valley and Valley — and the feeling after those games was that it wouldn't be long before a regular-season win followed.

“We played well in our two scrimmages and beat both of those teams, but now we can actually say we have a win, and I couldn't be more proud of them,” coach Crystal Heder said. “They've worked hard.”

The Wildcats, who pull players from all three Armstrong School District high schools, had a pair of tie games but no wins last year in their first season of play since 1999.

It took only until the second game of this season to get that first win, and a big reason is the year of experience working together.

“It feels real great to get a win,” said sophomore defender Gina Roncher, a Kittanning student and one of the team's captains. “We're a district team, so everybody thinks we have a rivalry with each other, but it's nice the way we can work together and come out with a great game.”

“They've come together so much (from last year). The chemistry is there,” Heder said. “Last year was frustrating because everybody came from playing somewhere else. But this year we've had time to train together and really learn what everybody's strengths and weaknesses are.”

Many of Kittanning's players are juniors and sophomores who played on the team last year, but two new additions — Knepshield and Kreiss — have played a big part. Both had two assists against Riverview.

Knepshield is the team's only senior, and the multisport athlete has become a key figure in the center of the Wildcats' midfield in her first year. Kreiss, a freshman, recently moved to the area and has stepped right in to a midfield role on the wing, but Heder said those are just two key parts of a puzzle.

“Those two have helped, but the credit doesn't just go to them, it goes to everyone,” Heder said. “I see so much more from them. They strive for more, and they've really meshed because of good leadership.”

The team is again playing an independent schedule, and no decision has been made if the team will join a WPIAL section in next year's realignment or wait until the opening of the new Armstrong High School. This year's schedule has more games than last year's, and Kittanning has lined up some tough opponents, including Kiski Area and Shady Side Academy.

With the win, the Wildcats have their sights set on many more.

“A lot of us grew up playing together, and it's nice to see us all making it work out there,” Roncher said.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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