Penn-Trafford girls soccer blanks top-ranked Norwin girls in first-place battle
The Norwin girls soccer team came into Monday night's first-place showdown with rival Penn-Trafford as the No. 1 team in the Tribune-Review's Class AAA rankings.
But the Warriors, the defending Section 1-AAA champions, showed they still have plenty of bite.
Italia Biondi broke a scoreless tie in the final minutes of the first half, and Maggie Mastrogiacoma added a second-half tally to lead Penn-Trafford (7-3, 6-0) to a 2-0 victory over Norwin (6-1-1, 4-1) Monday night at Warrior Stadium.
“We knew Norwin was at the top of the heap,” Penn-Trafford coach Rick Nese said. “We just talked about some goals we needed to do, some things we needed to do, to have success tonight. We were focused, we did those things, and it resulted in a win.”
While Nese downplayed the significance of Norwin's No. 1 ranking in the face of Penn-Trafford being the defending section champ — “Every year's a new season. Everybody starts 0-0,” he said — the Warriors came out looking to make a statement anyway.
“We definitely think about past years,” said Penn-Trafford goalkeeper Kayla DiPaolo, who made three saves in the shutout. “We want to come back as section champs again.”
Penn-Trafford won Monday night's matchup with Norwin by taking the Knights out of their game.
After a back-and-forth opening 10 minutes, the game settled down, with Penn-Trafford controlling the game through ball possession.
“(Penn-Trafford plays) very direct. They have the players so they can play that way,” Norwin coach Jeff Palm said. “We like to possess a little more, (and) we unfortunately weren't able to do that today. We got out of our game plan and tried to play to their style, which doesn't work for us.”
The Warriors broke the scoreless tie with about six minutes remaining in the first half, when Biondi took a pass, spun away from a defender and drilled a shot past Norwin goalkeeper Cayla Imbarlina and into the net.
Nese called the goal “huge.”
“Italia's a stud,” he said. “We had a couple of chances (before that), but nobody just got into a shot. We just kept saying, ‘Man, if somebody can just get into a shot.' And she did.”
Mastrogiacoma's goal came in the 23rd minute of the second half, when she shot a ball from a bad angle into the top of the net.
While DiPaolo made just three saves, none was bigger than her leaping, one-handed block of an Abbey Tarosky shot in the 27th minute of the second half. After that stop, Norwin didn't seriously threaten the net again.
“I really enjoy the pressure of being a goalkeeper,” DiPaolo said. “It's tough at times, like games like this, but I enjoy it and live up to it and am able to play in these games well.”
Monday night's victory gives Penn-Trafford a leg up in the section race as the Warriors try to win their second straight sole title. Penn-Trafford played Kiski on Wednesday afternoon.
“It's the first half of the season,” Nese said. “We have to play everybody again. I would rather be sitting in a playoff spot right now going into the second half, but a lot can happen in an entire second half of a season.”
Norwin, meanwhile, looked to bounce back quickly before a home game Wednesday night against Upper St. Clair. The Knights return to section play with a game against Kiski on Friday afternoon.
“I think that if we get back at practice and try to focus on playing the style that we like (and) that we're suited to, I think we can get back into it,” Palm said. “It hurts to lose a section game. It makes us have to work a lot harder to get where we want to be. But it's one game.”