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Penn-Trafford girls enter playoffs as section champs

Lindsay Dill | For the Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's Casey Aunkst advances the ball past Franklin Regional's Megan McCormick on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.

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Having already accomplished one of its goals for the 2013 season, the Penn-Trafford girls soccer team will now turn its attention to the next one.

The Warriors (12-5, 11-1), who clinched their second straight solo section title last week, will begin the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs later this week, with the opponent, time and location yet to be determined. Playoff pairings were scheduled to be released Wednesday, past the deadline for this week's edition.

“Every year, we go in the preseason and our goals are (to) win the section, get ourselves in the WPIAL final four and take our chances with the final four,” coach Rick Nese said.

Penn-Trafford gave itself an edge in the section race with a 2-0 victory over Norwin earlier this season. Norwin later tied Franklin Regional, meaning Penn-Trafford could clinch the section championship before the second meeting with Norwin took place.

The Warriors did just that, beating Connellsville, 9-0, last week.

“We always know that that's a huge game,” Nese said of the first meeting with Norwin. “Obviously, if you win that, then later on in the year when you play them, the pressure's going to be on the other team. And if there's any sort of slip-up, at least you have that one in the bag. Fortunately, that worked out for us this year.”

Norwin did beat Penn-Trafford in the teams' second meeting last week, but the section title was already wrapped up by then.

While Penn-Trafford enters the playoffs as the top team from Section 1-AAA, the Warriors are dealing with injuries to senior Morgan Casario and junior Kristen Swope. Swope didn't play in the loss to Norwin, and Casario was limited to about 10 minutes.

Nese said both players were working to return in time for the playoffs, but he didn't know if that would be possible.

“On top of their injuries, we've had some bumps and bruises and pulled muscles and things that we've been trying to cut down on playing time the last few games,” Nese said. “But we're healing up, hopefully, this week. Getting back to working on a few things this week is going to be good for us to get healthy.”

With both starters out, Nese said he used some different lineup combinations in a 2-0 nonsection loss last Saturday against Gateway. He planned to take what he learned from that game and use it during practice this week.

This season's team enters the playoffs in much of the same situation as last season's, which also went 11-1 in section play. Those Warriors lost in the first round, 3-1, to Canon-McMillan.

“I'm preparing us for our first game,” Nese said. “Hopefully, we can be at our best in this first playoff game because that's another something we weren't able to do last year. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a good result in the first one and that'll give me a better idea of how we play and how we look (and) what confidence we have moving forward.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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