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South Allegheny girls soccer team hopes more experience pays off

| Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, 12:45 a.m.

The South Allegheny girls soccer team is using a couple valuable lessons that it learned last season as it heads into the 2013 postseason.

At 13-2-1 overall and 11-0-1 in Section 2-A, the Gladiators cruised to their second straight section crown but also challenged themselves while doing so against difficult nonsection opponents.

According to South Allegheny coach Jesse MacPherson, games against Beaver and Bishop Canevin seem to have given his team an edge that it may have lacked last year against a mostly inferior regular-season slate of challengers.

He hopes that the improved competition not only will help his team earn a better playoff seed than last year's No. 5 but also prepare the players mentally for tougher games in late October.

“We're used to being up for more games. We didn't have as many cakewalks this year, so we're used to coming in with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy,” MacPherson said. “Just from having the same girls year after year, they're just building on their skills every year.”

MacPherson believes his team also has learned from its playoff appearance last year.

After winning the program's first postseason game against Ellis School last season, it fell to Shady Side Academy, 8-0. Even in the win, MacPherson said his team showed some nerves in the early going, something he hopes it got out of the way heading into this year's playoffs.

“It took us about 20-25 minutes to take control of the game last year even though we were a much higher seed,” he said. “I think we got our jitters out in our win last year.”

The Gladiators have been led by four players who have been spearheaded some of the team's biggest moments. Senior midfielder Audra Lewis, sophomore forward Amber Brownfield and juniors Lindsay Cornish (sweeper) and Nina Tyszkiewicz are all-section players hoping to carry South Allegheny past the second round.

“You look at any big game that we've won, the three offensive players had multiple goals, and Lindsay's done a great job sweeping,” MacPherson said.

“Our goal is to advance past the second game to give us two shots at going to states. If we get past the first two rounds then we're guaranteed at least a game in the consolation bracket, which would take us to states.”

Fresh off what MacPherson dubbed as maybe the Gladiators' best win of the season — a 6-1 win over section foe Serra Catholic — his message is simple for his team as it awaits the announcement of the WPIAL playoff pairings this week.

“Just to believe in themselves, keep playing hard and play the way they know how to play,” he said.

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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