Elizabeth Forward girls hope to turn close games into playoff victories

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 10:09 p.m.

The Elizabeth Forward girls soccer team was the WPIAL leader in a statistical category that isn't exactly good to be the best at.

Then again, it's not bad either.

Through Monday's contests, the Warriors (11-3-4, 7-2-3 Section 4-AA) have seen more games end in a tie (4) than anyone else.

With the WPIAL playoff pairings set to be announced Wednesday, the Warriors, who finished third in the section, are awaiting their seeding and opponent.

The one thing they do know is they need to find a way to turn those close games into victories if they want to advance beyond last season's first-round exit.

“Every team that we're going to see from here on out is going to be tough,” coach Brandon Gerba said. “You have to be able to shut them down.”

Their classification is a talented one that boasts defending champion Mars, last season's runner-up Moon and undefeated Central Valley. There are also section rivals South Park and Belle Vernon, the two teams that finished above them in the standings.

The Warriors went 0-1-1 against both squads and know they could have done better.

“We haven't been able to finish lately,” said senior defender and team captain Mary Cooper. “Our defense has held strong the entire year, so that's why we've been in so many close games. Everyone has stepped up together.”

The offense has been slowed by the loss of Josie Madden (two goals, six assists), who tore her ACL during a 1-1 tie against South Park Sept. 30. With Madden out for the rest of the year, Rachel Collage (17 goals, 13 assists) and Ali Pastore (12 goals and 11 assists) are the main sources of offense. Defender Olivia Barkley moved up to replace Madden and has filled in nicely, Gerba said.

The Warriors have shown grit this year by not letting injuries or the long, taxing games slow them down. The defense, led by four multiple letter winners, has been solid. The same can be said about senior goalie Jen Keefer, who has racked up 12 shutouts and ended the season with five straight. As a team, the Warriors have not lost since Sept. 23, going 5-0-3 since.

“We preach team defense the entire season, from day one of camp all the way until the playoffs,” Gerba said. “They go out every game with the same mentality of keeping the opposing team from scoring.”

They have done a good job of that lately.

Now the challenge is to figure out a way to outscore the opposition.

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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