Penn-Trafford's season ends in playoff shootout
Penn-Trafford coach Rick Nese didn't wait long when asked whether he considered the 2013 season a success.
“Absolutely,” he said.
The Warriors (12-6) fell short of one of their team goals — advancing to the WPIAL semifinals and giving themselves a chance to win the title — falling, 1-0, in a shootout to Pine-Richland in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs Saturday at Norwin High School.
While one goal went unaccomplished, Penn-Trafford achieved several others this season — including winning their third straight Section 1-AAA championship.
“We didn't get into the final four, but everybody you're playing right now is a good team,” Nese said. “So we fell in a penalty-kick shootout to a very good team. I'm proud of the girls. We have a section championship. There's only going to be one team that ends up winning the WPIAL. We've got a section championship to hang our hat on.”
Penn-Trafford (12-6), the No. 7 seed in Class AAA, came out slowly in the first half against Pine-Richland, a team it lost to by a 2-1 score earlier this season.
Nese said he thought nerves played a major role in the early struggles.
“The first 20 minutes or so, our first touch wasn't what it needed to be,” Nese said. “We were chasing a little too much instead of just settling in and playing. I think once that first 20 minutes of the game (were over), the nerves kind of settled in. We played much better, had some more opportunities.
“But at the end of the day, Pine-Richland's going to be one of the final eight teams. There's a reason that they are. They're good.”
Penn-Trafford generated some scoring chances late in the first half and after halftime, but the teams spent much of the game locked in a tightly contested defensive battle. Neither team generated a large amount of scoring chances.
“As we got over our nerves, we got into the attacking third a little bit more,” Nese said. “The goalkeeper, we really didn't test her too much, but she's a quality goaltender. She showed it in the penalty kicks. It's the way it goes.”
Unlike regular-season games, playoff games are decided by a five-person shootout if the contest remains tied after two overtime periods.
Pine-Richland goalkeeper Leah Roth began the shootout by blasting a shot past Penn-Trafford goalkeeper Kayla DiPaolo's diving save attempt. After Kristina Wallace missed high for Penn-Trafford, Katie Graszl scored to put the Rams up, 2-0, in the shootout. Roth stopped Penn-Trafford freshman Athena Biondi's shot, and Maggie Shope put Pine-Richland up 3-0. When Ryley Watt's shot also missed the goal, Pine-Richland emerged with the victory.
“When you lose (the shootout), you don't like it,” Nese said. “But it is what it is. Everybody knows the rules going into the game beforehand, so it's the way it ends.”
Senior Morgan Casario and junior Kristen Swope sat out Saturday's game with injuries, and Beretta injured her knee during the second half.
Nese praised the work of the senior class, including Beretta, Casario, DiPaolo, Kayla Novosel and Michelle Ruoff.
“They're going to be disappointed, and we're going to miss them,” he said.