Springdale's success belies its low seed
After battling to a 1-1 stalemate with Avonworth through two full hours of regulation and overtime soccer Tuesday night, Springdale's girls soccer team fell behind by one in a shootout during the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
Avonworth sophomore forward Thanna Oddo stepped up to the penalty spot, and Springdale senior goalkeeper Erica Roney quickly sized up her opponent.
"She looked directly at the left side (of the goal), so I made sure to move to the right," Roney said. "I've done plenty of shootouts, and I know that trick."
Roney's instinct proved correct and allowed her to make the first of two pivotal saves, leading No. 11 seed Springdale past No. 2 Avonworth, 2-1 (4-3 penalty kicks) at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium.
"I had a feeling Erica was good for a save," Springdale coach Jerry Concannon said. "She's a very good goalkeeper, and she's always good for a save."
Springdale (13-6-2, 8-4) heads to its fourth WPIAL finals appearance across two divisions — Class AA and A — over the past five years, and represents the lowest-seeded team to advance to the WPIAL Class A finals in the classification's short history.
The Dynamos will play No. 1 Greensburg Central Catholic on Saturday in the Class A finals at a site yet to be determined. Greensburg Central Catholic defeated No. 4 Shady Side Academy, 1-0, in yesterday's other semifinal.
Both finalists qualify for the PIAA playoffs.
After making their first semifinal appearance, Avonworth (18-3, 9-1) will face the Indians in the consolation game for the right to enter the PIAA playoffs.
Springdale fell behind early for the third time in its three playoff games. Avonworth's dangerous senior forward, Ehlana Gray, found herself unmarked and headed home junior midfielder Alex Baldwin's cross nine minutes in.
"We know we can come back because we've done it before, so none of us put our head down," Springdale senior midfielder Chelsey Adams said.
True to form, the Dynamos equalized about six minutes later via senior forward Kaylee Derringer, who finished Krista Edwards' low cross.
For the next 100-plus minutes, the two teams engaged in a tense standoff. The Dynamos controlled the ball and the Antelopes looked dangerous in spurts, but neither team was able to find the back of the net through regulation and overtime.
Springdale went down early in the shootout, when Adams' shot missed wide to the left of Avonworth goalkeeper Tara Slenska's net.
"I was only the second shooter, so I knew our team could stay in it. And I knew Erica could do it, because she's done it plenty of times," Adams said.
Roney did her part, saving shots from Oddo and Slenska. That gave Springdale's fifth shooter, junior forward Sydney Smajda, an opportunity to win it for the Dynamos in a suddenly whisper-quiet stadium.
"I was really nervous, definitely," said Smajda, admitting it was the biggest kick she ever had to take.
"There was a lot of weight on my shoulders, but I knew I could do it because I practice the same shot every day in practice," she said.
Smajda aimed high, left and true, and sent the entire Springdale bench onto the field in celebration.