Breaking down the 2017 WPIAL girls soccer playoffs
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 | 9:06 PM
Favorite: Norwin, despite drawing the No. 4 seed, has won back-to-back WPIAL championships and has more than enough talent to three-peat. The Knights have been rated as high as No. 1 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. Norwin features Ohio recruit Sam Wexell, a proven postseason goalkeeper with 48 career shutouts, and forward Emily Harrigan, a Rutgers recruit who has 85 career goals. There are six Division I players on the roster, including senior Lexy Kendro (Duquesne), senior Alyssa Victor (Duquesne), sophomore Eva Frankovic (Kent State) and junior Maddie Genicola (Duquesne). Victor recently returned from a hip injury. Norwin shut out 11 of 16 opponents.
Contenders: No. 2 Penn-Trafford won the Section 4 title over Norwin, beating the Knights once to break their 47-game regular-season winning streak, and also tying them, 0-0. Seniors Lauren Stovar (Army) and Hannah Nguyen (Duquesne) lead the Warriors' offense, and sophomore Megan Giesey has been strong in net. Section 1 champ Pine-Richland, the top seed, has not lost since its opening game, 3-2 against Class 3A Mars. Freshman goalkeeper Katherine Kelly is one of the top goal-stoppers in 4A, while classmate Megan Donnelly is the leading goal-scorer. Peters Township is led by Hannah Stuck, and Seneca Valley is a 2016 quarterfinalist that owns a 2-1 win over P-T and a 2-1 loss to Norwin.
Don't overlook: No. 7 Fox Chapel posted eight shutouts and edged Penn-Trafford, 2-1. The Foxes made the WPIAL semifinals a year ago.
Prediction: Norwin over Penn-Trafford
Favorite: No. 1 Moon is one of two unbeaten, untied teams in the WPIAL, and the defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Tigers have won 35 straight games. They have only allowed five goals all season and have posted 13 shutouts. Delaney Snyder, a Miami (Ohio) recruit, leads the offense with more than 25 goals. Snyder had 38 scores last season when the Tigers went 25-1. Defenders Kristi Kania, Emily Orr and Lauren Baumgartner have played key roles in the shutouts.
Contenders: Mars, the Section 1 champion, only has one loss, to Class 4A Upper St. Clair. The No. 2-seeded Planets have blanked a dozen opponents and did not allow a goal in 10 section games, outscoring teams 45-0. Section 3 champion South Park has won 21 consecutive section titles. The Eagles won seven straight games late in the season, six in a row via shutout. The Eagles, led by forward Haleigh Finale, played most of their home games on the road as their stadium was renovated. It reopened last week. They made the semifinals last season. No. 3 Chartiers Valley finished third in Section 3 but has a 3-2 win over South Park to its credit.
Don't overlook: No. 5 Montour was runner-up to Moon in Section 4. It made the finals last year where it lost to Moon, 1-0.
Prediction: Moon over Mars
Favorite: Defending WPIAL champion Freedom has only given up 12 goals all season while averaging 6.8 a game. No. 1 Freedom and Class 3A Moon are the only unbeaten teams left in the WPIAL. Junior Michaela Watkins has been one of the top scorers in Class 3A, finding the net 20-plus times. She took on an enhanced scoring role when junior Myla Sharpless suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sharpless is a Florida Atlantic recruit.
Contenders: Freeport was the runner-up last season and enters the playoffs fresh off back-to-back section titles. Another year of experience makes the second-seeded Yellowjackets dangerous. Kaylee Comperatore and Sidney Shemanski make an imposing one-two scoring punch. Section 3 champ and No. 3 seed Waynesburg features the top goal scorer in the WPIAL in senior forward Madison Clayton, a Pitt recruit. Clayton has 53 goals and teammate Rhea Kijowski, a freshman, has 29.
Don't overlook: Fourth-seeded Yough made the quarterfinals last season. The Cougars went score-for-score for the most part in two games against Waynesburg, losing 7-4 and 4-2. A nonsection schedule, however, was against teams with a combined record of 19-31-1.
Prediction: Freedom over Waynesburg
Favorite: Greensburg Central Catholic, despite a hiccup against Serra Catholic that ended a WPIAL record 89-game section winning streak, has to be considered a strong contender. The Centurions are the No. 3 seed but have won four WPIAL titles in six seasons, eight overall, and can return to the finals despite a young team. GCC is more balanced this season and has a stern and experienced goalkeeper in Bella Skatell. Freshman Samantha Felder has become a formidable scoring threat, with help from junior Sarah Orndoff.
Contenders: Shady Side Academy, the defending champion and No. 5 seed, split the Section 1 title with GCC. The Indians have won three titles since the WPIAL went to four classes in 2010. Junior center-midfielder Krystyna Rytel has several multi-goal games. She became the go-to scorer with the graduation of Elizabeth Harper. Rytel had 30 assists last year. Top-seeded Seton LaSalle has 10 starters back but the Rebels lost in the first round last year. Still, Seton took over the No. 1 spot in the Tribune-Review rankings as it approached the regular-season finish line. The Rebels are led by senior Mofoluke Obiri, a third-year starter, who has more than 20 goals this season and 80-plus in her career. … No. 2 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, the Section 3 champ, has won seven straight games.
Don't overlook: No. 4 Sewickley Academy seems to be in every game, with eight decided by one goal or less. The Panthers own a 3-0 win over CWNC.
Prediction: Shady Side Academy over Greensburg Central Catholic
Tags: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Chartiers Valley, Fox Chapel, Freedom, Freeport, Greensburg C.C., Mars, Montour, Moon, North Catholic, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Peters Township, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley, Shady Side Academy, South Park, Waynesburg, Waynesburg Central, Yough
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