Breaking down the 2019 WPIAL girls soccer playoffs

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 | 5:48 PM

Here’s a look at the WPIAL girls soccer playoffs:

Class AAAA

Favorite: Norwin (16-1), which has an opening-round bye, may be the fastest end-to-end team in the WPIAL, not to mention the team’s depth. Three Pitt recruits lead the way in junior midfielders Katelynn Kauffman (19 goals) and Lacy Bernick (14 goals) and senior defender Eva Frankovic. Norwin, despite losing three starting defenders to injuries of late, extended its winning streak to nine.

Contenders: With a healthy lineup, Peters Township (16-1-1) could make another deep run. The Indians lost a key starter last year (Regan LaVigna) but still reached the WPIAL finals — after defeating Norwin, 1-0, in the semifinals — and the PIAA semifinals. Peters has 79 goals — 14 from Bucknell recruit Hannah Stuck — and its only loss was 2-1 against Upper St. Clair. The Indians tied Moon, 1-1, and for first place in Section 2. … Section 1 champ North Allegheny (14-2-1) was ranked No. 1 for a large portion of the season. Its only losses are to Norwin and Penn-Trafford. … Seneca Valley (11-3-2) is the defending champion and finished second in tough Section 1 behind North Allegheny, which swept the Raiders. … Moon (14-2-1) is dangerous with freshman Hailey Longwell and a strong defensive backfield.

Don’t overlook: Penn-Trafford (12-5) lost twice to Norwin but blanked North Allegheny, 3-0. The Warriors feature Akron recruit Sarah Nguyen and durable goalkeeper Megan Giesey.

Prediction: Peters Township over Norwin

Class AAA

Favorite: Led by senior forward Taylor Hamlett and junior midfielder Ellie Coffield, among others, Mars (14-0-1) outscored its opponents 91-8 and did not lose a Section 1 game. It tied Class 4A Seneca Valley, 3-3. Mars, the WPIAL runner-up the past two seasons, is ranked No. 4 in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Fightin’ Planets have won four WPIAL titles since 2010, the last in ‘15. All of them were in Class AA.

Contenders: Plum (14-1) tied defending and first-time WPIAL champion Oakland Catholic (12-4-1) for the Section 3 title. Plum is led by junior Gina Proviano and freshman Kaitlyn Killinger. The Mustangs have shut out six of their last seven opponents. … Oakland Catholic features 20-goal scorer Hannah Henn and a good goalkeeper in Maggie Storti. … Section 4 winner West Allegheny (13-2) was tripped up by Chartiers Valley but beat Oakland Catholic, 4-2. The Indians are a tough matchup defensively.

Don’t overlook: Belle Vernon (14-3) went undefeated in Section 2. The Leopards have a loss to Class 2A Waynesburg. Jillian Butchki and Farrah Reeder are double-digit scorers for Belle Vernon, which has 11 shutouts.

Prediction: Mars over West Allegheny

Class AA

Favorite: Hopewell (12-2), last year’s runner-up, has four straight clean sheets and could bring home a title with its defensive play. The Section 1 champion Vikings have won 10 straight games heading into the postseason.

Contenders: North Catholic (11-4) tied Hopewell for the Section 1 crown and is always dangerous with sophomore Jayden Sharpless, a Freedom transfer, leading the charge. … Haleigh Finale, a 100-career goal scorer, is back for defending champion South Park (12-3-1), which won its fourth district title and reached the state semifinals. The Eagles tied Yough for the Section 3 title — their 23rd straight section championship — and went 1-0-1 against Yough. … Burrell (16-0) has 89 goals and has allowed just eight. Allie Vescio, Danika Johnson and Megan Malits are all scoring threats. The Bucs have reached the quarterfinals the last two years. The question is how good is Section 2? … Yough (14-1-1) might pack the most scoring punch in the field (5.9 goals per game), led by senior Justine Appolonia, the program’s career goals leader. … Burrell, Yough and Hopewell never have won a WPIAL title.

Don’t overlook: Deer Lakes (12-3-1) was runner-up in Section 2 and has a formidable goal scorer in Madeline Boulos.

Prediction: South Park over Hopewell

Class A

Favorite: Returning WPIAL champion Freedom (18-0) ran the table in Section 3 despite losing 64-goal scorer Jayden Sharpless, who transferred to North Catholic. Renae Mohrbacher helped make up for the departure with 30-plus goals and Julia Mohrbacher added 15. Freedom scored six or more goals 10 times. The Bulldogs reached the state finals last year. They beat Shady Side Academy in double overtime in the PIAA semis.

Contenders: Reigning runner-up Bentworth (15-1) charged through Section 2 led by Jocelyn Timlin and Paige Marshalek, who combined for more than 50 goals. … Three-time champion Shady Side Academy (13-1) only surrendered nine goals and dropped a 2-0 decision to classification rival Greensburg Central Catholic (10-3), the No. 1-ranked team for much of the fall. Callie Davis is a difference maker for the Indians, who lost last year to Freedom in the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals. … Seton La Salle (12-5) went undefeated in Section 4 and was involved in 14 shutouts (9 of its own doing). … Greensburg Central Catholic started 7-0 but saw a three-game losing streak — defeats against South Park, Burrell and Shady Side Academy — slow their momentum. Brenna Springer and Tatum Gretz lead the offensive charge for GCC.

Don’t overlook: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (12-4) finished second to Freedom in Section 3.

Prediction: Shady Side Academy over Freedom

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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