Burrell girls soccer team picks up where it left off

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021 | 8:12 PM


A youthful Burrell girls soccer team navigated through all of the covid-related changes last fall, won eight out of 12 games and finished 7-2 in Section 2-AA play.

The Bucs capped their season in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Despite losing a couple of key players to graduation, a lot of talent returned hoping to build on what they accomplished in 2020.

So far, things are pointing in the right direction for a Bucs team at 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the section with some crucial matchups on the horizon.

“You always hope you are going to be competitive and always hope you are going to contend for a WPIAL title,” said Frank Nesko, who has seen his team score early nonsection wins over Class AA power Mt. Pleasant and perennial Class AAA playoff qualifier Kiski Area.

“We are excited, but we also temper that because it is still so early. There are things we have to improve on. Every team has those things. We always start out with hopes of winning the section and then go from there into the playoffs. We don’t want to catch ourselves trying to do too much right away.”

Burrell defeated Highlands, 6-2, on Sept. 14 to begin section play and then outlasted section rival Freeport, 2-1, in overtime two days later.

“I don’t think we’ve shown what we are capable of yet, and that is encouraging,” Nesko said.

“Looking at our record, one might say that we have. But we are a work in progress.”

The Bucs hope to stay perfect in section Wednesday, but Nesko said it will be a challenge as a Deer Lakes team 3-0 in the section comes to Buccaneer Stadium.

The Lancers, 3-3 overall, are winners of three of four, and they defeated Freeport, 7-2, on Monday.

“They are going to come in here and will be hungry,” Nesko said. “(Deer Lakes coach) Frank (Accetta) is a great coach, and he has a really talented and experienced squad. We have to be prepared to weather a storm at some point in the match. We know that both teams will come out high on emotion. It’s going to be a good test of where we are.”

Burrell swept Deer Lakes last year, winning 4-2 and 2-0.

The Bucs have won four in a row, including three by one goal. A penalty kick from sophomore Leah Brockett with about 15 minutes left was the difference Saturday in a 1-0 win over Kiski Area in the heat and humidity at Buccaneer Stadium.

“Both teams had chances. Kiski had more than us. It was very hot, and they were able to sub more than us,” Brockett said. “They had a really strong defense that didn’t give us much to work with. But we hung in there. It was both physical and mental. I think our fitness really helped us in that game. Our preseason conditioning really showed through.”

Nesko said he liked the way his team came together to protect the lead.

“Our midfielders kept winning possession,” he said. “They held it down, and the back line really supported them. We kind of defended as a team and worked hard for each other from that point on.”

Brockett also had the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Mt. Pleasant on Sept. 8. It was the Vikings’ only loss through their first seven games.

“It was back-and-forth. It was really good soccer,” Nesko said. “Neither team was trying to just drive the ball over the top and chase. We both were trying to possess the ball and make plays. They had some good chances, and we just happened to convert on one of ours. It was as even a game as you will see.”

The Freeport game was special for freshman midfielder Miley Kariotis, who scored the winner in overtime. It was her first varsity goal.

Sophomore forward Tessa Mathabel also scored against Freeport.

The Yellowjackets are 0-7 overall, 0-3 in the section and have lost three games by one goal.

“Freeport is much better than record would indicate,” Nesko said. “Freeport easily could’ve won the game. They were fast and aggressive. We just happened to come out on top with a nice goal in overtime.”

Nesko said his team learned a lot from a 2-0 loss to undefeated North Catholic (6-0) at the season-opening Butler tournament.

“That team has so many skilled weapons,” Nesko said. “It was an eye-opener. (Junior goalkeeper) Ali (Hughes) played out of her mind. It was the best performance by a goalie I’ve ever seen. They probably had close to two dozen shots on frame, and Ali had at least 20 saves. Ali tends to do that to people.”

Burrell was slated to play Shady Side Academy (2-1, 2-0) on Monday, but the section matchup was postponed. Nesko said the teams most likely will play this Monday.

The Bucs are slated to visit Valley (3-2, 1-2) on Saturday.

“It took a little time for this team to click, and I think we are seeing us play more and more as a team and play for each other,” Brockett said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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