Clutch goal from Jayden Sharpless lifts North Catholic past Avonworth in Class 2A title game

Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 3:26 PM

In the early portion of Saturday’s WPIAL Class 2A championship game, North Catholic standout junior Jayden Sharpless said she was a little too amped up when she fired a free kick well over the goal from 30 yards out.

The second time she got a free kick chance, Sharpless made no mistake.

From 32 yards out, Sharpless rocked a perfect shot that landed just under the crossbar and into the back of the net, and it was enough to give North Catholic its second consecutive WPIAL title in a 1-0 victory over Avonworth at Gateway’s Antimarino Stadium.

“Those are my kind of shots,” Sharpless said of her free kick goal. “I like taking them. I watched it go over (the keeper’s) head and then I was really excited.”

It was the latest example of Sharpless coming through in a big situation for the Trojans. She also had the decider in last year’s final. Sharpless, a Georgia State commit, attracts a lot of attention on the field, and it wasn’t a surprise for Trojanettes coach Emily Karr to see her be an X-factor again.

“Jayden has a lot of pressure to manage, and she handles it in a wonderful way for a high school aged player,” Karr said. “I’ve seen her hit that shot before. I know she spends a lot of individual time working on it. It’s not luck. It’s her hard work. She gives us a lot of confidence because she comes through for us quite a bit.”

North Catholic (13-2-1) and Avonworth (14-2-1) played twice in Section 1 play this season. The first meeting was a 0-0 tie and the Trojanettes won the rematch, 2-1.

Avonworth had several opportunities to score but couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the net. Ava Wert hit the crossbar with a strong shot just outside the penalty box just a few minutes into the game. The Antelopes had their best chance to tie when Kent State recruit Joey Skillen had a header over top of Trojanettes keeper Andrea Bean, but the ball again hit off the crossbar.

“I’m proud of the effort the girls put in today. I think we were a little unlucky,” Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan said. “We hit a couple of crossbars, and their goal was in the sun and then just slipped under the crossbar. I think that was the only shot on goal they had in the first half. Soccer is cruel sometimes. The hardest thing in soccer is to score goals. We had our opportunities … but the keeper (Andrea Bean) was there to make some good saves.”

Avonworth was without senior Catherine Penrod, who missed the game due to injury, and had two more starters go down with injuries during the game. Freshman Giana Babusci had a leg injury in the first half that forced her to miss the remainder of the match, and Ravenna Kelly also had a leg injury in the second half.

North Catholic’s back line, led by Ava Billman and Lindsey Pawlawski, was strong in the second half and helped Bean earn her 11th shutout of the season.

“Ava and Lindsey work really well together,” Sharpless said. “They do a good job of holding it down back there and limiting the chances for the other team to score on us.”

North Catholic’s season continues in the PIAA quarterfinals on Saturday.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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