Fiona Mahan’s 2 goals help Avonworth defend WPIAL Class 2A girls soccer title
Saturday, November 5, 2022 | 2:49 PM
For Mt. Pleasant girls soccer, the thrill of the hunt was invigorating.
And while the team’s first trip to the WPIAL championship was met with disappointment, it could be the start of something special for a budding program.
“There was no intimidation on this field,” Vikings coach Rich Garland said. “They learned from this, but we’re not going to dwell on it.”
Mt. Pleasant scored early on a strike from freshman Morgan Gesinski, but sophomore Fiona Mahan followed with two goals for Avonworth and the Antelopes repeated as Class 2A champions with a 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.
The Vikings are young — six freshmen start — and will return most of their lineup next year. After this finals trip, they know their way to Station Square.
“We got away a little from what we were doing attacking in the final third,” Garland said. “Give Avonworth credit: They stayed organized.”
Avonworth (19-3), the state runner-up last year and No. 5 seed this year, will play the District 10 runner-up in the PIAA playoffs Tuesday.
WPIAL No. 2 seed Mt. Pleasant (19-2) gets District 6 champion Bedford (16-3) in the state first round.
The Antelopes also trailed rival North Catholic by a goal at halftime of the semifinals before rallying for a 2-1 win.
In the final, Gesinski delivered her 32nd goal in the third minute — a top-corner shot from the 18 — to give the Vikings a fast start.
But Avonworth responded in the 21st minute as Mahan ripped a shot top shelf on freshman keeper Laurel Rummel to make it 1-1, which held at the break.
“We have relied on Laurel all year,” Garland said. “She’s given us 15 shutouts. She faced some tough shots.”
With physicality picking up, the teams exchanged yellow cards and brush burns before the Antelopes went ahead to stay with just more than 16 minutes to play.
“We’re used to playing big and physical,” Garland said. “Our girls were ready for that.”
Mahan, who had the winning goal in last year’s WPIAL final, sent a laser shot past Rummel from 25 yards to make it 2-1. It was the 23rd goal of the season for Mahan, the No. 1-rated player in the state for the Class of 2025 by TopDrawer Soccer.
“It feels like a relief to win again,” Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan said. “We had some pressure on us to get back here and win it again. Mt. Pleasant is a very good team. Everybody can play. We were a little rattled early, and we had to overcome some adversity. We did that well.”
Injured junior Minah Syam did not play for Avonworth, and the Antelopes saw junior forward Gianna Babusci leave the game with a lower-body injury.
Babusci eventually returned, but Avonworth weathered the missing pieces well.
“Emma Luther and Jessica Hunt did a great job slotting in,” coach Mahan said. “We got more relaxed as the game went on.”
Rummel made six saves.
Avonworth sophomore keeper Elena Zimmerman had 10 stops.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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