Freshman’s OT goal lifts Avonworth past North Catholic in classic WPIAL girls soccer final

Saturday, November 6, 2021 | 2:33 PM

After splitting two regular season meetings and playing evenly through 80 minutes of regulation, it was going to take something special to separate Avonworth and North Catholic.

Freshman midfielder Fiona Mahan produced the winning moment for Avonworth in the 101st minute, scoring with a driven shot that got just under the crossbar from 30 yards out to give the Antelopes the WPIAL Class 2A girls soccer title, 2-1 in overtime, over North Catholic on Saturday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.

It is the first WPIAL title for Avonworth (16-3-1), which beat two-time defending champion North Catholic (17-2-0) by the same score in the regular season after the Trojans won their first meeting, 4-0.

“I think it’s probably the two best teams in the state playing back and forth all game,” Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan said. “We have a tremendous front five, and any one of them can score at any time, so for it to be a freshman to do that was amazing.”

The younger Mahan has scored plenty of goals at Highmark as a club player with the Riverhounds Development Academy, but this was the first one that ended a game and clinched a trophy for her team.

“I had so many shots this game that I was hoping one of them would have went in. I think I hit that one hard enough that nobody could save it,” Fiona Mahan said. “I think it was more emotional because I’m a freshman and just getting into it, but I have to give it my all because all our seniors wanted this and have been waiting for this.”

The Antelopes took the lead in the 22nd minute when Mia Burens received a cross from the right wing in the middle of the box, and she placed her shot in off the inside of the right post.

The lead was short-lived. Three minutes later, North Catholic’s Lauren MacDonald received the ball and got a head of steam going toward goal, dribbling around a pair of defenders before firing a shot from the top of the box into the left side of the net.

The two teams then settled into a tough battle in the middle of the field. North Catholic pushed more directly to get chances for their dangerous forwards, while Avonworth moved forward a little more patiently.

Each team had chances to win in regulation, but it took until there were just nine minutes until the game would have gone to a shootout for a winner to be scored.

“They worked hard the entire time, and it’s been a whole season of just build and love and trust, and they went out there and played for each other. You can’t ask for anything more than that,” J.C. Mahan said.

“It was a fun championship game. I thought we absolutely dominated the overtime and had way more opportunities, so I thought we had momentum there, but they had a player make a phenomenal shot, and that’s how it goes sometimes,” North Catholic coach Brittni Grenninger said.

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament beginning next week, and a fourth meeting — one both coaches indicated they expect — could be in their future if both advance to the semifinal round.

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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