Gateway girls soccer aims for deep playoff run

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Friday, August 30, 2019 | 8:09 PM


Gateway’s seniors know too well how difficult it is make the playoffs and how challenging it is to stay there.

The Gators girls soccer team earned playoff berths twice in the last three seasons — by winning a play-in game and by tiebreaker — only to lose in the first round to Moon in 2016 and Oakland Catholic in 2018, the eventual WPIAL Class AAA champions each year.

Gateway will try to change its postseason fortunes with its deepest roster in years.

“I remember with three weeks left in the season it was going to be pretty tough for us to get in last year, and it all came down to the last game in section play,” Gateway coach Kelly Bender said. “We were able to beat Franklin Regional, and it all lined up for us. I hope we can do it again. I hope we can make a deeper run.”

There won’t be any easy wins in Section 1-AAA with Mars and Hampton coming off state playoff runs. Kiski Area also will be back after an 11-3 run in the section last season.

“We give all of the teams in our section a lot of credit because they’re all very deep and competitive,” senior Becca Kubler said. “We feel good about our team, too, because we’ve seen how well our underclassmen have played in the preseason.

“As seniors, it’s given us confidence that we can do well in a really tough section.”

Gateway again will be led by its defense and Maddy Neundorfer, a one-time all-WPIAL and two-time all-section goalkeeper.

Neundorfer will be joined by a trio of multiyear starters in junior defender Joelle Jenkins and senior defenders in Brie Key and Eden Batt.

“We’ve grown with each other,” Neundorfer said. “We communicate really well, and we have a bond where we always know where we’re going to be and what we’re going to do in any situation. We also have a lot of respect for each other, and we want to fight for each other to always get a loose ball.”

If the Gators are to make a jump as a top contender in the section, the offense’s progress will be vital.

Gateway scored three or more goals in three games last season, the least of any WPIAL Class AAA playoff team.

Kubler tied graduate Olivia Wood last season for the team lead in goals (seven) and points (10). Senior attackers Miranda Pioth and Maura Ryan and several underclassmen also are expected to contribute offensively.

“I think having a senior class that is so passionate and skilled brings together a dynamic that not many other teams have,” Bender said. “They’re going to do everything in their power to build this team up, keep everyone united and drive this team to succeed.”

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