Gateway girls soccer finishes solid season with near-upset in playoffs

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 5:18 PM

Gateway’s girls soccer team almost pulled off a stunner.

The No. 15 seed in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, Gateawy lost to second-seeded Plum by the narrowest of margins, losing 2-1 in a shootout Oct. 21 in a first-round playoff match at Plum.

Plum outscored Gateway, 6-5, in penalty kicks to improve to 15-1 and advance to the quarterfinals. The Gators wrapped up their season at 8-10-1.

“That loss was absolutely heartbreaking,” coach Kelly Bender said. “The girls had their best game of the season. They played with such heart and class. We shut Plum down defensively and created some beautiful attack up top. It is so tough to lose in PKs, but our girls put it all on the field and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“This was one of the best teams I’ve coached at Gateway. We had senior leadership, depth in talent and drive to win.”

Gateway had its deepest roster in years.

Senior leadership was provided by goalie Maddy Neundorfer, defenders Brie Key and Eden Batt, midfielders Becca Kubler and Maura Ryan and forward Miranda Pioth.

Neundorfer began the season as a one-time all-WPIAL and two-time all-section selection. Key and Batt were multiyear starters defense.

“The team played very well this year despite being in a tough section,” Key said. “We were able to have close games with very skilled teams such as Mars. We also improved so much throughout the season, and it showed when we beat Franklin Regional, 3-0, despite losing to them the first time we played them.

“We were able to play well together because we were so close with one another.”

The Gators’ captains were Key, Kubler and Ryan.

“Some of the duties we had were leading stretches and helping out wherever we saw fit,” Key said. “A big part was just being a positive role model for the girls and being able to pick them up when they were feeling down, on and off the field.

“I just want to add that I’m very proud of the girls and all that we accomplished this year. This was my last year playing, and I’m very grateful I was able to spend it with such a great group of girls.”

The junior class was represented by defender Joelle Jenkins, midfielders Nadia Thomas and Anna Segar and forward Ava Weiss. Jenkins was a multiyear starter.

Other leading underclassman prospects included, on defense, freshman Emily Mannion and Anna Reynolds; at midfield, sophomores Jenna Shuman and Kira Pavlik and freshman Madi Jesih, and at forward, sophomore Addy Green and freshman Daniella Garner.

Green, Kubler, Pioth and Garner led the squad in scoring with 26 goals and 10 assists between them.

Garner scored the Gators’ only goal against Plum with 13 minutes remaining in regulation. Shuman, Kubler, Key, Green and Neundorfer converted their penalties in the shootout.

Sparked by Neundorfer’s performance in the net, Gateway posted seven shutouts, allowed only one score three times, and outscored the opposition 44-27.

“The three goals our girls set for the season were to have a healthy team mindset, to learn and grow from failure and then to possess, score and win,” Bender said. “We certainly reached those goals throughout the season.”

Over the past four years, Gateway’s seniors experienced three WPIAL playoff berths thanks to a trio of fourth-place finishes in section play.

“One of our team pillars is legacy,” Bender said. “I believe our seniors have left their legacy both as players and as people.

“As for next year, we have a very talented core group of girls remaining and many more who are ready to take the field as varsity players.”


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