Killinger, Plum girls soccer ready for repeat performance

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Sunday, August 30, 2020 | 5:33 PM


Kaitlyn Killinger probably couldn’t have imagined a better start to her high school soccer career.

The Plum sophomore striker led her team in scoring last season with 18 goals, and she came up big numerous times in the Mustangs’ run to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game and state playoffs.

“It was such a fun experience,” said Killinger, who earned all-section honors and was selected to the Valley News Dispatch all-star first team.

“We were proud of ourselves for what we accomplished as a team, going as far as we did. We gained more and more confidence as the season went on. We really bonded throughout all of the games.”

Killinger said her game has grown in the past year, and she is ready to help Plum do it again this fall. Like many area athletes, she is happy the PIAA on Aug. 21 gave fall sports teams the green light to play.

“The team is ready,” Killinger said. “We have most of the team returning from last year’s success, and that makes us extremely hopeful we can do it again.”

Plum finished 17-3-1 last season and tied Oakland Catholic for the Section 3 title at 11-1. The Mustangs never played for a WPIAL title or competed in the state playoffs before last year.

Killinger’s talent came to the forefront in key moments last year as she scored twice and added an assist in Plum’s 4-2 win over Hampton in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Her 10 assists last year were second on the team to senior Emily Kirkpatrick (12).

“I had been a goal scorer for my cup team, but I didn’t know what my role was going to be for the high school team,” Killinger said. “When (head coach Jamie Stewart) told me I was going to play the forward position, I knew that as long as I made my runs, my teammates would find me.”

Killinger said none of her success last season would’ve been possible without her teammates, especially the seniors.

“With the support of my teammates and the confidence they had in me, I got more comfortable playing against anyone,” she said.

That confidence and trust in her teammates extends to this season. She hopes to again form a potent scoring core with senior standout and fellow All-WPIAL performer Gina Proviano (14 goals, seven assists), senior Jamie Seneca (11 goals in 2019) and junior Marissa Liberto (12 goals).

“We have many players who can find the back of the net,” Killinger said. “Our team is extremely unselfish, and we have ways to find the open player on the field.”

Killinger began to build on her first high school season with winter indoor futsal and training for spring cup season with her Pittsburgh Hotspurs U15 team.

The spring season, however, was lost because of the covid pandemic and quarantine requirements, but she continued training with friends at different locations.

Training sessions with the Hotspurs continued when much of Pennsylvania went to the green phase in early June and restrictions were eased.

Killinger also took advantage of an added Hotspurs opportunity with some of the top talent in the Pittsburgh region.

She was selected to join the Hotspurs Women’s First Team program, which plays in the regional Women’s Premier Soccer League against teams from Cincinnati, Detroit, Columbus, Dayton and Cleveland.

The program consists of players high school, college and adult players.

Killinger showcased her talents and honed her skills three days a week through the program’s two months.

“It definitely helped me with my speed of play, my touches and my physicality,” Killinger said. “I really learned a lot about my abilities as a player. I felt I improved a lot.”

Program coordinator Thomas Ovenden said despite the WPSL season not going on as scheduled, he wanted players to meet for training sessions and scrimmage opportunities.

“We were looking really good. We had the strongest squad we’ve ever had,” Ovenden said.

Ovenden said he was impressed with how Killinger made strides throughout the summer.

“We’ve got a really strong pool of players, and Kaitlyn is right at the top,” he said.

“We try to take these players out of their comfort zones. That’s what I felt the training did for her. As it went along, she really stepped up and got more and more confident. Her quality of play really started to shine out. She has the mentality to keep going to the next level. If she continues to do what she’s doing, she will have a lot of Division I coaches after her, I’m sure of it. We’re really excited for her.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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