Fearless Franklin Regional edges South Fayette in WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer first round

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Monday, October 26, 2020 | 9:23 PM


South Fayette pressed Franklin Regional from the start Monday night, but the Panthers tried to overcome the Lions’ push-back speed with patience, waiting for quality scoring opportunities.

Panthers first-year coach Scott Arnold said he kept using the same word over and again as his team tried to flip the pace in their favor.

“Brave,” he said. “I kept telling them to be brave. We can play the way we want to play.”

Fifth-seeded Franklin Regional held off a barrage of shots from No. 12 South Fayette and leaned on the extreme play of its backup goalkeeper, freshman Aris Lamanna, to register a 2-1 victory in a WPIAL Class 3A first-round girls soccer playoff game in Murrysville.

Junior midfielder Sydney Lindeman scored both goals for the Panthers (11-1-1), the second coming with 1 minute, 7 seconds to play on a breakaway, to send her team into the quarterfinals where they will take on No. 13 Montour (9-6), which defeated previously unbeaten fourth seed Connellsville, 4-1.

Call Panther Stadium the home of the brave. The quarterfinal will be played 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Franklin Regional. The WPIAL this year is allowing higher-seeded teams to play at home through the semifinals to cut down on travel during covid-19 times.

“We played with a lot of energy, and so did they,” Lindeman said. “We had to get used to that and find the pockets and pass it through them. We won a lot of 50-50 balls. Our backs really got us up the field.”

The Panthers had not won a playoff game since 2017.

Franklin Regional played without senior goalkeeper Sydney Caldwell, a Seton Hill commit, who has a high ankle sprain she suffered against Gateway on Oct. 15. But Lamanna was more than up to the task, and she stopped 19 shots.

South Fayette outshot the Panthers, 20-6.

“We played really well,” Lamanna said. “Our teammates just pushed each other, and I love that about us. We held our line very well. Although we did have some breakdowns, we all got back together and picked it up and finished.”

Lamanna, referred to as “The Brick Wall” by the game announcer, made a number of highlight saves, lunging at shots, batting others away and kick-saving a gem in the first half to turn away the Lions (7-8), who never backed down to the higher-seeded Panthers.

“We know Aris is a really good player,” Arnold said. “We see what she can do every day. She played really well, and to do it in a playoff game is special.”

Lamanna played against Gateway and was the winning keeper in the Panthers’ final regular-season game.

Franklin Regional, which has five straight wins, was supposed to play South Fayette in the season opener, but the game was canceled.

“They played fast and got us out of our game,” Arnold said. “The first half kind of shook our girls in the back. We didn’t want to have to play a lot of 50-50 balls because (South Fayette) was so good with that.”

Both of Lindeman’s goals came on well-placed through balls from Benna Kaforey and Sydney Kranick.

Lindeman put the Panthers on the board first with 22:04 left in the first half.

She got ahead of the pack and was confronted by a defender. But she spun, regained control and delivered a shot into an open net as goalkeeper Kaylee Hendricks was drawn out.

South Fayette made it 1-1 with 8:35 left in the first half off the foot of senior Julianna Rossi, who beat Lamanna with a blast to the far post.

South Fayette, which had six, one-goal wins coming into the game, looked primed for another tight finish but could not contain Lindeman down the stretch.

In the 79th minute, Lindeman sprung free and delivered past Hendricks to deter overtime.

“I saw the keeper coming out,” Lindeman said. “She played the through ball. I got through … I had to decide which side to hit it to: low and to the right corner. That’s what I thought was going to work.”

Arnold said Lindeman is a key cog in the offense.

“She is one of the hearts of this team,” he said. “We’re blessed to have players like her.”

The Lions are coached by Katie (Stafiej) Munnell, a Penn-Trafford grad who played a key role on the Warriors’ 2003 WPIAL championship team. The Lions made the semifinals two years ago.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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