Penn Hills girls soccer makes major strides to return to postseason

Saturday, October 24, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Coach Ashley DeVito has preached to her Penn Hills girls soccer team the importance of playing the game as a team.

With the mix of returning starters and an influx of new faces, the Indians bought into DeVito’s coaching and clinched a WPIAL playoff berth for the first time in three seasons.

The Indians (8-7, 6-6), who clinched their first playoff berth since 2017, won three of their final four Section 3-3A games to earn the opportunity to play in the postseason. No. 14 Penn Hills was scheduled to play at No. 3 Hampton in the first round.

Penn Hills started the four-game stretch with a 6-1 win at Obama Academy on Oct. 12 but followed the big win with a 5-0 loss to Plum. The Indians refocused and defeated Woodland Hills, 8-0, on Oct. 15 and finished section play with 5-0 win at home against Brashear on Oct. 17.

“They’ve shown tons of growth and improvement throughout the season,” DeVito said. “The season is so rigorous. We play three or four games in a week, so it’s been key for the girls to stay mentally strong as well as physically. We’ve talked a lot about positive affirmation and mindset this year.

“I think the overall mindset of the team this year is by far the best it has ever been. I’m really looking forward to seeing them get to play in the playoffs. They worked hard for it and absolutely earned it.”

With the Indians playing in a section that includes undefeated Plum and a tough Thomas Jefferson team, Penn Hills knew a season sweep against Obama Academy, Woodland Hills and Brashear would punch their ticket for a WPIAL playoff berth.

After a 2-1 win over Valley in the nonsection regular season finale, the Indians were only outscored by their opponents by one goal, 47-46.

The Indians displayed a balance scoring attack led by 13 goals by senior forward Maya Wofford. Freshman midfielder Caroline McDevitt was second on the team with nine goals, while senior midfielder Molly McGuire was third with seven.

“The girls would rather have an assist than a hat trick,” DeVito said. “I’ve seen opportunities where a girl would have one or two goals and opportunity for another but they passed it to their teammate and let them score.

“They’ve committed to the idea that it’s going to take all 11 of them out there to win the game.”

Going into the season, DeVito knew what she was going to get out her captains – Wofford, McGuire and junior defender Kari Holt. However, the Indians would need to see continued growth out of the freshmen class – McDevitt, midfielder Angelina Clayborn and defender Kali Booker – if they wanted to reach the playoffs. After early growing pains, the group delivered.

“Their ability on the field to withstand pressure from larger physical presences, they were playing against girls their own age but now they are playing against girls three years older than them,” DeVito said. “The first couple of games, they were getting banged up a little bit. But now they are strong on the ball and not afraid to take a hit.

“At the beginning of the season, they were really hard on themselves. They were nervous. But now I think they know they can do this and not be critical of themselves anymore but taking this as a learning process.”

The playoff berth was a reward for embracing that process.

“The girls know their jobs, their role and responsibility on the field defensively. We’ve been super connected in our game plan every single game,” DeVito said. “I absolutely believe they are capable of playing with anyone.”


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