Penn-Trafford girls soccer team ready to regroup

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019 | 8:56 PM


WPIAL Class 4A girls soccer champions just two years ago, Penn-Trafford ran aground in its bid for a repeat last season.

The Warriors finished 12-5 after it was stunned by Butler, 4-1, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

“I just remember that bus ride home,” senior midfielder Sarah Nguyen said. “It was so sad.”

Nguyen, an Akron recruit, will lead a team that returns eight starters and has its sights on another deep playoff run. She had 13 assists and four goals last season, but her shots will likely increase as the Warriors look for scoring punch.

“We should have a strong midfield,” Nguyen said. “We want to work the ball outside to inside because we won’t have the speed we used to have. We want to keep the ball on the ground and not make each other run.”

Coach Jackie Bartko, who had her first child in the offseason, said the team has not discussed last year’s playoff loss much. But it lingers, nonetheless.

“I think we’re at a new place, and it’s a new group of seniors,” Bartko said. “We’re starting fresh with this season. Our girls came back in shape and ready to go. They’ve made it a point to get better.”

Goalkeeping should be the team’s strong suit. Senior Megan Giesey has been one of the WPIAL’s best shot-stoppers in recent seasons. She is the team’s “rock,” as one player put it.

“She has been great for us,” Bartko said. “We have to be able to support her with defense.”

Senior Emma Rain (midfield/forward), senior Christine DeLuca (defender), senior Hayley Grunberg (D), junior Maria Sholtes (D), sophomore Malia Kearns (MF/F) and junior Mackenzie Powell (MF) also are top returnees.

Rain is headed to Seton Hill, senior midfielder Haley Hofmeister committed to Aurora and Giesey will play at Pitt-Johnstown.

The Warriors, who only have 14 players on the varsity roster, have to replace Tribune-Review Westmoreland Player of the Year Kiley Dugan, who plays at Valparaiso.

“We have to rely on each other more,” said senior defender Hayley Grunberg, a Division II Barton recruit. “I think we’re a lot tighter than we were last year.”

Bartko anticipates playing girls at various positions, a product of necessity and the team’s collective versatility.

“I do feel we have a lot of depth, despite lower numbers,” Bartko said. “We have a lot of girls who can play multiple positions.”

Giesey and her defense posted 10 shutouts last season.

Bartko said Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland and Peters Township are among the front-runners in WPIAL Class 4A. Penn-Trafford, however, shouldn’t be far from the conversation. Nor should rival and perennial power Norwin.

Norwin graduate Kara Batey has joined the coaching staff.

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

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