Pennridge edges North Allegheny in double overtime for PIAA Class 4A crown

Saturday, November 21, 2020 | 6:56 PM

HERSHEY — Sometimes, there’s a bitter side to “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”

Despite a superb defensive effort, a huge game from junior keeper Megan Miller and plenty of resolve from the attack, North Allegheny’s first trip to the PIAA Class 4A girls soccer title match ended short of a championship. Pitted against a Pennridge team in full stride, both sides left what they had on the field well into extra time.

In the end, a well-hit ball from Pennridge’s Leah Malone in double overtime won the Rams their first title and left the Tigers on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision at HersheyPark Stadium on Saturday.

“We focused on the accomplishments throughout the year and the accomplishments for our program,” North Allegheny coach Chuck Kelly said. “When I took over, it was a dream to get to the WPIAL final. Now the achievement is can we win at this point. Getting here was the first step.”

WPIAL champions for a second straight season, the Tigers looked to put the game on the District 1 champion Rams. Lucia Wells had the first real chance of the game, hitting a shot that forced Pennridge keeper Sierra Shaeffer into a rebound save, but a Rams back cleared the ball for a corner before Wells could follow up.

Malone had a busy night, striking the crossbar late in the first half to give the Tigers their first share. Despite the few good chances created both ways, it was a defensive battle between two very determined groups.

“It’s two great teams. It’s not the outcome we wanted, but we’re proud of these players and the soccer both teams put on,” Kelly said.

North Allegheny’s best chance came early in the second half when a dodgy play yielded them a corner less than two minutes in. The ball, served by Sarah Schupansky, fell in the right spot, but Pennridge refused to budge with Shaeffer and several defenders blocking attempts to kick it in before finally clearing the ball.

On the other end, Miller played a great game with seven saves. Her most dramatic save was on Lindsey DeHaven late in the first overtime, but her biggest was a quick-reaction double save 13 minutes into the second half.

“The game went back and forth. The momentum kept switching back and forth,” Kelly said. “It was a game where there were moments where you have to defend and moments where you’re on the attack creating chances.”

Kelly cited his senior players for willingly passing along their experience during the year and being an outlet for their younger teammates in crucial moments. Schupansky, defender Tulasi Syamala, midfielder Brianne Torchia all played their hearts out for the final time in black and gold.

A quick pass put Malone on the path to goal, and the Pennridge junior wasn’t going to waste another chance. The forward took the ball sideways before finally unhooking a curling effort off her right foot that bent just inside the far post to end the game with 13:43 left on the second overtime clock.

“She was able to create enough space that she was able to come inside,” Kelly said. “It was one of those moments where you want somebody covering there, but she just hit a great shot.”


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