Pine-Richland girls soccer on a roll
By: Kevin Lohman
Sunday, October 8, 2017 | 11:48 PM
It didn't take long for Pine-Richland girls soccer to extend the program's streak of consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins to eight, as this year's group accomplished the feat in just 11 games.
Though they have yet to clinch a third consecutive Section 1-AAAA crown, the Rams (10-1, 7-0) are off to an exceptional start.
After losing their opening match of the season to Mars, Pine-Richland has rattled off 10 consecutive victories.
In those 10 wins, freshman goalkeeper Katherine Kelly pitched five shutouts and allowed seven goals.
During that same run, Pine-Richland scored 40 goals.
While that number is eye opening, coach Jodi Chmielewski can't help but talk up her young goal-prevention unit.
“I think a lot of people right now are talking about our offense and how we're able to produce goals, but I think, if anything, our team defense and goalkeeping is underrated,” Chmielewski said. “Our defense is playing well, but I think that's a mark of a really good team, keeping a shutout on the board.
“Katherine Kelly has been exceeding my expectations in goal. I know she's a high-level goalkeeper, but mentally, it's hard to come in and start as a freshman. She's made some big saves for us, and she's just made all the routine saves, where other young keepers might make their mistakes.”
Kelly isn't the only first-year player making an impact. In front of Kelly in net, the freshman pair of center back Ella Karmanos and outside back Katie Rishel have combined to significantly limit quality scoring opportunities.
Another freshman has been instrumental in assisting Pine-Richland's high-powered offensive attack.
Ninth grader Megan Donnelly leads the team in goals scored with 11.
While the contributions Chmielewski and her team have received from their youngest players has been immense, she said it's all about striking a balance between their carefree attitudes and the attentiveness the upperclassmen embody.
“They're still pretty naïve, and that quality can be a positive,” Chmielewski said. “They might not know the history with Seneca or North Allegheny, or teams like that. So, they go into these games just trying to win with no baggage attached to it.
“But to win a championship, you need to have that veteran experience to balance that out. Just overall, our upperclassmen form a really positive group and they guide us. We need that leadership, too.”
Pine-Richland will play its next game at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday against Shaler.
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.