Pine-Richland girls soccer team puts faith in senior goalkeeper

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Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Katharine Kelly might not look the part, but there was a time when she played left guard in youth football.

Had she played receiver, she might have found her calling under Friday night lights.

A little less than 10 years later, Kelly’s niche is goalkeeper for Pine-Richland’s soccer team.

“I’d rather save shots than score goals,” Kelly said. “It’s more pressure, but it’s more fun. I thought it was more fun even when I was little. We’d rotate positions, but I always wanted to stay at goalie when no one else did.”

Kelly’s mission most days is to stop teammates Ava Boyd, Manon Prokesch and Villanova commit Megan Donnelly from scoring on her in practice. The shots she doesn’t dive for and catch with a crisp thud often ricochet off the posts and crossbar.

“She’s athletic with quick hands and quick decision making,” first-year coach Rachelle Dixon said. “She’s a leader vocally. Defenses gain confidence because they know she is behind them. I’ve heard players say, ‘We have Kat behind us.’ She’ll be missed, that’s for sure.”

Kelly is a four-year starter in net, a rare feat in high school soccer.

“I’ve played with her for 10 years,” Donnelly said. “It’s been cool watching her improve year after year into the goalie she is now.”

Kelly has started every game in her career for the Rams, including three shutout efforts in four games against Dixon’s former team at North Hills in the last two seasons.

“I didn’t like (playing Kelly) last year,” Dixon said. “I don’t think teams like going up against her either. She knows how to play.”

Kelly helped the Rams clinch a playoff berth, thanks in part to holding opponents to one goal or less in seven of 11 games, including a particularly stellar performance against Section 1-4A champion Butler.

She faced 25 shots against the Golden Tornado, allowed one goal on a penalty kick and ended then-No. 2 Butler’s undefeated streak at seven games.

“That was a really big game for us,” Kelly said. “It was definitely exciting to be the first team to beat them and showed we’re coming together more as a team. I’m confident it’s going to keep progressing that way.”

Dixon has moved players into new positions this season, most notably the typically high-scoring Donnelly and senior defender Katie Rishel into the midfield.

“I actually like playing in the midfield and getting a lot of assists,” Donnelly said. “It’s nice to get everyone involved. Katie, me and Jaclyn (Murray) work really well together there.”

Junior Rachel Bashe and sophomore Gianna Koss returned as starters on defense, giving Kelly solidarity along the backline for the tail end of her soccer career.

She is focused on making every game count.

“I’m very grateful to have had these opportunities,” Kelly said. “I think I’ve had a better time playing goalie than I would have had anywhere else, especially in my freshman year when I got to play with my older sister Sami. Over the years, there have been so many exciting games that I played in, and I always wanted to play the tougher positions, so I’m glad I chose to be a goalie.”

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