Plum celebrates successful fall sports season with 4 section, conference titles

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Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Only two WPIAL schools had their football, girls volleyball, boys soccer and girls soccer teams capture section or conference titles during the fall 2020 season.

Plum was one of those two, as the Mustangs squads joined North Catholic in accomplishing that feat.

“I am just so happy for all the teams, the school and the community,” said Plum football coach Matt Morgan, who helped lead his team to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals.

“Everyone needed something positive like this with 2020 being the way it is. Hopefully, this success can carry over to the winter.”

The football team, 8-1 overall, captured its sixth conference title and first since 1983. It last finished a regular season undefeated in 1977, and it played in a WPIAL semifinal for the first time since 1996.

Plum’s first-round win over McKeesport snapped a 13-game losing streak against the Tigers.

The boys and girls soccer teams won their second section titles in as many seasons. The boys captured their sixth overall, and the girls produced their third section crown.

The Mustangs girls squad (16-1) battled Mars, the new No. 1 team in the United Soccer Coaches national rankings, down to the wire in the WPIAL Class 3A title game Nov. 7 at North Allegheny before falling 1-0.

The Plum boys (13-2), who finished tied for the Section 4-3A title, saw their season end sooner than they had hoped with a 2-1 overtime loss to South Fayette in the WPIAL first round.

The Plum girls volleyball team ran the table in section play. The title was the first since 2011 and 16th in program history. It went 14-0 in the section and earned the No. 2 seed for the WPIAL playoffs.

The Mustangs rolled to the semifinals before No. 3 Montour scored a 3-1 victory.

“I was able to keep in touch with the other coaches via email, and it was fun to be able to congratulate each other on wins or other accomplishments,” Plum volleyball coach Kelsey Bonk said. “I know the girls were really energized seeing the other teams do well.”

The four section champions clinched titles over a span of one week, from Oct. 13 when the girls soccer team wrapped up at least a tie for the Section 3 -3A crown with a 5-0 win over Penn Hills to Oct. 20 when the girls volleyball team defeated Kiski Area to wrap up at least a share for the Section 1-3A title.

The girls soccer and girls volleyball teams went on to claim outright championships, and the boys team tied Franklin Regional in Section 4 with a 13-1 record.

“We usually practiced right after the football team, so I would talk to their coaches a lot,” Plum boys soccer coach Raf Kolankowski said. “Their games were on TV, too, so I was able to watch a lot of them. The girls soccer team would also practice before or after us, so I would see some of their training, and I attended a few of their games. The volleyball team was definitely making headlines, and the games were taped so you could watch them on TV. All of the teams had fun supporting each other as much as possible.”

Streaming and television broadcasts, including a number of regular-season and playoff matchups online at Triblive HSSN, gave the Plum athletic community the opportunity to keep up with all the action.

“With all of the covid restrictions, there probably was less face-to-face interaction between the athletes than normal, but you saw a lot of that support with emails, texts, Twitter and other things online,” Plum girls soccer coach Jamie Stewart said.

“Towards the end of the season, we were allowed to let more people into games, and we saw nice support from the other teams. Overall, you could see and feel the buzz around Plum athletics.”

Two athletes — sophomore Dannika Susko and senior Gavin Chandler — doubled their pleasure with being a part of two section-winning teams.

Chandler was a backup goalie on the boys soccer team. He also saw varsity time in the field and scored two goals and added an assist. He joined the football team as a kicker halfway through the season and was a perfect 6 for 6 on extra points in the Mustangs’ 63-13 victory over Armstrong.

Susko, a second-team all-section performer at middle blocker for the girls volleyball team, also was a reserve midfielder/defender for the girls soccer team.

She now is focusing on her upcoming girls basketball season and the quest to capture a section title after coming within a few seconds of winning it last year.

“(Winning two section titles) is really cool,” Susko said. “Not a lot of people get the chance to win two in one season. I am grateful I was able to be on both teams. It was a pretty special feeling and a great experience.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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