Plum girls soccer earns tightly contested win over Franklin Regional

Monday, September 18, 2023 | 10:21 PM

The Plum and Franklin Regional girls soccer teams met twice last year in section play, resuming a local rivalry that was dormant for three years.

The Mustangs swept the Panthers en route to their fourth straight section championship.

Franklin Regional hoped to change that narrative Monday evening at home as it hosted Plum for the first of two meetings between the neighboring schools.

But the Mustangs had other ideas.

Plum scored off a corner kick from senior Ava Weleski with 1 minute, 49 seconds left in regulation to give the visitors a 1-0 victory.

Mustangs coach Jamie Stewart said he wasn’t 100% sure who knocked the ball in after it sailed from the corner into a compact collection of Plum and Franklin Regional players.

“The girls think it was (senior) Lexi Rodda,” Stewart said. “We’ll go back and watch the film. You want to give credit where credit’s due. But at the same time, it doesn’t matter when you are 11 playing as one.

“We continue to work on corners, both offensively and defensively. We had some close calls in the ones we took before that last one. We know how good (Franklin Regional goalkeeper) Aris (Lamanna) is. We knew we had to get some congestion in there and disrupt her a little bit.”

Plum came into the game 4-0 in the section, and Franklin Regional was 3-1. The only difference in section was the teams’ matchup with Latrobe.

The Mustangs defeated the Wildcats, 3-2, on Sept. 6, and the Panthers suffered a 2-1 loss to Latrobe last Thursday that snapped a three-game win streak.

“I am incredibly proud of the girls,” FR coach Scott Arnold said. “We’re getting better all the time and are playing well as a team. I believe we have closed the gap between us and Latrobe and Plum from last year. If we keep working hard, keep trusting each other, and continue to play the way we know we can play, we’re going to have a number of good results.”

Lamanna finished with eight saves for the Panthers. Junior Makenna Anderson and sophomore Malayna Smith made two stops for the Mustangs.

Plum and FR combined for just four shots on goal in the first half.

The Panthers generated an opportunity early in the second 40 minutes.

FR senior midfielder Lily Funari got loose on a breakaway in the fourth minute and closed in on the Plum goal with Mustangs defenders on her heels. She got a shot off, but it quickly rolled just beyond the right goal post and out of play.

It was the first shot for either team in the second half.

“That was such a great chance,” Arnold said.

“Lily is just coming back from being out. She’s a starter and a captain, but she’s working her way back to fitness so we’re trying to limit her minutes to 15-20 a half. We just love to create things like that. I hope we can get more like that in games in the second half of the season.”

The Plum offense then started to tip the field in its favor with several shots, including a number of them on goal. Three corner kicks and free kick were among the opportunities gained by the Mustangs, but they weren’t able to break through.

“Franklin Regional plays very disciplined and sound defense,” Stewart said. “We got some opportunities, but we were always concerned with a counter attack. Our girls did the things that we talked about, and from that, a good thing happened. They didn’t get frustrated when something didn’t go our way. They kept pushing.”

Weleski struck a solid ball with 3:05 on the clock that sailed just high of the FR goal. Just over a minute later, Plum tallied the winner.

The Panthers didn’t fold their tents, however, and generated their second corner kick with 20 seconds left. But the attempt was slightly off the mark, and the ball bounced away as the final seconds ticked away.

“Franklin is a very good team, and we’re just happy that the ball went into the net in our favor,” said Weleski, who leads Plum with nine goals and seven assists through six games.

“We didn’t give them many opportunities over the last 20 minutes, and we kept pressuring them. Even if we did go to overtime, I had a strong feeling that we were going to put one in the back of the net.”

Plum sophomore midfielder Gianna Revetta looked to get her team on the board early in the first half with a dangerous shot from inside the 18 in the fourth minute of play. But her attempt was saved by a ranging Lamanna.

Both teams shared opportunities to possess the ball in the other’s end of the field, but Plum started to gain an advantage with three shots in a five-minute span starting in the 22nd minute.

One of the shots was on goal, and the other two went a couple of feet wide of the Franklin Regional net

The Panthers eventually cleared the ball back into Plum territory and got close with a shot on goal. That set up a corner kick with 9:40 left until halftime. However, nothing materialized from the Panthers opportunity, and the teams played on.

Plum earned a free kick with just under two minutes left in the first half, but the boot from 40 yards into a collection of Mustangs and Panthers players near the 18 didn’t generate a scoring chance as the FR defense turned away the attempt.

“I heard from some of the Plum guys that it was the best soccer they’ve played,” Arnold said.

“I also heard that from Latrobe. It’s because we’re slowing the game down and trying to pass and connect and actually play rather than just keeping the ball in the air and its bouncing and the girls are just running into each other and fighting for a bunch of 50/50s. I think it keeps players from both teams healthy, and it’s more fun to play that way.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at

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