Plum girls soccer again off to strong start

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Sunday, September 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Plum girls soccer team entered the season with high hopes to maintain a standard set the past several years that included consecutive trips to the WPIAL Class 3A title game.

So far, so good for the Mustangs who were 4-0 and had outscored opponents 22-2 through a 12-1 rout of Woodland Hills on Sept. 14.

Those victories included a 5-1 triumph over 2020 playoff qualifier and local rival Gateway on Sept. 4, as well as a 1-0 victory at Section 3 rival Thomas Jefferson four days later.

“We played really well against a very good Gateway team, and then battled a strong Thomas Jefferson team,” said coach Jamie Stewart, who continues to observe the meshing of veteran varsity talent with others just starting to make their mark at the varsity level.

“While we have had success, there are still areas we still have to improve on as we continue to drive forward. I know it is cliché, but we talk all the time about taking it one game at a time and making sure we are able to improve with each step to be ready for what we know is coming, whether it is key section matchups or games in the playoffs.”

Junior midfielder/forward Kaitlyn Killinger led the team in scoring through four games with six of the team’s 22 goals, while junior midfielder Camryn Rogers tallied four, and junior forward Annabel Ahrin netted three.

Stewart said the team had come together well in the preseason practices and scrimmages and was ready for Gateway team which didn’t lose many players from last year’s playoff qualifying squad.

The Mustangs defeated the Gators, 6-0, in the 2020 WPIAL first round, and they came out fast in the latest meeting.

“I think the key this time was just finding ourselves and forming that team identity,” Stewart said.

“We talked going into the game about staying composed and taking care of our business. We wanted to maintain our style of game. We had a lot of chances to score in the first half that really didn’t go our way. We would just miss the net or hit a post. But we continued to stay focused from there, and it eventually opened up for us. It was a game where we definitely found out some things about ourselves. That led to some adjustments made before Thomas Jefferson.”

The lone goal against Thomas Jefferson came midway through the second half off a corner kick from Killinger. The bounding ball from the corner bounced off a TJ defender amidst the scrum in front of the net and went in for the score.

“The first half was very competitive,” Stewart said. “We did some things that were positive, and (TJ) did some things to create some opportunities for themselves. We made some adjustments at halftime and thought our second half was much better. We had a lot more opportunities in the second half, and we got the result we were looking for.”

Plum hoped to keep an unblemished record overall and in section play against Obama Academy last Thursday at Cupples Stadium on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

Brashear on Monday and Penn Hills on Wednesday this week lead into Friday evening’s matchup with perennial playoff qualifier Oakland Catholic on the turf at Highmark Stadium. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m.

The Mustangs beat the Eagles, 6-2 and 4-0, last year en route to a 12-0 record in the section. Plum carried a 24-game section win streak into the match with Obama, and the last loss in section came to Oakland Catholic early in the 2019 section slate.

The rematch with Thomas Jefferson is Sept. 28 at home.

“That will be another great test for the team,” Stewart said. “TJ always is a strong, well-coached team. We have to be at the top of our game, because I know they will give us their best hoping to knock us off.”

As much as Stewart likes to see the offensive production, he is encouraged with the way the defensive group, including first-year starting sophomore goalkeeper Megan Marston, is performing.

Included in the start to the season is a 4-0 shutout of North Hills from Sept. 11.

“We work so well as a team on defense, and it’s all 11 players working together to make it happen and help us to do the things we are doing,” Stewart said.

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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