Plum girls soccer faces toughest task yet: A WPIAL finals rematch with unbeaten Mars

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Friday, November 6, 2020 | 4:44 PM


Before the Plum girls soccer team began the season Sept. 14, it assembled a collection of goals.

It contained a series of steps, including returning to the top of the Section 3-3A standings and finishing the regular-season undefeated.

Both of those boxes were checked.

Then, the focus turned to a return trip to the WPIAL championship game.

After playoff wins over No. 15 Gateway, No. 7 Thomas Jefferson and No. 6 West Allegheny, the Mustangs were able to cross off that goal as well.

Now, Plum’s next challenge stares them directly in the face — a rematch at noon Saturday against undefeated top seed Mars (15-0) for the WPIAL championship.

The Mustangs (16-0) hope to reverse last year’s result from Highmark Stadium, a 4-0 win by Mars that clinched its first WPIAL Class 3A championship and its fifth WPIAL crown overall since 2010.

The Planets also captured the Class 2A title in 2000.

“We learned a lot last year playing in the finals,” Plum coach Jamie Stewart said. “We still have a lot to prove. Mars played very, very well at Highmark last year, and we didn’t play our best game. We have to be focused and ready to play a great team.”

Unlike previous seasons, only the WPIAL champion advances to states per the PIAA’s decision based on coronavirus safety protocols and logistics.

Mars, which also won a state title last year, extended its unbeaten streak to 38 games with a 6-0 victory over No. 13 Montour in the semifinal Wednesday. The Planets outscored their first three playoff opponents by a combined 25-0 to help set up the battle of the unbeatens.

Mars is No. 2 in the latest United Soccer Coaches national girls rankings released Tuesday. Downingtown East, a Class 4A school from District 1, is the only other Pennsylvania team in the top 20.

“Last year, it seemed like a collision course and the teams’ were destined to meet in the finals,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “I think it was that way this year. I think any sports fan would love to see two unbeaten teams, the top two seeds, meet to decide a championship.

“I think there is a similarity between the teams in the way they play and the results they have produced. I think it will be an interesting matchup as to which team is willing to open up more on the other.”

Mars sophomores Reese Dunaway and Ava Lewis each scored twice in the win over Montour. Senior Pitt commit Ellie Coffield and senior Caroline Wroblewski added a goal apiece.

Wroblewski tallied two goals to lead the Planets past Plum section rival Oakland Catholic, 6-0, in the quarterfinals.

Senior Purdue commit Gracie Dunaway anchors the Planets defensive corps.

Mars, WPIAL Class 3A runner-up in 2017 and 2018, is 73-5-1 over the past four years.

Plum seniors Gina Proviano, Jamie Seneca, Eric Taylor, Andrea D’Incau, Abby Lewis, Samantha Stewart, Carly O’Connell and Kelly Kvortek, finished 32-5-1 at home over four varsity seasons.

The Mustangs enjoyed the comforts of home in the playoffs, outscoring their first three opponents by a combined 11-0. Plum is riding a streak of eight straight shutouts since giving up two goals in a 6-2 win over North Hills on Oct. 3.

In Wednesday’s semifinal victory, Proviano’s goal at the midway point of the first half, her team-leading 20th of the season, stood up as the Plum defense turned away several West Allegheny scoring opportunities the rest of the way.

“It’s nice to see all the hard work the entire team put in be rewarded,” Stewart said. “We had a mission to get back (to the WPIAL title game). Everybody was gunning for us all season. When we got to the playoffs, it definitely wasn’t easy. Gateway gave us a game. TJ gave us a game and then we had to battle for 80 minutes against an awesome West Allegheny team.

“I am just so happy for the girls and what they accomplished together as a team.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Killinger is second on the team in goals with 15, while Seneca, a Gannon commit, has 14.

Lewis said Plum’s confidence level right now is through the roof and hopes it will carry over into Saturday’s matchup for all the gold and the trip to states.

“We were the underdogs last year, and since we went to the championship game and made it to states, everyone noticed how good we got,” she said. “That gave us energy to take our games to the next level and face all challenges. Now, we’re on a roll. Mars is an amazing team, but I know we will come prepared.”

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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