Plum girls soccer not satisfied as they head into state quarterfinals

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Friday, November 12, 2021 | 6:20 PM


The Plum girls soccer team is in uncharted territory, but at the same time, it has set its course for a familiar destination.

For the first time in program history, the Mustangs will play a PIAA quarterfinal game. Plum faces District 3 champion Mechanicsburg at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It is really exciting to know we’ve done something that no other team has,” Plum junior attacker Kaitlyn Killinger said.

“We’ve all worked so hard since the beginning of the summer, and we’re very happy with the fact that our work has paid off. But we’re not satisfied with what we’ve already done. We want more.”

The Mustangs also return to Hollidaysburg’s Tigers Stadium, the site of their 3-1 first round victory Tuesday over District 6 champion Hollidaysburg.

“The message to the girls (Thursday) in practice was that the celebration of Tuesday’s win was nice and fun, but we had to quickly turn our attention to Saturday, just as we did from the WPIAL title game to going up against Hollidaysburg,” Plum coach Jamie Stewart said.

“Mechanicsburg is a good team. They won District 3, which is loaded with pretty talented teams. They’ve looked pretty good from the film we’ve been able to see. Their overall defense and their goaltending is solid, and they have a top-notch scorer up top. Add those things together, and you can see why they won the district title. It’s going to be a great challenge for the girls.”

The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to the PIAA semifinals against the winner of the all-WPIAL clash between Mars and Montour. The Planets and Spartans, section rivals, will meet for the fourth time this season. Mars swept Montour in section play and then earned a 1-0 win in the WPIAL semifinals.

Mechanicsburg (18-3-2) is coming off a 3-2 double-overtime victory over District 12 runner-up St. Hubert’s from the Philadelphia Catholic League.

Senior Halle Engle leads Mechanicsburg with 49 goals. The Liberty commit scored the winner against St. Hubert’s and added one in regulation.

Junior goalkeeper Ari Frey made nine saves in Tuesday’s victory.

“I think we just need to continue to play as a team, maintain possession and work the ball around to set up scoring chances,” Killinger said of the gameplan against Mechanicsburg.

“We don’t know a whole lot about them, so it might take a little bit of time to get the feel for how the game will go and then make adjustments if we need to.”

Plum knows the feeling of long trips to state playoff games. Two years ago, the Mustangs made a nearly three-hour jaunt to Harrisburg to face then-District 3 champion Manheim Central at Cedar Cliff High School. The Mustangs suffered a penalty-kicks loss in their first state playoff game.

“We’ve been to (Hollidaysburg’s) field, and we know what to expect when we get there,” Stewart said.

“That’s helpful, but honestly, when we kick off the match, friendly confines or not, we have to be ready to play and be ready to take it to them.”

The Mustangs hope to establish their tempo quickly Saturday as they did in controlling the pace of play from the start against Hollidaysburg.

Plum peppered the Tigers defense and freshman goalkeeper Natalie Foster for the entire first half of Tuesday’s first-round game.

The Mustangs fired off 14 shots, including seven on goal, but had nothing to show for it by halftime.

In the early portion of the second half, however, sophomore Ava Weleski got Plum on the board. She added a second one before assisting on Killinger’s team-leading 30th of the season.

By the 13th minute of the second half, Plum led 3-0.

“We did have a bunch of chances, but nothing went in the net,” Killinger said. “Our coach (Stewart) kept telling us to be patient and that a goal was coming. When we got that first goal, it helped us calm down, and we got the two others. We tried to get more, but those chances didn’t go in. We were pretty happy with the way we played in that game.”

Plum has 122 goals on the season through 23 games, an average of 5.3 per game.

Senior Marissa Liberto has 18 goals. Weleski, who has three two-goal games in the postseason, upped her total to 16. Junior Camryn Rogers has 15, and junior Annabel Ahrin has 11.

“When you think of how far the program’s come in the last three or four years, getting to states and getting the win proves a lot to the girls that they’re ready to go and ready to compete on this stage,” 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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