Plum girls soccer ready to stare down challengers

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Saturday, September 19, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Plum girls soccer coach Jamie Stewart said his players understand they have bigger targets on their backs this season after making a run last year that produced a trip to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game at Highmark Stadium and the program’s first-ever berth in the PIAA tournament.

“We talk about that a lot, understanding that a lot of teams will be hoping to knock us off,” said Stewart, who begins his second year at the helm of the Mustangs.

“Last year, I don’t think many expected the run we had. This year, we are one of the teams to beat in many people’s eyes, and we have to realize we’re going to get everyone’s best game.”

Several starters, including the team’s top four scorers, both goalkeepers and the core of the defense, are back from last year’s Section 3 co-champions who fell to Mars 4-0 in the WPIAL finals before a heartbreaking penalty-kick loss to District 3 champion Manheim Central in the first round of states.

“Last season was all about teamwork and just focusing on one game at a time,” said senior Andrea D’Incau, a midfielder/defender and one of four team captains along with fellow seniors Abby Lewis (defender/midfielder), Jamie Seneca (forward) and Sam Stewart (defender).

“Even though some of the games were close, we never gave up on each other,” D’Incau said. “We know the feeling of making it to the WPIAL finals and making it to states. So, we worked really hard the best we could in the offseason to be ready to do it again. We’re hungry to do even better this year.”

Plum, No. 2 in the Tribune-Review Class AAA preseason rankings behind Mars, returns a trio of all-section performers in Seneca, senior Gina Proviano and sophomore Kaitlyn Killinger. Proviano also was selected All-WPIAL in Class AAA.

Killinger led the team with 18 goals. Proviano scored 14 and Seneca 11.

Junior midfielder/forward Marissa Liberto found the back of the net 12 times last year.

Plum kicked off its season Sept. 14 against section rival Thomas Jefferson, and the Mustangs prevailed 4-1 behind a pair of goals from sophomore forward Cameron Collins and single scores from Proviano and Killinger. Proviano, Liberto and sophomore forward Annabel Arhin contributed assists.

“We didn’t have a scrimmage during the preseason, so it was nice to see the girls get on the field and play another team,” Stewart said. “We scrimmaged ourselves, but that’s not the same.”

Collins scored three goals and added an assist last year.

“For Cameron, we talked about what she could improve on to be a scoring factor for this team,” Stewart said. “She came off the bench (against TJ) and had a great game for us. She was at the right place at the right time for her goals, and she finished. It really helped her confidence.”

Senior goalkeepers Kelly Kvortek and Erica Taylor are expected to again split time in net. They combined for the win against TJ.

Stewart said he saw things his team still needed to work on coming out of the Thomas Jefferson win but was pleased his team picked up the win against what he called a strong Jaguars squad hoping to make another trip to the WPIAL playoffs from the section.

“Thomas Jefferson played us hard in both games last year, and it wasn’t any different (Sept. 14). They wanted to prove themselves against us,” Stewart said. “I thought we moved the ball really well. Our communication was good. We attacked the way we talk about, with more players. We want to generate an attack from different places.

“Defensively, I thought we played really well. Our defense is pretty strong.”

Stewart said he again is happy with the depth as close to 20 players saw the field in the varsity match.

“Throughout the game, we have players who will sub in, and the talent level doesn’t drop off,” he said.

Plum is back in action Monday at 3 p.m. against Oakland Catholic at J.C. Stone Field in North Park. The Eagles were No. 4 in the Trib Class AAA preseason rankings.

“We have a nice blend of senior leadership and experience from the returning juniors and sophomores, and we also have some new blood who will come in and help us out,” Stewart said. “We’re always working with our youth organization to keep that pipeline going.”

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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