Plum girls soccer team gears up with playoffs right around corner

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | 9:49 PM


The Plum girls soccer team has displayed its usual dominance through the regular season, and the two-time WPIAL Class 3A finalists have their sights set on another strong postseason run.

But before the Mustangs, 14-1 overall after Tuesday’s 10-0 victory over Section 3 playoff contender and rival Penn Hills, can focus on the playoffs, they have some business to take care of down the stretch, in and out of section play.

“Coach Jamie (Stewart’s) quote is, ‘Our next game is our most important game,” senior midfielder/forward Marissa Liberto said.

“That has been our motto all season. We never look ahead, and we never underestimate any team we play. We have set goals for where we want to get to as a team. We’ll be ready when the playoffs get here.”

That stretch begins Thursday when Plum, No. 2 in this week’s Trib HSSN Class 3A rankings, rematches with Oakland Catholic, the only team to score more than one goal on the Mustangs this season.

“I think they are very frustrated with us. They have lost to us (four) times in a row,” Liberto said. “I am sure they have gotten better since the last time we played them. They are going to give us everything they have.”

Plum has won 33 consecutive section matches dating to a loss to the Eagles early in the 2019 season. The Mustangs handed Oakland Catholic its only section loss, a 4-2 defeat Sept. 24 at Highmark Stadium.

Oakland Catholic (9-2-1, 8-1-1) and third place Thomas Jefferson (10-6, 8-4) met for the first time last Friday, and the Eagles scored a 2-0 win. The teams rematched Tuesday, and Oakland Catholic prevailed in two overtimes, 3-2.

“The first time against Oakland Catholic, it was a really close game in the first half,” Stewart said. “We were up 1-0 at the half, and then we made some adjustments and put a couple goals on the board and really took it to them over the first 20 minutes (of the second half).

“Honestly, Oakland Catholic never gave up. It was a good game the whole way. There really never was much true breathing room. With Oakland Catholic, you never take anything for granted.”

Junior Kaitlyn Killinger leads the Mustangs with 23 goals. Liberto and junior Annabel Arhin have 16 and 11 goals, respectively.

Junior Camryn Rogers is a weapon off the bench for the offense, and she has 10 goals.

“I like that I can come in and be a player who is hard to defend, too, and who can put pressure on the opposing (defensive) backs,” Rogers said. “The offense comes in multiple waves and can make things difficult for other teams. It’s fun to see all the ways we can score.”

Like last year, when they allowed just six goals in 17 games, the Mustangs defense is at it again, allowing just six through 15 games this fall.

Plum edged Thomas Jefferson 1-0 on the road Sept. 8, but the Mustangs left no doubt in the rematch with the Jaguars, winning 6-1 on Sept. 28. Liberto, Killinger, Arhin, Rogers and sophomore Ava Weleski scored in the contest.

“It’s always different playing TJ at TJ versus here,” Stewart said. “It’s a long bus ride to TJ, and they play very well at home, just as we play very well at home. When they came here, I fully expected the same thing. It was a very tight game until about three minutes to go in the first half. Unfortunately, they had an injury, and we banged a couple in right after that to get it to 3-0. That kind of took the wind out of their sails. That was a good win for us.”

Plum’s lone loss of the season was a 1-0 setback Oct. 2 at home against Norwin.

“We wanted to see that intensity and that playoff-type atmosphere,” Stewart said. “We did bring that intensity. We did struggle, I would say, in the first 10 minutes, but then it was a great game, back and forth. They scored an unfortunate goal against us. We just couldn’t find the back of the net. Their keeper played really well.”

“Overall, we were realy happy with the way the game went. We learned a lot about ourselves from that game that we used to get better.”

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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