Plum girls soccer team gets tough win against Franklin Regional

Monday, September 19, 2022 | 10:13 PM

The Plum and Franklin Regional girls soccer teams met Monday for the first time since 2018 as they battled for a first-place spot atop Section 3-3A.

After 80 minutes of competitive action at Plum’s Mustangs Stadium, the first of two matchups this year went the way of the Mustangs, 2-0.

“Coming into this game, we knew it was going to be tough,” said junior midfielder Ava Weleski, who scored the winner in the first half and assisted an insurance goal from senior Annabel Arhin in the second half.

“They were close to Latrobe, and we were close to Latrobe. We knew they were going to give us a run for our money. But we gave it all we got and played as a team. It was a really nice win.”

Plum’s victory Monday was its 39th consecutive in section play dating to the early part of the 2019 season.

The Mustangs, 6-0 overall, 5-0 in the section and ranked second in Class 3A, visit Penn-Trafford on Wednesday.

“The girls gave us the effort we needed to win this game, all 80 minutes,” Plum coach Jamie Stewart said.

“I couldn’t have been prouder of the things we did to deal with the challenges that Franklin gave us tonight. This was a really good start to the week. Now that this one is over, we’ll start to prepare for P-T. That should be another big challenge. It’s a new section with many challenges, and we look forward to each one of them.”

Franklin Regional (5-3, 3-2) came into the game having given up just two goals in seven games. One of those goals came against Latrobe in a 1-0 section loss last Thursday.

The Panthers hope to bounce back Wednesday at home against Penn Hills.

“I’ve coached six of their 10 field players in club, so I was very familiar with their talents,” FR coach Scott Arnold said.

“It’s a challenge to prepare for them, but apparently, I didn’t do a good enough job. But I learned a lot tonight. We’ll go back and hope to be better for the next time we play them on our home field.”

The Plum-Franklin Regional rematch in Murrysville is set for Oct. 12.

Plum got all it would need with 11:37 left until halftime when Weleski found the back off the net from 28 yards after taking a quick pass from Arhin.

Franklin Regional responded quickly. It got the ball deep into Plum’s end of the field, and junior Alana Otley took the Panthers’ first shot of the game at the 9-minute, 3-second mark. Plum sophomore keeper Makenna Anderson got a hand on the ball and pushed it right. Her Mustangs teammates then cleared it out of danger.

With a minute left in the half, FR senior Riley Phillips delivered a free kick from 40 yards that sailed into the box just beyond the leg of a streaking Abby Paterline.

Plum attempted to make it 2-0 on shots from Weleski, Cam Rogers, and Kaitlyn Killinger in the first 14 minutes of the second half, but FR goalkeeper Aris Lamanna and the Panthers defense kept the Mustangs off the board.

Plum eventually got the breathing-room goal it was seeking with 17:42 left in regulation as Arhin scored off an assist from Weleski.

“That definitely was a relieving feeling,” Weleski said. “Everyone says a two-goal (deficit) is the hardest to come back from. We played really strong defense, but it was just nice to have that second goal for a little extra cushion on the scoreboard.”

Franklin Regional tried to deliver some offensive pressure as it hoped to get back in the game — it had a free kick with nine minutes left — but the Plum defense and freshman keeper Malayna Smith denied the Panthers over the final 17 minutes.

“We’re not a high-scoring team, so the whole idea was to keep it low scoring,” Arnold said.

“We were hoping to get to halftime 0-0 and then play a little more open. The first half, we were playing more defensively, and Aris made some really nice saves. That shot from (Weleski) to beat her was a perfect shot. We had some looks throughout the game, but we just couldn’t get one to go in.”

Plum had a couple of strong chances in the early going.

In the fourth minute, Rogers gained control of the ball at 12 yards and booted a shot that sailed over the crossbar.

Six minutes later, Killinger fed Rogers in the box, and Rogers fired a shot that forced Lamanna to make a nifty diving save to her left.

Lamanna made another diving save with 23 minutes left until halftime on a rocket shot off the foot of Arhin.

Killinger sailed one just high and wide left of the net with 13 minutes to play until the break.

Plum held a 15-3 advantage in shots and led 9-3 in shots on goal.

Lamanna made seven saves, and Anderson and Smith combined for Plum to stop all three FR chances.

“I like our section with getting our natural rivalries back with Penn-Trafford, Gateway and Franklin, even Latrobe,” Stewart said.

“We know these games are going to be competitive and are great tests.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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