Plum girls soccer team ramping up for playoff run

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Sunday, October 17, 2021 | 11:01 AM


When the final horn sounded on Plum’s 10-0 rout of Section 3-3A rival and WPIAL playoff contender Penn Hills on Oct. 12, the Mustangs had clinched their third consecutive section championship.

It hoped for a clean sweep of section play in its section finale against second-place Oakland Catholic last Thursday.

The Mustangs also hoped for a fifth-straight win over the Eagles in the game, which was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

“Coach Jamie (Stewart’s) quote is, ‘Our next game is our most important game,” senior midfielder/forward Marissa Liberto said before the section finale with Oakland Catholic.

“That has beenour 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.”

The WPIAL soccer committee was to meet Wednesday to determine the playoff brackets with the potential for games to start as early as Thursday.

Plum ended last week No. 2 in the Trib HSSN rankings for Class 3A behind two-time defending champion Mars.

The Mustangs went 6-2 in the WPIAL playoffs the past two seasons, with both losses coming to the Planets in the title games.

Coach Jamie Stewart said he wanted his team to face as many stern tests as possible before the end of the regular season. Scheduled games at Class 6A playoff qualifier and former section rival Fox Chapel on Monday and against Section 1-3A title contender Hampton at home on Wednesday were to provide that desired test.

Both games were to be contested past the deadline.

Plum entered the game with Oakland Catholic riding a streak of 33 consecutive section wins dating to a loss to the Eagles at Highmark Stadium early in the 2019 season. The Mustangs handed Oakland Catholic its only section loss, a 4-2 defeat Sept. 24 in their return to Highmark.

Oakland Catholic solidified its hold on second place in the section with back-to-back victories over third place Thomas Jefferson. The Eagles won the first matchup, 2-0, on Oct. 8, and captured the rematch 3-2 in two overtimes four days later.

“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 Catholicnever 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 Killingerled the Mustangswith 23 goals through the section-clinching win over Penn Hills. Liberto and junior Annabel Arhin had 16 and 11 goals, respectively.

Junior Camryn Rogers, a weapon off the bench for the offense, had 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 inmultiple 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 allowedjust six goals in 17 games overall, the Mustangs defense again has been stingy. They allowed just six goals through the first 15 games.

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 through 15 games was a 1-0 setback Oct. 2 at home against Norwin.

“We wanted tosee 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 really 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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