Plum girls soccer team tops Mechanicsburg in PIAA quarters

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Saturday, November 13, 2021 | 5:27 PM


The record-setting season for the Plum girls soccer team continues.

The Mustangs trailed District 3 champion Mechanicsburg just two minutes into Saturday’s PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal at Hollidaysburg. But second-half tallies from junior Camryn Rogers and sophomore Ava Weleski lifted Plum into the state semifinals with a 2-1 win over the Wildcats.

“When we played Mars (in the WPIAL title game), they got the first goal and we lost all composure,” Plum senior Marissa Liberto said. “I think we really learned from that. We had confidence that we would get that goal back and then get more.

“This is amazing. I love this team. This is as far as we’ve gotten, ever. We just want to keep going.”

Plum, which scored its first state-playoff win Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over Hollidaysburg, took the field in a state quarterfinal for the first time.

The Mustangs (21-2-1) get a rematch with Mars in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Mars defeated rival Montour, 1-0, on Saturday to remain undefeated and stay alive in the hopes of defending its 2020 state title.

“The girls just want to keep playing soccer,” Plum coach Jamie Stewart said. “Before the game, I told them that it is an honor to be one of the top eight teams in the state, but let’s be one of the top four. Now, we’re at that point.

“I want to see them keep playing, but we have a lot of work to do on Tuesday. We can’t let down now.”

Rogers got Plum even with Mechanicsburg with 28 minutes, 41 seconds left in the second half. Ava Weleski fed a through ball to Rogers, who beat a defender and Mechanicsburg keeper Ari Frey. It was Rogers’ 16th goal of the season.

Weleski then got in the goal-scoring act with her second winner in as many state playoff games and her 17th of the season. She put Plum ahead from about 15 yards with 14:31 left.

Plum finished with 18 shots, and 14 of them were on goal.

Ten of the shots on goal came in the second half as the Mustangs took control of possession. The Plum attack forced Frey to make a couple of strong saves with five minutes left, and the Mustangs rang two shots off the post in the final minute.

“(Mechanicsburg) took it to us in the first five minutes, and we gave up that quick goal,” Stewart said. “But I thought we had the better of play in that first half. The message at halftime was, ‘Keep doing what we’ve been doing.’ We had good chances and more chances than they did.

“When we generate the chances, the goals will come. The patience in the second half came through, and we were able to get them open up a little bit more. We got behind them, and I knew good things would happen. We put the two in and were able to finish it off. ”

Mechanicsburg grabbed the early momentum as team leading scorer Halle Engle, a senior forward heading to Division I Liberty, took a quick pass from sophomore Mia Loran in the box and shot it past Plum keeper Megan Marston just 2:07 into the game.

The Wildcats appeared to add to its lead in the 11th minute as senior Molly Kleinert engaged Marston, who came out to play the ball. Kleinert gained possession and shot it in the open net.

However, the official called a hand ball on Kleinert, and the goal was waved off.

The Plum defense kept Mechanicsburg from generating much offense from there. The Wildcats finished with two shots on goal, one in each half.

Engle left the game at the 35:16 mark of the first half and didn’t return until the start of the second half. Playing with her upper right leg heavily wrapped, Engle tried to give it a go, but she only lasted five minutes before leaving the game again.

“The girls fought hard,” Mechanicsburg coach Mike O’Brien said. “Our top scorer goes down, but they continued to battle as we were making adjustments on the fly. People were playing at different spots for the first time.

“We knew what Plum does with possession, playing a big ball through and how dangerous they are on counter attacks. We started great and felt our gameplan was going to be effective throughout the game. We fought and competed but just couldn’t hang on or generate enough offense on the fly.”

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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