Plum soccer players head to national tournament with Pittsburgh Hotspurs

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Friday, July 16, 2021 | 5:05 PM


Plum rising junior Cami Collins said the Pittsburgh Hotspurs 05 Blue girls soccer season has been one to remember, and the goal is to bring home the gold from next week’s U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Bradenton and Sarasota, Fla.

“It’s been a lot of fun to play harder teams, and that pushed us to be where we are now,” said Collins, who represents the Hotspurs with fellow Plum rising juniors Kaitlyn Killinger and Kaley Simqu, rising sophomore Ava Weleski and a select number of other standouts from schools such as Latrobe, Norwin, Gateway and Mt. Lebanon.

“I have enjoyed all the time I got to spend with my teammates while traveling with them.”

The Hotspurs punched their ticket to the national tournament with a first-place finish at the 20-team Eastern Regional on July 1 in Hammonton, N.J.

The team went 5-0-1 in six regional games, outscoring its opponents 23-9. It used a 9-3 goal differential in pool play to post a 2-0-1 mark.

Pittsburgh scored a 7-1 win over Tredyffrin Easttown (Chester, Pa.) in the quarterfinals before needing penalty kicks to top Philadelphia SC Rage, 3-2, in the semifinals.

That win clinched a berth to nationals as two teams from each region advance. But the Hotspurs weren’t satisfied with just making the Eastern finals. It wanted it all, and it got it all with a 4-3 victory over Syracuse Development Academy.

“Regionals was one of the best soccer weeks I have ever had,” Collins said. “All the teams we played were really good, so each game, we had to be at our best. The team we met in the semifinals was incredible, and we ended up in the shootout. When our goalie (Sophia Decerb, Latrobe) saved three goals and our last goal went in, we all ran and crashed the field along with our parents. It was the best feeling.

“Our championship game was also super challenging. The team was super good, and when the final whistle blew, I was amazed that we won and are heading to nationals.”

The Hotspurs begin pool play at nationals Tuesday. The eight teams will play pool games through Thursday to determine who will advance to Saturday’s semifinals and a shot at Sunday’s championship game.

“The team has been together for a long time, and we’re all committed to this team,” Killinger said.

“We all had the same goal, and that was to go to nationals. Everyone shows up to practice and works hard. We’ve had very good competition, and we have been able to compete and win. Playing together for so long has started to come together along with coach Tommo (Thomas Ovenden) really working with our style of play. Making it to nationals is really something special.”

The journey to nationals started with a division win in the USYS Great Lakes Conference and capturing the PA State Cup.

“Everyone stepped up at regionals to make it happen,” Killinger said.

The Hotspurs’ success for the Plum players follows last fall’s return trip by the Mustangs to the WPIAL Class 5A championship game and a second consecutive section championship.

“The Plum Mustangs and the Pittsburgh Hotspurs are two different teams, but the dynamic is the same as both teams have the drive to go as far as they can,” Simqu said.

“I can’t wait to play in Florida and then come back and get ready for our next high school season.”

Other members of the Hotspurs 2005 Blue team this year are McKenzie Pritts (Yough), Emily Mannion (Gateway), Ashley Ornowski (Norwin), Gabriella Folino (Oakland Catholic), Casey Gorman (Mt. Lebanon), Alyssa Aquillo (Norwin), Regan Reilly (Latrobe), EmilyRae Graeca (DuBois), Madisyn Jesih (Gateway) and Ava Lorenzi (Latrobe).

Said Weleski: “Playing at such a high level against teams across the nation really brings out the best in this team.

“You can definitely see it on the field, As a captain, it feels so great seeing your team come together and fight for each other, no matter what the conditions. I can tell you that throughout the season, each and every player has put their blood, sweat and tears into every practice and game.”

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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