Seneca Valley girls rally to edge Norwin in OT in WPIAL quarterfinals

Thursday, October 28, 2021 | 10:49 PM

When Emma Rigone converted a penalty kick to give Norwin the lead in the second half, it looked like the Knights might sneak out of NexTier Stadium with their second victory there this season, but Zoe Simpson made sure Seneca Valley defended its home turf.

Simpson scored the tying goal with less than 10 minutes remaining and struck again in overtime to lift the fourth-seeded Raiders to a 4-3 win over No. 5 Norwin in the WPIAL Class 4A girls soccer quarterfinals Thursday night.

It was the second consecutive two-goal game for Simpson in the playoffs and helped the Raiders not only avenge a 1-0 loss earlier this season but also a 1-0 loss in the 2019 semifinals.

“It feels so great,” Simpson said. “They’ve been beating us for a while, so it’s just nice to get a win against them.”

The Raiders (15-3-2) advanced to play No. 9 Fox Chapel, which knocked off two-time defending champion North Allegheny in penalty kicks. Norwin finished 13-5.

Simpson’s tying goal was scored from a difficult angle on the left side. She was almost parallel with the goal when she fired what was intended to be a cross against a stiff wind, but the ball barreled toward the goal, deflected off Norwin keeper Riley Morningstar and went into the net.

“I was definitely trying to cross it, but it came back close to the net and it just hit off the goalie’s hands and went in,” Simpson said. “It was just lucky, honestly.”

The wind blew strong from left to right all night. The Raiders had the wind in overtime and pressed hard to use that advantage.

“We wanted to go with the wind,” Seneca Valley coach Mark Perry said. “I was surprised that they won the toss and took the ball.

“We took the wind, and I told the girls we needed to get one in the first 15 (minutes), because the wind was a major factor. We wanted to go on the attack from the start, and we were fortunate to get a goal. Zoe’s had a great year for us, and tonight she really came through.”

Natalie Matthews slipped a pass to Simpson in tight in overtime, and she put it home.

“Natalie is a great teammate, and she gave me a beautiful pass right between the defenders,” Simpson said. “For me, it was just a tap-in.”

The game got off to a fast start, with Julia Lozowski scoring in the second minute to give Seneca Valley a 1-0 lead, only to have Evelyn Moore respond with a goal three minutes later for Norwin.

That set the tone for an entertaining back-and-forth match.

Liv Senff scored after a long throw-in into the box to make it 2-1 Seneca Valley going into halftime.

Paloma Swankler answered early in the second, scoring on a counterattack from the left side to tie it 2-2.

Then, Swankler drew a foul in the box, leading to a penalty kick that Rigone hit into the bottom left corner to give Norwin a 3-2 lead.

The Knights battled injuries all season with eight regulars missing at least some time and fought through the ups and downs of an intense match but fell short of reaching the semifinals.

“It was a very physical match,” Norwin coach Diane Metzger said. “I’m extremely proud of the effort our girls put out there. They played some great soccer tonight. Seneca Valley is a very good team. Taking a match like this to overtime is an indication of the caliber of both of these teams. It’s a disappointing result, but the effort was exceptional.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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