Southmoreland girls soccer backs up strong regular season with playoff win

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | 10:35 PM

In his first season as coach of the Southmoreland girls soccer team, Josh Pajak couldn’t have asked for a better regular season from the Scotties. Southmoreland posted a 12-1 record, which included a section title and an eight-game win streak.

But Pajak believes that for those accomplishments to mean even more, the team has to back them up with a strong showing in the postseason.

On Tuesday night, the Scotties starting doing exactly that, as they defeated visiting Ambridge, 3-1, in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs at Russ Grimm Field.

“The playoffs are where you validate your season and prove you are one of the top seeds,” Pajak said.

The Scotties entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in Class 2A, but the 13th-seeded Bridgers certainly were no pushover.

In fact, Ambridge controlled a good portion of the play through the first 30 minutes.

“Ambridge did a good job of beating us to the ball, and I think we got a little intimidated early on,” Pajak said. “But we settled down and made some adjustments.”

Before the Scotties made those adjustments, the Bridgers put some quality shots on net against Southmoreland keeper Kaylee Keys. But Keys rose to the challenge to keep the game scoreless.

The game stayed scoreless until late in the first half. That’s when Kiley Queer sent a shot on goal that beat Ambridge keeper Rylee Kumer to give the Scotties a 1-0 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.

Olivia Cernuto picked up an assist on the goal that staked the Scotties to an advantage, but Cernuto was just getting warmed up.

With the Scotties (13-1) leading by the slimmest of margins, the game was still very much in doubt heading into the second half.

But 10 minutes into the second half, Cernuto gave the home fans a reason to cheer and breathe a little easier as she scored the first of two fantastic goals on the night.

Her first marker came when she streaked down the right wing, cut to the middle, beat two defenders then drilled a shot into the back of the cage for a huge goal that gave the Scotties a 2-0 advantage.

Not done yet, Cernuto struck again just a short time later. Cernuto stole a ball from an Ambridge midfielder, then again raced down the right side. She then sliced her way through the box and sent a low liner short side for a 3-0 Southmoreland lead.

While Cernuto stole the show in the second half, the Bridgers (4-6-1) didn’t go down quietly.

With 14 minutes remaining, Ambridge forward Rachel Guthrie was able to find a loose ball in front of the Southmoreland goal and jam it in to get the visitors on the board.

Ambridge threatened to cut it to one goal, but Keys made a great save on a rising shot by Guthrie moments later.

“That was a huge save and Kaylee did a great job,” Pajak said.

With the win in the books, the Scotties can turn their attention to a Saturday quarterfinal home game against Avonworth. Game time is noon.

While excited about Tuesday’s win, Pajak knows his team will need to be better.

“We have to get rid of the early game jitters and we have to be ready to play a full 80 minutes,” Pajak said. “This wasn’t our best effort, but we willed our way through.”


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