Success on home field propels Plum girls soccer into WPIAL finals

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Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 11:01 AM


As the No. 2 seed for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs, the Plum girls soccer team enjoyed the comforts of home as it made its run to a second consecutive championship game appearance.

Plum outscored its three playoff opponents — No. 15 Gateway, No. 7 Thomas Jefferson and No. 6 West Allegheny — by a combined 11-0 as it extended its scoreless streak to eight games.

“It meant a lot for the team, especially the seniors, to have made that run (to the title game) on this field,” Plum coach Jamie Stewart said as he pointed to the turf at Mustangs Stadium.

“It’s special to them, and it’s special to me. It was a big advantage to be able to play at home. I couldn’t have been any prouder of the girls to be able to close out their home careers with a win like this in front of their fans.”

The WPIAL, in constructing the postseason amidst the spector of the coronavirus pandemic, hoped to curtail as much travel as possible by having the higher-seeded team host games in the first three rounds.

Last Wednesday’s 1-0 triumph over West Allegheny propelled the Mustangs to a championship-game rematch with Mars at North Allegheny.

“There’s literally no better feeling than to get this win in (the seniors) final home game,” said senior Gina Proviano, whose goal with 17 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half against the Indians turned out to be the game winner.

“Last year, we won (the semifinal game) at Mars, and that was amazing, but this feels 10 times better being able to finish it out where it all started.”

The title clash with the Planets, who came into the game 15-0, was to be played past the deadline for this week’s edition. Unlike previous seasons, only the WPIAL champion advanced to states per the PIAA’s decision based on coronavirus safety protocols and logistics.

Mars, last year’s WPIAL and PIAA champion, extended its unbeaten streak to 38 games with a 6-0 victory over Montour in the semifinals. The Planets outscored their first three playoff opponents by a combined 25-0 to help set up the battle of the unbeatens.

Proviano, along with fellow seniors Jamie Seneca, Eric Taylor, Andrea D’Incau, Abby Lewis, Samantha Stewart, Carly O’Connell and Kelly Kvortek, finished 32-5-1 at home over the past four years.

“It’s nice to see all the hard work the entire team put in be rewarded,” Stewart said. “We had a mission to get back (to the WPIAL title game). Everybody was gunning for us all season. When we got to the playoffs, it definitely wasn’t easy. Gateway gave us a game. TJ gave us a game and then we had to battle for 80 minutes against an awesome West Allegheny team. I am just so happy for the girls and what they accomplished together as a team.”

The win over West Allegheny was déjà vu for the Mustangs as they also defeated the Indians 1-0 in last year’s semifinal round.

Proviano’s goal, her team-leading 20th of the season, came from 30 yards and sailed into the back of the net just over the outstretched hand of Howard.

Junior Marissa Liberto provided the pass that helped set up Proviano’s goal.

Liberto knows what it’s like to record a playoff point against West Allegheny. She had the lone goal in last year’s win.

Both teams finished with six shots on goal, and four of West Allegheny’s six came in the second half.

The Indians applied increased pressure over the final 15 minutes as they attempted to score the equalizer.

Pitt commit Mackenzie Evers and Akron commit Morgan Shansky had solid scoring chances within the box with 10 and eight minutes left, respectively, that were turned away by Taylor.

The Plum defense turned away an attempt off a corner kick with 6:30 left and then denied a free kick from 20 yards by Duquesne commit Mackenzie Taranto with about a minute remaining.

“We were all hoping to get another one in the second half, but we were able to do a good job of holding off their scorers, and the one was all we needed,” said Lewis, a combination defender and midfielder.

“It’s what our defense has done all year,” Stewart said. “They’ve played solid across the board. It helps set up the offense with scoring chances, and we’ve gotten some big goals.”

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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