Suffocating defense fuels Penn-Trafford girls soccer

Tuesday, September 12, 2023 | 11:01 AM

When a goal finally found its way into the net during an overtime section opener at Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford did not descend into girls soccer madness.

It was just a miscue — a hitch, a blip — and the Warriors didn’t expect to make many more. And they haven’t.

Only Franklin Regional, another well-balanced WPIAL contender in Class 3A, has been able to score a goal against the Warriors over a half-dozen games.

The Warriors’ defensive unit is deep and stingy, sound and on point. The girls know the assignment.

“We’re doing a better job with team defense, and we’re communicating,” coach Jimmy Mastroianni said. “We’re talking from the top to the back four. The girls know where to be, and they trust each other.”

Penn-Trafford (5-1, 2-1) has been equally impressive offensively, racking up 29 goals. The team scored 47 all of last season.

And look at this balance: 14 girls have scored at least once. Junior Alexis Brown and senior Emma Stover lead with four apiece.

Goals are great, but the highlight of last year may have been a game when Penn-Trafford didn’t score at all. It gave nationally ranked Mars all it could handle in a 1-0 loss in the WPIAL first round.

That sent a message that the Warriors could be a team to watch this fall— a team that might be on the other end of more 1-0 games.

A backline shows a rotation of seven, and it fronts a talented goalkeeper in junior Rease Solomon.

Penn-Trafford has as many shutouts this season (five) as it did all of last season.

“I think what makes our defense so strong is our communication within the back,” Solomon said. “I’ve played with these girls for a long time and trust that we are there for each other when needed. We are a persistent group of girls that aren’t willing to go down without a fight.”

The defenders include sophomores Anna Coy, Ava Oslosky and Morgan Spudy, seniors Eilish Connolly and Gabby Dreistadt and juniors Gabby Michael and Bryana Bennett.

“We are clearing the ball and moving and shifting better,” Mastroianni said. “We’re more prepared to get to the ball when it crosses the 50.”

Maybe even a step ahead of it.

Mastroianni thinks his team is a play or two away from being undefeated.

Franklin Regional was a quarterfinalist that lost 1-0 to Mars. Earlier this season, Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional nearly played even. Their rematch is Sept. 27 at Penn-Trafford.

The first win came against Mt. Pleasant, one of the faster and most skilled teams in the WPIAL and the returning 2A runner-up. The Warriors won 1-0 in double overtime.

The Warriors also have highly regarded Latrobe twice on the Section 3 schedule.

“We really played well against Franklin Regional,” Mastroianni said. “Every time we lost the ball, we got it right back. We worked the ball in transition and moved really well.”

The defenders are better informed and more experienced, allowing them to mesh as a unit and make wise decisions off the ball.

“Everything is the same,” Mastroianni said of the schematics. “The girls are just more comfortable with it.”

The Warriors are a youthful bunch, too. There are only four seniors on the roster.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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