Westmoreland County girls soccer notes: Franklin Regional in top form

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 | 5:58 PM

Staying healthy is a key to any successful sports team. As an extension of that, conditioning and staying in game-shape can be what separates the contenders.

But the way a team plays also can dictate its overall well-being.

Take Franklin Regional girls soccer.

“This is always our first priority,” coach Scott Arnold said. “We try very hard to play a style that reduces contact injuries and have implemented a training/warmup regimen to reduce non-contact injuries. So far so good.”

Franklin Regional has avoided injuries and losses.

The Lady Panthers took a record of 9-3-1 (8-1-1 Section 1-3A) into their section finale Thursday against Gateway.

They were focused on winning the section title before making a run in the WPIAL playoffs.

Ranked No. 4 in the WPIAL, Franklin Regional had lost by one goal in all three of its defeats — to Montour (3-2), Hampton (2-1) and Upper St. Clair (1-0).

The team has not lost by more than one goal in two years — including scrimmages.

“We are pleased with how we are playing,” said Arnold, who is in his second season. “Our schedule has been challenging. Every nonsection opponent was a playoff team last year. We are scoring more goals compared to last year, which was something we were determined to do this year.”

Close games are a product of the Panthers’ defensive scheming.

“We work hard to create layers of defending to make things difficult for opponents,” Arnold said. “Our marking in front of our goal is much improved, and we clear the ball better than in the past. The majority of the goals scored against us have been great goals by excellent players.”

Arnold said the team also is more flexible strategy-wise, which allows it to adjust on the fly.

“We have been able to adapt mid-game depending on how our opponents are attacking and defending us,” he said.

That is a vast change from last season when the Panthers stayed grounded in one formation as they adjusted to Arnold’s new style.

Among the tweaks is a tighter defense that is allowing fewer goals in space.

“In recent games, we have defended much better,” the coach said.

Senior forward Morgan Walters is having a career season. The Seton Hill commit has become a viable complement to senior midfielder Sydney Lindeman, a Towson commit. Walters was leading the team in assists.

“Morgan has been dynamic and has scored a lot more goals than last season, including some very important goals for us,” Arnold said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Aria Lamanna continues to blossom into a top-level shot-stopper.

“She is a big reason we concede very few goals,” Arnold said. “Plus, her distribution and confidence to play with her feet is incredibly important to how we want to play the game.”

This isn’t football — American football, at least — but Lamanna has a pretty good completion percentage. Arnold said she had “completed” 200 of 238 attempts.

“Her decision making and execution is incredibly important for us to be successful,” Arnold said. “She has become a more dominant goalkeeper dealing with aerial balls recently. It’s fun to watch her get better every week. She works very hard at her craft and has high expectations of herself.”

Arnold said two freshmen also have made a significant impact in Abby Paterline and Eden Williams, who have unexpectedly become key contributors and have started many recent games.

The team hasn’t stopped being in bonding mode since Arnold took over for Rich Garland, who is now the coach at Mt. Pleasant.

“We are trying to enjoy the season and appreciate our time together, while creating a culture where we practice and play our best,” Arnold said. “We have been emphasizing relationships and synergies both on and off the field. It’s incredibly cliche, but we are focusing on improving every day, and winning the next game.”

Playoffs approaching

The WPIAL playoffs are set to begin next weekend and a number of local teams will be in the tournament fields.

Area qualifiers include Latrobe, Norwin and Penn-Trafford in 4A; Belle Vernon and Franklin Regional in 3A; Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland and Yough in 2A; and Greensburg Central Catholic in A.

The last day for section games is Oct. 19.

The WPIAL soccer steering committee is scheduled to announce playoff brackets Oct. 21.

Early celebration

Ok, Latrobe. Now you can celebrate.

The Lady Wildcats thought they had clinched the Section 3-4A title when they edged Fox Chapel, 1-0, on Oct. 6.

But mathematically, they had not secured the top spot in the section with two games left against Hempfield.

Norwin remained in the title chase but needed to win out and have Latrobe lose both to have a chance.

Once Latrobe took care of Hempfield, 3-0, the Wildcats could finally exhale and officially enjoy their first section title since 1992.

Teams get two points for a win and one for a tie.

State ranks

Greensburg Central Catholic is the highest rated local girls team in the latest Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association poll.

The Centurions check in this week at No. 4 in Class A behind Bishop Canevin, Faith Christian and Schuylkill Haven.

Other ranked WPIAL teams include North Allegheny (1), Butler (5) and Moon (7) in 4A; Mars (1) and Plum (4) in 3A; and North Catholic (3) in 2A.

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

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