Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Penn-Trafford’s Eilish Connolly

Monday, September 11, 2023 | 12:05 PM

It’s always tough to get knocked out of the playoffs and have to endure a long offseason.

The Penn-Trafford girls soccer team, however, used a season-ending loss to positively propel them into this year.

Last season, the Warriors lost a close 1-0 matchup to the No. 2 high school team at the time, Mars.

Center back Eilish Connolly revealed that after getting crushed in a scrimmage by the Planets before last season, the Warriors were angry for a different outcome.

“We played a completely defensive game. The back line’s effort really inspired the team, helping us hold them to one goal,” Connolly said. “Though it was not the outcome we wanted, we, honestly, left everything we had out on that field, generating fuel for the current season.”

That focus on playing low-scoring, defensive games, has carried into this season.

In their first three contests, the Warriors limited opponents to just one goal, including a 1-0 double-overtime win against a good Mt. Pleasant team in the season opener.

Playing a defensive position, and as one of the captains of the group, Connolly takes pride in limiting the opposition to so few goals, even when she couldn’t be on the field during their first game, and even in their first loss, which was an overtime game against Franklin Regional.

“Watching the game back, it’s evident that we outpossessed FR and generated more in the offensive third,” Connolly said. “Losing on a set play in overtime is not the way we wanted things to go, but it serves as motivation to myself and the team for the rest of our section play.”

Outside of the high school realm, Connolly plays club soccer for the Pittsburgh Hotspurs, an elite travel team.

This was a switch that she made this past year, and she really admires the coaching style of head coach Tom Ovenden and the long-lasting memories.

“His passion for the game is evident in his approach to coaching,” Connolly said. “The friendships and connections I have made on all my Cup teams will stay with me forever.”

With her former squad, the Riverhounds, Connolly was able to attend the 2021 National Cup XX in Denver.

This summer, she traveled to Oceanside, Calif., with the Hotspurs for nationals, in which her sister, Aishlinn, who is a freshman this year, scored a game-winning penalty kick.

Connolly has not made a decision on what college she’s going to attend, but she does plan to study history or political science, with the hope of pursuing a career in law.

In an early and busy time of the year, Connolly took some time for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

How did you get started with soccer?

When I was a kid, I played pretty much every sport imaginable: soccer, basketball, volleyball, golf, you name it. However, there was something about soccer that really stuck with me. I began playing in-house soccer at Penn-Trafford when I was around 5 and haven’t stopped in 13 years.

How would you describe your team’s start to the season?

We are a completely different team than last year, which is evident by our work on the field. The amount of depth we have on the team is refreshing compared to previous years, with many underclassmen eager to prove themselves. We trust one another. We don’t see ourselves as individuals but, rather, as a united sisterhood. In fact, we have 10 siblings on the team, including myself and my younger sister Aishlinn, who is a freshman.

What are your goals for the team the rest of the season?

This is our year. Since preseason began in the summer, I have made it very clear to the girls that we are not the same P-T who lost the first round of playoffs. In my three years on the team, we have not won a playoff match. We have what it takes to make it all the way this year. We just need to trust in ourselves and continue to grow as a team.

What about this group allows it to be so good defensively?

Our on-field leadership certainly plays a big role in our success defensively. Being able to communicate so well with one another is a huge benefit, considering many of us have been playing together for so many years. Our back line is mainly underclassmen, which goes to show how unbelievably talented they are. Anna Coy, Ava Oslosky, Bree Bennett, Morgan Spudy, and, of course, our goalkeeper Rease Solomon have all been solid in the backline and they put 100% into every game. Our back line just won’t quit.

What is one thing that people may not know about you?

Something many people don’t know about me is that I play an Irish sport called Gaelic Football for the Pittsburgh Banshees. Once I decided I wasn’t playing college soccer, I turned my full attention to the team. It’s a great experience because I am able to play with my cousins and friends that I’ve known my whole life. … The Banshees won their back-to-back Junior A Cup in Denver. Can’t wait to make it a third.


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