Winning culture carries over for Kiski Area girls soccer team

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020 | 6:49 PM


The Kiski Area girls soccer team advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals each of the past two seasons.

Coach Mike Spagnolo said he hoped to continue that success this fall with a younger group of players after 11 seniors graduated.

While it took time for the team to get its footing in a season altered by coronavirus restrictions, the Cavaliers (7-5-1 overall, 7-3-1 in Section 1-AAA) have shown they can be a threat down the stretch and into the playoffs.

“We were hoping that what was established over the past couple of years with those seniors and their winning ways would carry over to this year,” Spagnolo said.

“There were so many holes to fill in the lineup, we didn’t know which way it was going to go. But the girls have worked so hard. They’ve been enthusiastic, and they really have found their way more and more as the season has gone on.”

The Cavaliers won their third section match in a row Tuesday with a 4-1 victory over a Gateway team in the thick of the playoff chase. The Gators were coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to section leader Hampton on Monday.

Kiski Area celebrated senior night Tuesday. Senior Kaylee Elwood scored twice, and classmate Emily Schrag added a goal as the Cavaliers rallied from an early 1-0 deficit.

Sophomore Riley Koziatek scored late in the second half as Kiski Area outshot Gateway, 9-1, in the second half.

“Gateway is very aggressive. They’re very fast, and they’re hungry,” Spagnolo said. “We knew it was going to be a tough battle.”

The goals for Elwood were her team-leading 13th and 14th of the season. Schrag’s goal was her sixth, and junior Emerson Johngarlo has four goals. Schrag leads the team with 10 assists.

“I think the team is in a good place. We’re playing really well together,” Elwood said.

“The section has been challenging, but we’ve shown we can win games if we stay consistent and play our game. We have to bring our best every game.”

Kiski Area is scheduled to close section play Thursday at Indiana.

“We have a number of players who can put the ball in the net, and that is exciting to see,” Spagnolo said. “We’ve changed formations a number of times since the season started. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. We have the same people, but they’re in different combinations on the field.”

Spagnolo said the section has been competitive. Franklin Regional is 7-1-1 in section, and the Panthers’ tie came in a scoreless result against Kiski Area on Oct. 1.

The Cavaliers battled Hampton down the stretch Oct. 5 before the Talbots came away with a 2-0 win.

Kiski Area earned a 2-0 victory over Gateway the first time the teams met Sept. 23.

“Hampton and Franklin Regional are leading the section, but they’ve had a lot of close matches,” Spagnolo said.

“This section is full of good players who really help their teams play competitively. The close and competitive games have really helped us get ready for the playoffs.”

The WPIAL playoff committee is scheduled to meet next Wednesday to craft the playoff brackets with the early-round matchups to begin as early as the next day.

Spagnolo said he was pleased to see the way the girls handled themselves and weathered an 0-3-1 stretch as they challenged themselves with section games against Franklin Regional and Hampton as well as nonconference matchups against Butler (9-1) and Norwin (6-2-1), two of the top teams in Class AAAA.

“Those four games were tough. We didn’t score a goal in those games,” Spagnolo said.

“Butler and Norwin are having great seasons in their sections. But I could really see the fight in the girls, and we were really starting to put it together. We saw a number of positive things that we’ve built on. That helped us turn the corner to where we are now.”

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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