WPIAL Girls 1A Soccer Final
Freedom 8, Bentworth 2
By Logan Carney, Pittsburgh Soccer Now contributor
On a wet Saturday morning at Highmark Stadium, the Freedom Bulldogs (19-1, 14-0 Section 3) defeated the Bentworth Bearcats (17-2, 12-0 Section 2) in the 1A WPIAL girls’ soccer championships by the score of 8-2.
It was the first time since 2009 that neither Greensburg Central Catholic nor Shady Side Academy won the 1-A girls’ championship.
ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY
HOW IT HAPPENED
Early on, the game was controlled largely by Freedom. They were able to generate multiple chances. Despite controlling the game, their offense was limited in the box by a tough Bentworth defense and goalie Candelaria Kossel.
Eventually though, even the toughest of defenses break against a team with tons of talent.
That’s what happened, with 26 minutes to go in the first, when Myah Hrinko found the back of the net off of a corner kick. The
goal gave Freedom a 1-0 lead early on, as they looked to control the tempo of the game.
Freedom continued to largely control the pitch, but Bentworth’s offense began to wake up following the first goal. They were able to pair of breakaway chances, but goalie Kassandra DePoppe made phenomenal saves both times. This kept the score at 1-0 in Freedom’s favor.
With 15 minutes left to go in the first, Freedom added their second goal when Renae Mohrbacher fired a shot at the top of the box. This made the score 2-0 in favor of Freedom, and gave them all the momentum as the first half winded down.
Ten minutes later, Bentworth was rewarded a corner kick. The kick was unsuccessful, but it set up a goal kick for Freedom. A great kick by DePoppe eventually found its’ way to Michaela Watkins. Watkins took the ball down the pitch and found the back of the net. This gave Freedom a 3-0 lead with a little less than five minutes left in the first half.
A couple minutes later, Freedom extended their lead to 4-0 with a goal from Jayden Sharpless. Freedom’s fourth goal was scored by their fourth different player. That was the end of the action in the first, and Freedom went into halftime with a 4-0 lead over Bentworth.
“Playing with my sister is honestly one of the best feelings in the world,” said Mayla Sharpless. “My whole season, I just want to come back and share a few minutes with her even if I’m not 100%, just to share a few minutes with her. Every goal she scores I get excited for her as much as when I score. Honestly, it’s amazing.”
The second half started the same way as the first did, with Freedom controlling the pitch. Sharpless was able to find the back of the net for the second time today, but this time she was called off-sides and the score remained 4-0.
Bentworth though, scored the first goal of the second half. The goal came after Jocelyn Timlim tapped it to the opposite side of goalie Kassandra DePoppe. The goal made the score 4-1 with 34 minutes left in the second half.
Five minutes later though, Freedom added more to their score as Myla Sharpless joined her sister Jayden as one of five different Bulldogs to score in this game. The goal made the score 5-1 with 29 minutes left to go in the second half.
“It’s been a crazy year for me,” said Myla, “and to come back was amazing. And winning this, it’s a dream come true for any soccer player in Western Pennsylvania, this is the ultimate of where you want to be.”
The offense did not stop there though, as Bentworth added to their total after another goal by Timlin.
Timlin’s goal made the score 5-2 and pulled the Bearcats within three.
Myla Sharpless though will make any comeback attempt by the Bearcats even tougher though as she made the score 6-2 with her second goal of the day.
With just 21 minutes left to go in the game, Bentworth needed a miracle to come back in this one.
The comeback would have to go through Timlin, who already had two goals in the game. The Bearcats tried to go through Timlin and sent the ball into the Freedom box. Timlin though crashed into keeper DePoppe and a foul was issued. The fans wanted a yellow card called on
Timlin, but the referees elected to not go that far.
The score remained 6-2 with 18 minutes left to play.
As both teams started to pull out their starters, Freedom added another goal. This one was scored by Alexia Barlamas as she became the seventh different player to score in the game, the sixth different for Freedom. The goal made the score 7-2 in favor of Freedom with only 12 minutes left to go.
Freedom almost added their eighth goal of the contest after a shot from the top of the box was stopped by Kossel. Kossel, who had a lot of strong saves despite the score, punched the ball over the crossbar. Freedom failed to score on the resulting corner kick.
Two minutes later though, Myla Sharpless scored her third goal of the game. The goal made things 8-2 with six minutes left to play. It also put a cherry on top of her story, as she didn’t recover from an ACL injury till the playoffs started and she ended the championship with a hat trick.
The final score was 8-2 in favor of the Bulldogs. This is the first 1-A championship for Freedom, as they moved down from 2-A before the season started. Their last WPIAL title was the 2016 2-A championship. They fell to Waynesburg last year. When asked about his thoughts on this year’s win, head coach Colin Williams reflected on last season.
“It was a great game,” said head coach Colin Williams. “Last year lost, it was unfortunate we lost. We played Waynesburg which is a great team. If we had (Myla Sharpless) it might have been a different outcome. I wish I could have played her last year, we probably would have won. It was a great game and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Both team move on to the PIAA state playoffs, which starts next Tuesday. Freedom will take on District 5 runner-up Rockwood, while Bentworth will take on District 9 champion Brockway.
The sites, times are TBD.