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Girls #WPIAL Soccer Playoff Preview

The WPIAL Girls playoffs begin this weekend with play-in games, but really gets going on Monday with a full slate of first-round games in a year that features four classifications.
As evidence that soccer’s growth in our region is happening before our eyes, only six years ago, high school girls soccer only had two classifications.
Now they have four.
For the complete look at the brackets, visit our High Schools home page.  Finals will be played at Highmark Stadium on November 3, 4, and 5.
WPIAL girls tournaments (4A, 3A, 1A) will each feature a 16 team tournament with three teams going to PIAA (consolation game decides 3rd pl) — and in 2A a 12-team tournament will include first-round byes for the top four seeds.
Here’s my look at each classification.

Class 1A

Greensburg Central Catholic are defending champs and feature the WPIAL’s all-time leading goal scorer, Bailey Cartwright (who surpassed former GCC standout Frannie Crouse‘s 212 total goals this season) is the catalyst for the Centurions.
GCC have been crowned Single A Champs four times in past six years and are clearly the team to beat in newly aligned 1A.
BentworthShady Side Academy, Vincentian Academy, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart have each had outstanding seasons, and much like last season, when GCC was pushed in the WPIAL final to overtime, it is possible that one of these teams could pull the upset.
Shady Side, led by a talented midfield that includes Krystyna Rytel, have probably provided GCC with their toughest tests this year with two section games that were somewhat close contests.
BEST 1st ROUND match
Carlynton (12-3-1 second to OLSH in Sect 4) vs Serra Catholic (in conference of death 9-6-2 overall w/ 4 of 6 total losses to SSA/GCC) – Monday, 6 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson.
PREDICTION:   Greesnburg Central Catholic 

Class 2A

This is class that has most unknowns — when I first saw the brackets released I thought to myself, ‘wow, I don’t think I’ve seen many of these teams in the playoffs before?’.
While there really isn’t a clear-cut favorite, you can make a case for all of the top four teams – who will be receiving first-round byes due to this classification only having 12 entries (and only three sections).  A lot of teams from the previous Class AA have move up to the reorganized class 3A.
One school that stayed in 2A is Freedom, who combined with neighboring New Brighton this year to form a co-op, and Head Coach Colin Williams has assembled a strong title contender that has run through the regular season with an unbeaten overall.   The English native, who founded both Seneca Valley’s soccer programs in the 1980s and was the first coach of West Allegheny, is also coaching the boys team at Freedom too that has made the 1A playoffs.
The other teams in the top four include Waynesburg Central, who posted a solid record in winning its section, along with two upstart teams from the same section that struggled previously to make the playoffs in the previous classification setup – Freeport and Highlands.
Of all of these teams, Highlands comes into the tournament as the hottest — as they haven’t lost since mid-September, including a 0-0 draw vs Freeport in the last meeting.
BEST MATCH UP of 1st RD – Yough vs Quaker Valley (at Plum, Monday, Oct. 24, 6 p.m.) — I’ll be there to cover this game for the Tribune-Review and will share here on Pittsburgh Soccer Report.

Class 3A

Schools that were Class AAA playoff teams a year ago — Moon, Oakland Catholic and Franklin Regional — did not move up into the newly formed 4A classification – have helped make this a very competitive classification with a lot of quality teams.
Of those programs, one has stood out above the others in the regular season — Moon.
Having won its only WPIAL title in 2004, but have also won PIAA title in 2012, Moon may be the favorites in this very strong line-up of teams in 3A.
Additional top four teams include: Mars – Class AA defending champs, South Park – Class AA runner up a year ago, and a team that stepped down from the top tier, Oakland Catholic, who edged past South Park for the Section 3 title.    Franklin Regional also won its section over Mars (having beaten and tied the Planets), but somehow have been seeded in the same part of the bracket as their section rival, setting up a potential terrific quarterfinal match-up.
BEST MATCH-UP OF 1st RD – Mt. Pleasant vs Hampton


This is a classification filled with numerous top Division I college recruits and talent that have played for some of the top club programs and academies in our region.  We should provide some high-level play, especially when we get into the quarterfinals and beyond.
While there’s a lot of quality teams in the top tier this year, the prospects of a potential showdown between the two top seeds Norwin and Canon-McMillan in the finals at Highmark Stadium would make for a very intriguing match up.
When I began looking at the high school season in August — among the major story lines going into the season I listed was — could anyone beat Norwin?
This is a team that is talented and determined to repeat as WPIAL champs.  — With Emily Harrigan (Rutgers commit) and Alyssa Victor, who will be headed to Duquesne University leading the attack, they’ve rolled to a 15-0-1 season outscored opponents 78-9, and goal keeper Sam Wexell picking up more clean sheets along the way.  Norwin took care of its closest section rival Penn Trafford with 2-0, and 1-0 wins.
Canon-McMillan also have had an unbeaten season, and they boast a player that has trained with and is in the player pool for the U.S. Women’s National team (U-17), Aideen O’Donohue.  In addition to the Rutgers recruit, they also have lots of other quality players — including RDA Sabrina Bryan (Hofstra recruit).  Fox Chapel and Plum finished tied in Section 3, but the Foxes took the edge on goal differential in head-to-head contests.  The Foxes have Duquesne recruit Deena Debaldo, and a year ago they upset Canon-Mac in the quarterfinal round.
Upper St. Clair were Norwin’s biggest nemesis a year ago. After losing in the WPIAL finals to the Knights, 2-0, the Panthers came back to beat them in the PIAA semifinals on their way to a PIAA championship. This year, after losing a number of key players, USC enter the playoffs as a lower seed, but if they would win its first round match, they could have a potential rematch with Norwin in the second round.
BEST 1st RD Match – Seneca Valley vs Peters Twp
Be sure to provide any updates, pictures, videos, etc. on Twitter at #PghSoccer.  Pittsburgh Soccer Report’s John Krysinsky be at Plum on Monday — covering Yough vs Quaker Valley (for Tribune-Review) and Plum vs Mt. Lebanon.   

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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