#1 Norwin (19-0-1) vs. #2 Canon-McMillan (18-0-1)
Highmark Stadium, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Live Broadcast – www.msasports.net
Head coaches – Lauren Karcher (Norwin), Dave Derrico (Canon-McMillan).
Even before the WPIAL playoff seedings were announced, this was a match-up that many in the Pittsburgh soccer community were looking forward to seeing.
After all, both teams rosters are filled with players that will be playing at the next level — and both teams have not lost this season — and each only have one loss in the past two seasons.
The Norwin girls program enter as the defending WPIAL champs, having rolled through another WPIAL regular season without a loss, and in the past two season post a 43-1-1 record. A season ago, they capped off a 22-0 district campaign by beating Upper St. Clair 2-0 at Highmark. The Knights only loss in the past two years was in return match to USC in the PIAA semifinals.
The Knights will try to win back-to-back titles for the second time in school history as they also completed that feat in the late 1990s.
Canon-McMillan is seeking its first title in its second finals appearance in three years.
Like Norwin, Canon-McMillan is unbeaten with just one tie, to section rivals Bethel Park. The Big Macs are 35-1-2 since the beginning of last season. Their lone defeat was to Fox Chapel in last season’s WPIAL quarterfinals.
TACTICS, STRATEGIES and PLAYERS TO WATCH
It will be interesting to see how things play out in the early going, especially with so many dangerous players on both sides of the pitch.
An early goal could open things up and make this more open-ended game, kind of like how last year’s final played out between Norwin and Upper St. Clair. But if neither team scores early, this could become yet another, tightly contested battle.
Both teams had close calls in the semifinals against Mt. Lebanon and Fox Chapel respectively. Norwin missed on a number of opportunities, but got the game winner from Emily Harrigan when they needed it to beat a well-organized Fox Chapel team in the semifinals.
Harrigan, a junior and Rutgers recruit, has scored a team-leading 28 goals. She also scored two in a 3-0 quarterfinal win against Upper St. Clair. The roster is also filled with numerous other players that can score — and strong, athletic back line in front of goalkeeper Sam Wexell. Also a junior, Wexell hasn’t given up a goal in three playoff games and has 12 shutouts on the season.
The Big Macs attack primarily runs through Sabrina Bryan and Aideen O’Donoghue, who has trained with the US Women National Team’s U-17 program.
The seniors make up one of the WPIAL’s most productive scoring tandems combining for 53 goals. Bryan scored two goals in each of the team’s first two playoff games, while O’Donoghue scored in a 2-1 double-overtime triumph against Mt. Lebanon in the semifinals. Addie Roman scored the winning goal with less than four minutes left. Bryan is a Hofstra recruit and O’Donoghue, like Harrigan, is a Rutgers recruit.
This should be a lot of fun to watch.