Even for the highest classification in girls high school soccer, Penn Trafford and Upper St. Clair raised the bar in terms of pace of play in its WPIAL semifinal match at Fox Chapel on Monday night.
After a lot of back-and-forth action, particularly in the final ten minutes of the match, it was Penn Trafford’s Jordan Lawrence who provided the top-seeded Warriors with the game winner which catapulted them into the WPIAL finals for the first time since 2003.
“In terms of pure soccer — that was probably the best game we’ve been involved in all season,” Dave Gray, Upper St. Clair coach said. “Both teams stringing together passes, both kept attacking. Hats off to Penn Trafford. They played a great game. They play a great brand of soccer. They played the way the game should be played.
Lawrence’s tally capped off a counter opportunity which the Warriors whipped the ball around the box until they found someone open. The counter chance developed as Lauran Stovar took the ball, and a pair of defenders with her to the end line on the left side — then cut back a nice pass to Mackenzie Aunkst just inside the top of the box.
As the Upper St. Clair defenders raced back to get into position to deny a potential Aunkst shot attempt — the senior midfielder had the presence of mind to play the ball to a wide open Lawrence who moved into an open space by the far post. Lawrence had all kinds of time to bury the clinical finish to send Penn Trafford girls to its first WPIAL final since 2003.
“Usually we can rely on our speed — but the speed was terrific on both sides, and we had to work the ball a bit more,” Jackie Bartko, Penn Trafford head coach said. “”That’s a really good team there, Upper St. Clair pushed us to the limit today”
While the Warriors took a while to get going, the Panthers took the lead, as Jade Madson beat goalkeeper Megan Giesey in the 20th minute.
Bartko knew her squad, which earned a top seed in a very competitive 4A playoff bracket, had to turn things up a notch in the second half.
“In the first half we struggled a little bit, and had to make some adjustments at halftime.”Bartko said. “We’ve been down before this season, and we were able to draw from those experiences to get back into the match.”
Finally, in the 55th minute, the Warriors would break through as Lauren Stovar would get the equalizer, finishing off an nice build-up of play.
“I was really impressed with the way they played today,” Gray added. “If they continue to do things that way they’re going to be around to a long way this year.”