WPIAL GIRLS 4A FINAL
Penn Trafford 2, Norwin 1 (OT)
If one team was going to dethrone Norwin’s reign of supremacy in WPIAL Girls 4A soccer and its bid for a third consecutive district title — it was going to be neighboring section rivals Penn Trafford.
Penn Trafford held off a persistent Norwin attack, particularly in the second half, then capitalized on a golden chance in overtime, as Kiley Dugan headed a cross from Mackenzie Aunkst for the winning goal in the game’s 84th minute, giving the Warriors a 2-1 victory to earn its second WPIAL title, and first since 2003, when current head coach, Jackie Bartko was a senior.
“It’s so exciting — it’s crazy, the girls deserve it,” Bartko said. “It’s makes the win little bit sweeter — because it’s a hometown rivalry, It’s pretty surreal.”
In a dominating run of play since 2015, Norwin’s now only suffered defeats two times in WPIAL regular season and playoff games — and both losses have come against Penn Trafford, as the Warriors had the Knights number this year — going 2-0-1 in three meetings. The Knights were striving to be the third girls program to win three straight WPIAL titles (Mars: 2010-12 & Sewickley Academy: 2002-04)
“PT is a really great team. We’ve said that along — in the four years I’ve been here they’ve always been good,” Lauren Karcher, Norwin’s head coach, said. “The level of soccer, that we had out there today, with a lot of superior athletes, it was great from start to finish. We had our chances. We put a lot of pressure on them, they got a chance there at the end, and won it.”
Superior athletes were on display — for sure — as both of Penn Trafford’s goals featured impressive bursts of strength, speed and agility.
After the first half came to a close with the teams in a scoreless battle, Penn Trafford’s Hannah Nguyen navigated her way past a pair of Norwin defenders with some added speed and anticipation — then slotted a shot inside the right post that beat Norwin keeper Sam Wexell for the lead in the 37th minute.
Norwin — with talented major division one bound college seniors Emily Harrigan and Alyssa Victor leading its attack – were quick to respond, albeit with some help from a lucky bounce even as Penn Trafford’s fans were still celebrating Nguyen’s goal.
After drawing a foul on the left sideline, Victor delivered a long, spinning free kick from 45 yards that somehow managed to evade everyone in the box — and caught Penn Trafford’s keeper Megan Giesey out of position, and bounced its way into goal.
Tied at 1-1 at halftime — Norwin came out clicking on all cylinders in the second half.
“Our defense — and our goalie, they held us in the game,” Bartko said. “Norwin kept coming at us — and it took a total team effort to keep us in it.”
The Knight just couldn’t put any more shots past Giesey, as the sophomore keeper made 12 saves, while her counterpart Wexell had five.
After surviving assault after assault from Norwin in the 2nd half — Bartko felt the overtime period would bring out the best in her team.
“When regulation ended, we told the girls we hadn’t played our best, we held on, and now it comes down to who wants it more,” Bartko said. “Both teams are so skilled. Both are so talented, and we had to keep fighting until the end. We’re not leaving her with silver medals. We wanted gold medals.”
Only moments into extra time — the Warriors came forward pushing harder in its attack and found the winning goal as Aunkst battled her way to the top of the box to send a ball that Dugan made a perfectly timed run to head it directly into the goal.
“We’re very proud of way we played. We can’t be any less proud of these girls,” Karcher said. Credit to Penn Trafford as they scored on their chance in overtime. We’re going to try to do something we haven’t done with this group, and that’s win states — so we’ll get back at it on Tuesday.”
Both teams begin play in the PIAA playoffs on Tuesday. If they both win first-round games, they will play each other in the state quarterfinals.
PLAYERS OF THE MATCH – HANNAH NGUYEN & KILEY DUGAN
PT’s two goal scorers — Hannah Nguyen and Kiley Dugan
PT – Hannah Nguyen, 38′
NOR – Alyssa Victor, 39′
PT – Kiley Dugan, 84′