PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Nov. 3, 2018) — The last time that the South Park Eagles hoisted the WPIAL trophy, three now-seniors were just meager freshman trying to get playing time.
Nora Ozimek, on the other hand, was only in fifth-grade.
Now, a freshman at South Park, Ozimek became the hero of Highmark Stadium on Friday night. Competing against the Hopewell Vikings, from Aliquippa, Pa., Ozimek was the super substitute for the Eagles.
She first entered the match in the 21st minute. Ozimek featured in and out of the match throughout the first and second half.
However, her big moment came in the second half.
Ozimek scored off an assist from Haleigh Finale, who was third in the entire WPIAL with 37 goals this season. After the game, Ozimek said that before Eagles head coach Shelly Thropp sent her on the pitch, she had some bits of advice — mainly about the weather.
“She said, ‘I know it’s cold, but you’re going to have to suck it up,'” Ozimek said.
Ozimek didn’t fall under pressure against a young Hopewell team. She called playing against the Vikings “challenging,” but was excited when she managed to score under pressure.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Ozimek said.
Thropp admitted after the match that she wouldn’t have expected Ozimek to be the game-winning goal scorer. Thropp said that she’s “not surprised that she scored, but I’m also surprised that she scored.
“Nora is a good player,” Thropp said. “She’s inexperienced, young, but she’s talented. It was good game experience and I’m happy for her. It was a good goal. She had a lot of patience inside of the box and took a couple touches before she scored.”
“She’s going to be a good player, she really is.”
Hopewell’s tale of the tape
Meanwhile, the Vikings put on a show in the final minutes.
Despite playing a 4-3-3 formation, Raychel Speicher, a junior forward, was left up top alone most of the night. In the closing minutes of the match, Speicher beat her defender and went one-on-one with South Park goalkeeper Ali Miklos.
However, her shot hit the post.
“We knew about Raychel being up top, so we knew we had to play decent defense,” Thropp said. “We knew we were going to have a tough match with Hopewell. They’re well organized and defend well.”
Meanwhile, first-year Hopewell head coach Bill Pfeifer said that he’s proud of his team.
“At the beginning of the season, if somebody would’ve told these kids that they would come to Highmark Stadium and be a crossbar away from overtime in the WPIALs finals, I think these kids would’ve traded that for anything,” Pfeifer said. “Last year, they only had two wins and lost 11 games in a row. For them to be upset, I told them that they actually care now. The culture is changing, the program is changing. It’s on an upswing.”
Hopewell was kept in the game multiple times by big saves from junior goalkeeper Katelyn Ramaley. Pfeifer called his goalkeeper the best in 2A WPIAL soccer.
“She’s played well all year,” Pfeifer said. “They had a couple of shots, nothing real dangerous. I think defensively, we stuck to our game plan. I think we defended well and cut the angles well.”
Thropp gave Ramaley some praise for her saves and composure.
“Hopewell has a fantastic goalkeeper,” Thropp said. “She’s tough to score on. They’re a good team.”
Pfeifer said that nobody is going to feel sorry for his team, due to the hard work they put in and the fact that they compete in the state competition, starting on Tuesday.
“There are 90 teams that are sitting at home that would trade places with them in a heartbeat,” Pfeifer said. “I think the kids have gotten on board, bought into the program, all year.”
“We’re not done yet.”
The Teams Celebrate at Highmark
From last night. As I put the finishing touches on my Hopewell vs. South Park story from last night, I wanted to share these. Two great teams last night who battled hard!@Southparkpride @VikesAP @hopewelltwp @pghsoccernow #WPIAL #WPIALSoccer pic.twitter.com/qc65dpH7ic
— Rachael McKriger (@RachaelMcKriger) November 3, 2018