Maggie Pappas wasn’t about to change her routine for Tuesday night’s PIAA Girls Class 2A soccer semifinal match.
The Avonworth goalkeeper has been wearing rocks and crystals in her jersey, which have provided her and her teammates some additional lucky charms.
Heading into the fourth showdown of the season between Avonworth and its section rival, North Catholic, both sides braced for another tight contest.
When the smoked cleared, the ‘Lopes made an emphatic statement by pulling away from the Trojans with an impressive 3-0 win in West View.
Pappas and her teammates celebrated as the school’s student supporter section showered the players from the stands with Hershey’s chocolate products.
Make no mistake, the ‘Lopes didn’t need much luck in this match.
They created their own fortune with a terrific overall team performance which included an Ava Wert first half goal, followed by some key saves by Pappas to preserve at clean sheet, then a pair of goals from Mia Burens in the second half.
“We kept going. Told the girls before the match to be strong and they showed their strength — the ‘Eye of the Tiger’,” JC Mahan, Avonworth’s Head Coach, chuckled as the 80’s hit song played in the background on the PA system after the match.
“They focused on the little things, which they did brilliantly. Following shots, second chances. It was fantastic.”
After North Catholic dominated the series in previous seasons, culminating with the 2020 WPIAL Final and the first match between the teams earlier this season, Avonworth have turned the tide, winning three consecutive matches in the series.
The Antelopes (21-1) also extended its unbeaten streak to 20 consecutive matches.
Ed Thompson Photo Gallery
(PIAA Girls Soccer Class 2A Semifinal – Avonworth vs North Catholic)
The first half of the match picked up where the WPIAL final left off, both teams trading chances.
In the 30th minute, the ‘Lopes finally broke through after earning a free kick.
WPIAL Final match hero, freshman Fiona Mahan delivered to set piece through the crowded box to the back post where a waiting Ava Wert redirected it into the back of the next to give the ‘Lopes a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, the Trojans had a free kick opportunity of its own, but Jayden Sharpless’ attempt headed under the bar, but was tipped over the net by Lopes keeper, Maggie Pappas.
The Trojans continued to push for the equalizer, but Avonworth’s back line and Pappas held firm.
The ‘Lopes continued to find chances on the counter.
Wert blazed down the right side, then sent a dangerous cross that was bobbled by North Catholic’s Rilee Kumar. Making a run into the box, Avonworth’s Mia Buren pounced on the loose ball to give the ‘Lopes a 2-0 lead early in the second.
Pappas denied the Trojans again shortly after the second goal, making another spectacular save to deny another Sharpless free kick attempt headed into goal that would have cut into the Avonworth lead.
The ‘Lopes were not going to be denied a chance to make their first-ever trip to Hershey.
Avonworth added another goal in the later stages when Giana Babusci found Burens in stride, then beat Kumar for the 3-0 lead, which would hold up.
For the second consecutive year, eight boys and girls high school soccer teams from WPIAL (District 7) will be represented in each and every one of the PIAA Soccer Championship games coming up this weekend in Hershey.
On Tuesday, Seneca Valley (4A), Hampton (3A), Quaker Valley (2A) and Winchester Thurston (1A) boys teams and Moon (4A), Mars (3A), Avonworth (2A) and Greensburg Central Catholic (1A) girls won their respective semifinal matches.