PITTSBURGH — Freedom faced a tough challenge from Riverview, but a late goal led to them retaining their WPIAL 1A Championships for the second straight season Friday night at Highmark Stadium.
The Bulldogs (18-3) win their second straight WPIAL 1A Championship, as they defeated Springdale 3-0 in 2022. This is also the Bulldogs third title in the past six seasons, as they won their first title in 2018. The Raiders (19-3) lose their first ever WPIAL final, as this is their first appearance in the final.
Freedom started out the better of the two teams for the first 10 minutes, with a few shots, but nothing resulting in a score.
Riverview star senior midfielder/forward Lola Abraham had the first chance for her team, taking a shot from the halfway line that Freedom sophomore goalkeeper Trinity Vojtko had to go up and make a save in the 10th minute. Abraham would threaten again two minutes later, sending a cross into the box that Vojtko would have to slap away.
The Bulldogs almost scored in the 17th minute, as senior forward Shaye Bailey passed it into the box to sophomore forward Mackenzie Mohrbacher, but she whiffed on her shot, despite minimal defensive pressure.
Abraham soon had another chance, putting in a curling shot from distance that Vojkto dropped, but Raiders sophomore Georgia A. Tsambis couldn’t get onto it at the left post.
Votjko would make two more important saves to keep the match scoreless at the end of the first half, catching a long shot from Riverview junior midfielder/forward Lily Hood in the 23rd minute and then another stop on Abraham that required an incredible effort to keep out in the 36th minute.
Freedom senior midfielder Madison Meyer struck a shot on goal, but Riverview junior goalkeeper Chiara Brun made the save in the 45th minute.
Abraham then immediately ran through the entire Freedom defense and tried to score. Senior defender Morgan Keller made a great stop on her shot and kept the match scoreless.
The Raiders had their best chance to take the lead in the 56th minute. Abraham shot near post, but Vojtko saved it initially before spilling it. Junior defender/midfielder Molly Morrisey ran onto the ball, which was just five yards outside of goal, and shot it up on to the crossbar.
Junior midfielder/forward Cailey Trosch also had a good scoring opportunity for Riverview two minutes later, as she took a shot from outside the box, that Vojtko initially misjudged, but managed to make the save.
After missing a shot just seven minutes earlier, Bailey would have a massive impact for the Bulldogs in the 72nd minute. She stole the ball of a Raiders defender and passed it into the box to Mohrbacher, who took it first time, slotting it into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal.
“Tough game, really tough game,” Freedom head coach Colin Williams said following the match. “We knew coming into this it was going to be tougher than we’ve seen before. We had our chances, they had their chances. So it was just going to be one goal to put it in and fortunately, we got that goal.”
He also spoke on making sure his team knew that, despite the tough opponent and it serving as their first WPIAL final, they knew they had the talent to repeat as Champions.
“I told the girls, this is their World Cup,” Williams said on Riverview. “They’ve never been there before, but it’s ours to take. We were fashioned as champions, so it was just making sure we did our job.”
Mohrbacher didn’t play much in the playoffs last season, although she did play for Freedom in their WPIAL Championship last season. Her goal was similar to the one that she scored against OLSH in the WPIAL Semifinals, crediting Bailey for their relationship on the pitch, but also for Williams for his coaching throughout her high school career so far.
“He explains to us that soccer is life,” Mohrbacher said. “I watch Ted Lasso and he explains that “Soccer is Life.”
Vojtko played an important game for Freedom, making a number of crucial saves that kept them in it and eventually led to another WPIAL Title. This is her second straight season starting at goalkeeper and she just hopes she’ll keep up her great form to lead her team to a state title.
“It really means a lot to me,” Vojtko said on winning back-to-back WPIAL titles. “We’ve worked so hard throughout the season to just pull it out here.”
Both teams will play in the first round of the PIAA Playoffs on next Tuesday, Nov. 7. Freedom will host District 10 runner-ups Mercer on Tuesday, while Riverview will take on District 5 champions Conemaugh Township, just south of Johnstown, on the road.