After a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in the state championship to Allentown Central Catholic, the Lady Lopes Soccer team came back to Pittsburgh 2nd place in the state and silver medalists, capping off one of the best seasons in recent memory. While they were unfortunately not able to bring home the title, their season was nothing short of exceptional.
Going 13-2-1 in the regular season, the team felt confident going into the WPIAL playoffs, and it showed in their play.
The 6th seeded Lopes opened up the playoffs with a home win over 11th seeded Burell, 2-0, with goals being scored by freshman Fiona Mahan and sophomore Minah Syam. They moved into the quarter-finals, facing a tough 2nd seeded South Park team, but after a hard-fought game, the Lopes came away with the win 3-1. With that win, they entered the semi-finals for the second straight year, facing the same opponent in Southmoreland. The Lopes were on the attack the entire game and were able to come out with a 4-1 victory, sending them to the WPIAL Championship against rival and 1st seeded North Catholic.
Entering the WPIAL championship game on November 6th, only one thing was on the players’ minds. Kayla Geouque, a freshman on the team commented on the team’s feelings before the game: “I feel really good about it, our energy is really up.” Expectations rolled high leading up to the game, as the Lopes’ had defeated their rivals just weeks before in a dominant 2-1 victory at home.
With these expectations came some emotions. “It’s really exciting and nerve-racking at the same time”, said freshman Alessia Padalino about what it’s like to be in the WPIAL Championship her first year on the team. “With being a freshman there are a lot of nerves trying not to mess up. Overall I’m very excited and hope that this isn’t the last time we make it this far.”
The game jumped to a quick start, with both teams notching their first points 20 minutes in, the Avonworth goal coming from senior Mia Burens. The score stayed still for the remainder of regulation, knotted at 1-1. The game quickly grew physical, and even dirty as the battle stretched on. With a handful of missed chances from both sides, Avonworth and North Catholic found themselves in not one, but two overtimes.
When it seemed like the game was slipping out of the Lopes’ hands, freshman Fiona Mahan drilled a shot from 30 yards out and right over the keeper’s head for the hard-fought win. In an interview with TribLive, Fiona said, “I had so many shots in this game that I was hoping one of them would have gone in. I think I hit that one hard enough that nobody could save it.”
Because the Antelopes finished in the top 3 of their division, they moved on to the PIAA State Playoffs. They played their first game on Tuesday, November 9, against Fort LeBoeuf. The Lopes cruised past the Bison, 4-0, in a statement win at home, with goals from Fiona Mahan, and seniors Mia Burens and Ava Wert, with Wert scoring twice.
Following the four-goal shutout on the 9th, the Lady Lopes traveled two hours across the state to Hollidaysburg on the 13th, to face off against the Camp Hill Trinity High School Shamrocks. The frosty November morning held both teams to no goals after the first half, but things changed quickly into the second.
Fiona Mahan scored a free-kick from over 30 yards out, giving the Lopes the edge four minutes into the second half, already marking her 5th goal of the postseason. The dynamic freshman then added on seven minutes later with a penalty kick, raising the Antelopes to lead 2-0. Trinity was unable to erase the deficit, and the Lopes would go onto the semi-finals to play, you guessed it, North Catholic, for the fourth time this season.
On Tuesday, November 16, the Antelopes and Trojans faced off for one final battle at North Hills’ Martorelli Stadium. The Lopes came into the game holding the season series lead, with 2 games won to NC’s 1 game. But for Avonworth, none of that mattered now. With a trip to the PIAA State Championship on the line, Avonworth brought their best stuff, and North Catholic was clearly unprepared. The game picked up right where the WPIAL championship left off, a stalemate.
But, with 10 minutes left in the half, Ava Wert tapped in a goal, assisted by Fiona Mahan, sending the lopes to a 1-0 heading into the half. Right out the gate of halftime, the Lopes own Mia Burens scored only a couple of minutes after kickoff. After some incredible saves by goaltender Maggie Pappas, Mia added onto the lead, marking 3-0, as the Lopes cruised to victory over the Trojans and punched their ticket to Hershey.
The Lopes sped off to Hershey, PA, after an encouraging good-bye from the students on a dreary Thursday morning. Students piled into the library or wherever else they could view the game on the highly anticipated Friday morning.
Energy rang through the Avonowrth halls, and it too was felt at Hershey, with Ava Wert putting the Lopes up 1-0 against a formidable Allentown Central Catholic team, only minutes into the game. The goal sparked a flurry of excitement back home, as the Lopes stole the early lead. After a one-sided start, the half ended at 1-0, and the stalemate stretched on into the second half.
With only three minutes left in the game, the Lopes were still holding onto their 1-0 lead, and as students comfortably switched classes expecting to see a trophy ceremony in the following minutes. But after getting to their next class, they realized that we had not only lost our lead, but Allentown had actually taken it, now up 2-1. The spirits in the school fell, as students lost hope at winning a soccer state championship, but turned their attention to the football game later that night.
An unfortunate end to the season made the atmosphere in the school drop, however, the school could not be prouder with how the girls played this season. And with generational talent on the team, especially amongst the freshman and sophomores, the girls’ soccer team only seems more promising in the years to come. With this talent, hopes for a state championship next year have never been higher.
Additional Reporting from Garrett Dzubiek