#PGHSoccer 2016 HS Girls Forecast: Norwin, GCC Return As Strong Favorites #WPIAL

USC Beats Norwin
Upper St. Clair upset Norwin, 2-1, to advance to the 2015 PIAA State Title game in Hershey last November. (Photo Courtesy of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Much like the boys — High School girls soccer in our region will start the season with some familiar teams that are expected to continue to be primary contenders for section and WPIAL titles.  There are two schools that are pretty strong favorites to lift WPIAL (PIAA District 7) trophies at Highmark Stadium again in November — Norwin in Class 4A and Greensburg Central Catholic.

After many years of having three classifications — we are now entering a new era with four classifications in Pennsylvania (and WPIAL) high school soccer.  And instead of referring to them as Class A, AA and AAA, etc., it appears the suggested format is now 4A, 2A, 3A, 1A etc.

For a complete look at all four of the new classifications — here’s the link with a section-by-section breakdowns.

The Knights went 24-1 last year and captured the WPIAL Class AAA title in a season which they outscored opponents 132-8.

Their perfect season was derailed by another WPIAL foe, Upper St. Clair, 2-1, in the PIAA semifinals.

“Walking off that field when we lost, we knew we fell short,” junior Emily Harrigan told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier this week.

“It was one of the worst feelings. It has been motivation throughout camp.”

Harrigan returns to a talented group that also features a number of players that have been playing together for Norwin, but also for the Riverhounds Development Academy.

Senior Lexie Kolano, a Cincinnati recruit returns to the team — along with Harrigan made up the team’s two leading scorers.  The team can also rely on a pair of Duquesne commits in the midfield with juniors Alyssa Victor and Lexy Kendro.

Norwin will look to spread the wealth on the attack as senior Kelly Kingerski – an Indiana University of Pennsylvania recruit – will have an extended role this season on the outside.

While they will be filling in with some newer players on the back line, they’ll still have junior Sam Wexell in net.  Last season, Wexell posted 19 shutouts.

With the move to four classifications, the middle groups (2A and 3A) might provide a lot of potential contenders.  Last year’s Class AA finalists, South Park and WPIAL Champs Mars, have both moved up to 3A, but will now have competition from schools that were previously in Class AAA (watch out for traditional strong programs like Moon and Central Valley which avoided being put into the top tier classification).

The most interesting, and unknown classification may be 2A — with a lot of schools that have never won a WPIAL title bunched up in the mix near the top of the preseason rankings.

Last year, in Class A, Charleroi made it to the WPIAL final for the first time in 15 years and took Greensburg Central Catholic to overtime — only to lose on a heartbreaking shot from distance.   This year, with a number of returning players, Charleroi moves up a classification, and away from GCC, and could be contender for the top spot in a new look 2A.

Much like the boys side, the lowest classification in WPIAL girls soccer also has a team that will be very difficult to knock off the mantle — Greensburg Central Catholic.

Much like its run when they had current Penn State standout Frannie Crouse, this GCC team has already won a WPIAL title — and dominated much of its competition at this level.  In addition, they showcase a player — Bailey Cartwright, a Notre Dame recruit — who has been a scoring machine at this level.

Cartwright, who also plays for the Riverhounds Development Academy, already has the career state record with 118 assists  will enter her senior year with 166 career goals.

Despite winning the WPIAL crown in 2015, the Centurions were ravaged by injuries in the playoffs to key players–as  Shannon Salley suffered a broken leg a mere 40 seconds into the WPIAL Class A final. Then came a torn ACL that ended the season of senior Sarah Ward, followed by a sprained ankle for midfielder Keli Rosensteel.

By the time they reached the 2nd round of the PIAA tournament — with a shortened roster — GCC fell to Karns City by a goal — wiping out a chance to get the state title.

If they stay healthy this year, they should be among the favorites to take this year’s 1A PIAA title.

THIS WEEK’S KEY MATCH-UPS

Friday, Sept. 2 

Shady Side Academy at  Fox Chapel     3:30 p.m.

Vincentian Academy at Sewickley Academy  4:15 p.m.

Saturday, Sept 3 

Bethel Park at Penn Trafford   12:30 pm

Chartiers Valley vs Charleroi at Avonworth Tournament      3 pm

Upper St. Clair at Erie McDowell   3:30 pm

Pine-Richland at Mars          7 pm

Tuesday, Sept. 6

Fox Chapel at Upper St. Clair   7 pm – This is a non-section rematch of the WPIAL semifinal a year ago that went to penalty kicks.

TRIBUNE-REVIEW PRESEASON RANKINGS

4A 

1. Norwin (26-1)   Defending Class AAA WPIAL Champs

2. Canon-McMillan (17-1-1)

3. Fox Chapel (19-3-1)

4. Upper St. Clair (20-2-1)  Defending Class AAA PIAA Champs 

5. Pine-Richland (13-4-1)

3A 

1. Mars (16-4-2)  Defending (Class AA) WPIAL Champs 

2. South Park (23-2-1)

3. Moon (14-4)

4. Central Valley (15-2-1)

5. South Fayette (14-6-2)

2A

1. Charleroi (18-3-2)

2. Yough (9-7-2)

3. Highlands (12-4)

4. Freedom (14-6-1)

5. South Allegheny (15-3-1)

1A 

1. Greensburg Central Catholic (22-2)  Defending (Class A) WPIAL Champs 

2. Shady Side Academy (17-5)

3. Vincentian Academy (15-5)

4. Sewickley Academy (9-8-3)

5. Bentworth (10-8-1)

• Records from 2015

Players to watch

Class AAAA

Player, school Class Position

Athena Biondi, Penn-Trafford Sr. D

Deena DeBaldo, Fox Chapel Sr. MF

Amanda Kalin, Pine-Richland Sr. F

Lexie Kolano, Norwin Sr. F

Landy Mertz, Upper St. Clair So. F

Class AAA

Player, school Class Position

Tori Kopchak, Mars Sr. F

Carolina Lucci, Central Valley Sr. F

Jordyn Minda, South Park Jr. F

Kate Nelson, South Fayette Sr. D

Emma Thomas, Moon Sr. MF

Class AA

Player, school Class Position

Alexis Bengel, Highlands Sr. MF

Emily Franzetta, Yough Jr. F

Taylor Gunn, Highlands Sr. F

Kaitlyln Riley, Charleroi Jr. F

Alexa Schwab, Freedom Sr. F

Class A

Player, school Class Position

Bailey Cartwright, Greensburg C.C. Sr. F

Elizabeth Harper, Shady Side Academy Sr. F

Samantha Potter, Vincentian Academy Sr. MF

Shannon Salley, Greensburg C.C. Sr. MF/D

Abby Skatell, Greensburg C.C. Sr. MF/F

CHECK OUT OUR 2016 BOYS HS SOCCER FORECAST HERE.

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