Still nationally ranked, Norwin girls soccer out to defend PIAA title
Norwin still is considered one of the top 50 girls soccer teams in the nation so, naturally, the Knights have to be one of the favorites again in WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A. The Knights are No. 42 in the national preseason rankings put out by Top Drawer Soccer.
A year ago, they opened the season at No. 1. A gifted, senior-powered group led the team to its first state championship since 1996 and a runner-up finish in the WPIAL. Norwin went 24-2-1 with its senior group -- 81-7-3 over four years -- and won two WPIAL titles.
“We thought we’d drop significantly because we had to replace that great senior class,” Norwin coach Lauren Karcher said. “It’s kind of nice not to have that pressure (to be No. 1), but at the same time, it’s nice to know we still have a lot of talent, and the new seniors are motivated to have their turn.”
Norwin’s reputation as a perennial power has not changed.
“We’ve had trouble getting teams to play us,” Karcher said.
One of the most talented teams in school history, the connective tissue in the program for four years, had four all-state players in forwards Emily Harrigan and Lexy Kendro, goalkeeper Sam Wexell and defender Emily Arnold. Harrigan’s speed and scoring and Wexell’s quick hands and reflexes around the net will be tough to replace. Harrigan, an All-American who is at Rutgers, scored a school-record 93 career goals, and Wexell, a freshman at Ohio University, posted 53 career shutouts.
“That is a lot to have to live up to,” said incoming senior defender Maddy Genicola, a Duquesne recruit. “But we’re still confident and have very high hopes. We have a lot of juniors and sophomores, too, who are looking to step up to the plate.”
The six current seniors have been to three WPIAL finals and only are familiar with seasons that include long postseasons.
“Don’t look for the same formations from last year. We still have some different spots to fill to see who fits in best,” Karcher said. “What gives us the best cohesiveness.”
Another Division I recruit also returns in junior Eva Frankovic, who recently changed her commitment from Kent State to Pitt. A defender with an attacking mentality out of the backfield, she and Genicola could be asked to do more offensively, depending on how the team shapes out.
“We’ve all been there before,” Frankovic said of the WPIAL finals. “It would be weird if we didn’t make it. The girls are motivated. I love to move up and attack. I played some midfield the other day, and it was a good time.”
Another key returnee is junior Dani Iannuzzo, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Neshaminy in the state title game in Hershey. Wexell’s successor will be either sophomore Liz Waszkiewicz or freshman Riley Morningstar, the latter of whom stands 5-foot-7.
“We’re excited to see what some of the younger girls can do,” Karcher said.
Other key contributors include sophomore Katelyn Kauffman, a Pitt recruit who can play in the front; sophomore Lacey Burnick, who started last season; senior Alexis Gray, a NAIA Lourdes (Ohio) recruit who scored in a state playoff game.
Senior Kendyl Kranitz, whom Karcher said is “always in the right place,” and senior Kiana Francis, a versatile player with length, will be counted on, as well. Also watch senior Carly Reith, a transfer from Serra Catholic, and sophomore Anna Durmis. Senior Bri Rose, a Clarion recruit, is out with a knee injury.
Norwin and Penn-Trafford played three classics last year to further enhance their decades-long rivalry, with Penn-Trafford winning two, 1-0 at home and 2-1 in the WPIAL championship. The teams tied 0-0 at Norwin.
“States kind of erased the wound,” Karcher said of losing twice to the Warriors. “But our girls want another chance to win a WPIAL title.”
Said Frankovic: “We play (Penn-Trafford) September 24.”