Freshman Ozimek nets 1st varsity goal to give South Park girls their 5th WPIAL title
Never let it be said that Nora Ozimek doesn’t have a flair for the dramatic. A freshman midfielder, Ozimek had been waiting all season to score her first goal for the South Park girls soccer team.
She couldn’t have picked a better time.
Ozimek buried a goal from just beyond the 6-yard box with 22 minutes, 42 seconds left in the WPIAL Class 2A championship game to lift South Park to a 1-0 victory over Hopewell Friday night at Highmark Stadium. With the win, South Park improved to 19-2 and captured its fifth WPIAL title and first since 2008. Hopewell fell to 15-2-1. Both teams will begin play in the PIAA tournament on Tuesday.
“It’s exiting,” Ozimek said. “I never scored a varsity goal. I still can’t believe it.”
Ozimek’s goal came on an assist from a teammate very familiar with goal-scoring. Haleigh Finale, who entered the game with 41 goals on the season, gained control of the ball just inside the 18-yard line and tapped a pass forward to Ozimek. Despite never scoring a varsity goal, Ozimek didn’t panic at the opportunity, taking a touch to control the ball before sliding it past the arms of Hopewell keeper Katelyn Ramaley.
“Haleigh is such a smart player,” South Park coach Shelly Thropp said. “She’s so good in tight spaces; she demands attention.”
South Park’s defense kept Hopewell in check for much of the match, allowing just two shots on goal. However, the second one nearly sent the game to overtime. With just under four minutes left in the game, Hopewell’s Raychel Speicher outran the South Park defense to a through ball and unloaded a laser with her left foot. The ball beat South Park keeper Ali Miklos, only to ring off the left post and away from the net.
“I’ve seen that happen a million times,” Hopewell coach Bill Pfeifer said. “A little to the right and that goes in. We were a post away from overtime.”
While not one to celebrate moral victories, Pfeifer was not hanging his head over the outcome. One of the top coaches in WPIAL history -- he led Moon to the last two WPIAL and PIAA championships -- Pfeifer took over a Hopewell program that won just two games a year ago and led it to the title game.
“I told them there are 90 other teams in the area sitting home tonight who would gladly change places with them,” Pfeifer said. “We’re not done yet. There is still a lot left to play for. It’s OK for them to be upset; it means they care. They’re buying into the program we’re building here.”