Oakland Catholic girls soccer blanks Kiski Area to reach semifinals for 1st time
Kiski Area hoped to take a further step in the girls soccer playoffs this season, but an Oakland Catholic team making its own school history kept the Cavaliers from climbing the ladder.
Hannah Henn scored a hat trick, leading No. 2 Oakland Catholic to a 3-0 victory over No. 7 Kiski Area in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal game Wednesday at Norwin and sending the Eagles to the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“It’s about the culture and the attitude and the morale,” said Oakland Catholic coach Jim Earle, whose team will play No. 14 South Fayette in the semifinals Saturday at a time and site to be determined. “These girls are such a tight-knit group. They love each other, they support each other, the culture’s phenomenal, they work hard. It’s just a special team. They come around every so often, and this is one of them.”
Kiski Area (14-5) fell in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season, unable to match its performance from a 4-0 first-round win over Plum.
“It’s hard,” coach Melisa O’Toole said. “I still think we’re better than them. We just didn’t play to our capabilities. A couple bounces didn’t go our way, and we just didn’t connect. One girl would go one way, and we’d think something different. You hate to see a team with a lot of talent lose like that, but hopefully we can learn from it.”
Although the lower-seeded team, Kiski Area had a longer postseason history than Oakland Catholic (16-1). The Cavaliers were making their fourth consecutive playoff appearance and second consecutive quarterfinal trip, while Oakland Catholic’s 2-0 first-round win over Gateway was the first postseason victory in school history.
But that mattered little as the Eagles, who rolled to the Section 3-AAA championship, won their 16th consecutive game since a season-opening loss to Seneca Valley.
“I think in practice, the work ethic is there and we always are supporting each other,” said Henn, a sophomore who has a team-high 26 goals. “It shows on the field when we’re playing as a team.”
Earle called the win a statement victory for Oakland Catholic, which finished 6-12 last season.
“Kiski’s really, really outstanding, and the ball just bounced our way tonight,” Earle said. “Sometimes that happens. Our girls played hard, I thought they played a great game, I thought they worked really hard. But we got some good bounces, and Hannah Henn’s speed up there is tough to reckon with.”
Oakland Catholic recorded its fifth consecutive shutout as Maggie Storti made 10 saves, including several key stops in the second half.
The biggest early save for the Eagles came from the crossbar, as Kiski Area midfielder Kaylee Elwood’s shot rang off in the seventh minute of the contest. About 10 minutes later, Henn scored her first goal, taking a pass from Anna Sproule and putting it past Kiski Area goalkeeper Kira Brown from inside the box.
″(Elwood’s shot) was a great strike,” O’Toole said. “That one goes in, it’s a completely different game. I don’t know for sure about their first goal; it looked to be offsides. It may not have been, but if it was and that doesn’t go in, that might change it, too.
“But you can’t blame the referees; our kids just didn’t play well enough to win tonight. I’m not saying they played bad, I’m just saying obviously the end result wasn’t in our favor, so I hope the girls that are returning feel that now and use that as fuel for next year.”
Henn scored her second goal of the game on a rebound with just under three minutes remaining in the first half and completed the hat trick just over 10 minutes into the second half.
“After a not-so-good season last year, it was really hard to come back and just start over, but I think we did that,” Henn said. “It means a lot.”
Kiski Area returns 10 of its 11 starters from Wednesday next season, when the Cavaliers again will seek an elusive semifinal trip.
“I like to think we can build off the juniors down to the freshmen and make it a bigger impact next year,” O’Toole said.