South Fayette girls soccer shows hard work pays off
It was a step forward for the South Fayette girls soccer team.
The Lions’ season ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to Hampton in the WPIAL Class 3A consolation game Oct. 30, but for second-year coach Katie Munnell, it is a sign the work of the players and staff is paying off.
“Making the semifinals in my second year was huge,” Munnell said. “We have seen the efforts of the girls pay off. They fought in every game until the end.”
Rachel Weis scored a pair of goals in the loss to the Talbots, and Sara Meindl added another. South Fayette finished the season with an 11-8-1 record. The trip to the consolation game was the deepest playoff run for the program since 2015.
The Lions’ postseason run came after a bit of a slump. South Fayette finished the regular season with only one win in its final five games.
“I wish I could tell you what happened,” Munnell said. “It was something we debated as coaches. Things just weren’t connecting. In some of the games, we didn’t give our best effort. But we knew we had the potential to do more.”
The potential showed in the first two rounds of the playoffs. South Fayette scored a 2-1 win over Section 2-3A champion Belle Vernon in the first round. In the quarterfinals, the team played section rival West Allegheny. The Indians topped the Lions twice during the regular season -- 4-3 on Sept. 12 and 2-1 on Oct. 6 -- but South Fayette walked away with a 3-1 win to advance past the quarterfinals for the first time since 2015.
“It was a rivalry game,” Munnell said. “It was more than a playoff game. That gave us a deeper energy. You could see everyone from the back line to the top of the offense playing with more energy.”
The Lions were led in scoring by a trio of seniors. Weis led the team with 15 goals, Meindl was second with 14 and Helina VanBibber added 13.
“We had one girl finish in double digits last season,” Munnell said. “We walked into this season knowing we needed players to step up. And they did. We will definitely miss them.”
But some of the younger players on the roster also added to the Lions’ offense. Freshman Annalisa Mariano scored six goals this season. Sophomore Cecilia Gagliardino scored three.
Senior goalkeeper Faith Falick was a solid presence in front of the net to drive the Lions’ defense. She made 60 saves this season.
“She is a leader on the field,” Munnell said. “She is always talking, and the backline trusts her. She is a smart player. A ‘lack of effort’ isn’t something that can be used in the same sentence as her name. She saved us a lot of times this season.”
Other seniors on the roster included midfielder Maura Gagliardino -- who finished with three goals -- and defender Kareena Williams.