The Connellsville girls soccer team dropped a hard-fought, 1-0 decision to visiting Belle Vernon in Section 6-AAA action.
But it’s hard to imagine the Falcons giving a more spirited effort.
“The girls stepped up,” Connellsville coach Jeff Puskar said. “Our coverage was strong, and we marked really well. Belle Vernon tries to outnumber you, but the girls really stayed with their marks.”
Connellsville’s defensive strategy worked for most of the game. Belle Vernon (10-2-2, 8-0-2) had the majority of the scoring chances throughout, but Connellsville (7-7, 6-4) didn’t provide many clean looks at the goal.
“It was a very good game,” Belle Vernon coach Paul Sasko said. “Connellsville always plays us tough here. Their team is a different team when we play them here. They played physical, and they marked really tight. They played a great game.”
Earlier this season, Belle Vernon beat Connellsville, 4-0, but the Falcons were so strong defensively that they were able to keep the rematch close throughout.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Puskar said.
There were plenty of reason’s for Puskar’s excitement. The Falcons got great goaltending from Ashlyn Fratto. Plus, Mia Lonigro, Aria Kreinbrook and Kensey Durst all caught Puskar’s eye defensively.
“Ashlyn Fratto played great, and it extended out to Mia, Aria and Kensey,” Puskar said.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, one great play by Belle Vernon senior Kylee Heck was the difference.
Approximately 16 minutes into the first half, Heck, who played at Connellsville before she transferred to Belle Vernon after her sophomore season, grabbed a loose ball near midfield and was able to beat two Connellsville defenders. Heck raced in on goal and slid a low shot that beat Fratto for the game’s only score.
“Kylee made a nice play at midfield, and she had a good look, and she buried it,” Sasko said. “Big-time players score big-time goals, and she is a big-time player.”
The Falcons, despite giving up a goal, never gave in.
They continued with their defensive strategy and, occasionally, were able to generate a scoring chance. On two occasions, the Falcons just missed the net on good opportunities.
In the last seconds of the game, Allyson Panzella sent a header toward the Belle Vernon goal. However, Lindsey Lash, who wasn’t tested much, was in perfect position to make the save and preserve the win.
“We had three golden opportunities, and if we put any one of those in, maybe it’s a different story,” Puskar said.
Still, the Falcons likely gained a lot of confidence from this game, and they will try to apply it in upcoming section games against Yough, Waynesburg and Albert Gallatin.
“We still have to try to take care of Yough and Albert Gallatin and, hopefully, Waynesburg,” Puskar said.
Connellsville’s next game is Wednesday at Yough.