Burrell girls soccer gets redemption in WPIAL playoffs
To begin the season, Burrell rallied around the pain and heartbreak of last year’s first-round playoff loss to Charleroi. When the WPIAL girls soccer brackets were released last week, one word came to mind for Burrell coach Shelby Noll: redemption.
Burrell didn’t disappoint.The Bucs left no doubt about which team was better by putting up five first-half goals before heavy rains moved in for a 5-0 victory over No. 12 Charleroi in a WPIAL Class AA girls soccer first-round game Monday at Plum.
“I would definitely say that it was redemption, and it’s how it all works out,” Noll said. “At the beginning of the season, I said that I think we can beat Charleroi and, I think that we could have beaten them last year.”
No. 5 Burrell (12-3-1) advanced to face No. 4 Yough in the quarterfinals Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
The Bucs put their speed and offensive attack on display from the beginning. Their offense dominated from the outset and played most of the match in the Charleroi end.
Forward Danica Johnson scored what turned out to be the winner 9 minutes into the first half to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead.
“We knew it was going to be a tough (match) coming in,” said Charleroi coach Traci Fleming, whose team finished 8-10-1. “We knew we were going to have a hard time matching up to their speed. We just had a hard time keeping up with them. It just looked like there was two or three extra players on the field all the time.”
Skylar Dale extended the Bucs’ lead to 2-0 when the midfielder connected on a one-timer off a Kaylee Pagane corner kick.
Noll said the team was well aware of the high winds and heavy rain that was due to arrive during the game and didn’t want her team to leave anything to chance.
Forward Leesha Wagner got the message. Wagner notched a goal to bring the score to 3-0 with 18:09 left and came back a few seconds later to add her second goal and give Burrell a commanding four-goal lead.
“The first (goal) I could see net and I said, ‘This better go in,’ and it did,” Wagner said. “This is a huge (win) because it shows everybody, not just in our section, but in the whole entire WPIAL that we can do this. I’m proud of us because last year they beat us.”
The Bucs offense peppered Charleroi’s goalkeeper, Shayla Watkins, who had 16 saves on the night but stepped up in the second half on several Burrell scoring opportunities.
“With the rain, you never know,” said Noll. “We lost to Freeport because they had to call it two minutes into the second half because of the rain factor. I said that I don’t want the same thing happening here, so we have to play hard in the first half.”
The Bucs entered the postseason as one of the hottest scoring teams in Section 2-AA, having outscored opponents 30-7 in their past six games.
Wagner said a first-round bye would have been nice, but she was happy to jump right into the postseason to avoid losing the scoring touch.
“We were afraid that the gap would hurt us because we didn’t want to lose the scoring,” Wagner said.
Midfielder Annie Weimer added an insurance goal with 7:30 in the first half to complete the game’s scoring. Weimer, Dale and Megan Malits added assists for the Bucs.
“The girls, when they come to play, they come to play,” Noll said. “It’ll be a tough game Thursday, and we’ll just have to prepare and rest up.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.