Hailey Kravetz on the attack for Altoona against Emma Schupansky.
By John Hartsock
Marc Frye’s first season as the head coach of the Altoona Area High School girls soccer team was a memorable one this fall.
Altoona won the District 6 Class 4A championship and captured a victory in a PIAA subregional playoff game for the first time in program history.
The Lady Lions rolled into Tuesday night’s PIAA first-round playoff matchup against North Allegheny at Mansion Park riding a 13-game winning streak.
Although Altoona’s season ended when North Allegheny posted a 4-2 victory, there were plenty of pleasant things about this season for Frye and the players to reflect upon.
“We’re disappointed with tonight’s loss, but happy with this season,” said Frye, whose team finished with a 15-6 record. “I thought we could have played better than we did tonight, but you have to give credit where credit is due. North Allegheny has a quality program, and their ball movement tonight was fantastic.
“Their players have a very good soccer IQ, and they played off the ball in space as well as any team that we’ve faced this year,” Frye added. “I’m proud of where we got this year.”
So was Altoona’s star senior forward Hailey Kravetz, who set a program record for single-season goals this year, scoring her 45th of the season Tuesday night.
“We definitely came together as a team,” Kravetz said. “This team made it further this season than any girls soccer team in school history ever has, and I’m proud of this team. I know that, next season, this team will keep that momentum going.”
After Kravetz opened the scoring in Tuesday’s game with an unassisted goal off a shot from in front of the cage 3:38 into the contest, North Allegheny responded with three goals later in the first half to take a 3-l lead at intermission.
Senior forward Abigail Stager found open space in the middle of the field and planted a kick into the left side of the cage at the 11:35 mark to tie the game, 1-1. Freshman forward Kiernan Shannon took a feed from Gracie Strzempek and scored on a shot into the upper left corner of the cage at 23:22, putting North Allegheny (22-1 this season) ahead, 2-1, and senior midfielder Ally Ruiz scored on a free kick at the 34:13 mark to give North Allegheny its 3-1 lead at intermission.
“We dug ourselves a little bit of a deeper hole in the first half than I would have liked,” Frye said.
Even so, Altoona made a game of it in the second half, narrowing its deficit to 3-2 on a free kick by freshman midfielder Ava Frye with 15:26 left in the game.
“I thought it was an awesome game, and both teams competed very well,” said North Allegheny coach Chuck Kelley, whose team had lost to Fox Chapel in the WPIAL Class 4A championship game. “Sometimes, in the first round of the state playoffs, it can be difficult to refocus after being involved in a district championship game.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure to score goals at this stage of the postseason, but we know that we have several different players who can step up and score goals for us,” added Kelley, whose squad beat Altoona, 11-3 in and season-opening matchup at Mansion Park in late August.
Junior forward Isabella Costa provided the clincher for North Allegheny Tuesday when she scored off an assist from Stager with less than two minutes left in the game to give North Allegheny a 4-2 lead.
Altoona senior goal keeper Aubrey Dietzel played an excellent game, making 26 saves for the Lady Lions, who were heavily outshot in the game, 30-4.
“Aubrey Dietzel was outstanding, she did her part tonight,” Marc Frye said. “She gave up her senior year this year to become our keeper, and she worked her tail off. She gave us a performance tonight that enabled us to have a chance to win this game.”
Dietzel and Kravetz are among the senior leaders who will graduate at the end of this school year for Altoona, but Frye said that the team will have a good returning nucleus for next season.
“We’re losing some strong seniors, but we will have a lot of good underclassmen coming back next season,” Frye said. “We had three freshmen and a handful of sophomores starting for us tonight. We’ll be back next year, and I am looking forward to next season.”
SCORE BY HALVES
North Allegheny 3 1-4
Altoona 1 1–2
1, A—Kravetz (unassisted), 3:38. 2, NA–Stager (Coy), 11:35. 3, NA–Shannon (Strzempek), 23:22. 4, NA–Ruiz (unassisted), 34:13.
5, A—Frye (unassisted), 24:34. 6, NA–Costa (Stager), 38:30.
Shots on goal: North Allegheny 30, Altoona 4.
Saves: Cancer, NA, 2; Dietzel, A, 26.
Records: North Allegheny (22-1); Altoona (15-6).
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