MONROEVILLE — Avonworth may have been the No. 5 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A girls soccer playoffs, but in reality, the Antelopes may have had the best chance of knocking off defending champion North Catholic.
The teams are Section 1 foes and during the regular season, the Trojanettes won a 2-1 decision in mid-October and battled Avonworth to a scoreless draw in late September.
The tie was the only contest against Class 2A competition that North did not win this season.
In Saturday's district final, the Antelopes played the Trojanettes evenly, but it was Jayden Sharpless' goal on a free kick in the 35th minute that was the difference in North's 1-0 victory at Gateway's Antimarino Stadium.
“We drew on our experience from last year,” said North coach Emily Karr. “We knew what it feels like to be playing for a WPIAL title and were confident coming in here.”
The Antelopes had a golden opportunity early. Just 90 seconds into the game, junior forward Ava Wert's shot from the left of North's net smacked off the right end of the crossbar, just inches from being a goal.
Sharpless' attempt later in the half was exactly where the Trojanettes needed it to be. From 31 yards out, her boot was placed just below the crossbar and inches from the reach of Avonworth goalkeeper Maggie Pappas.
“We hit several posts, were just a bit unlucky on the day,” said Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan. “The shot that they scored on, there was some luck involved there. But soccer can be cruel like that.”
Karr had a different perspective on Sharpless' decisive tally.
“She practices that shot all the time and I've seen her hit it before,” she said. “That's not luck. It comes from hard work.”
Another shot by the Antelopes (14-2-1) that was painfully close to being a goal came in the 57th minute. Mia Burens put her foot into a free kick 19 yards from North's goal. The ball bounced once before being headed by Josephina Skillen and the ball hit the crossbar.
The Antelopes made things interesting in the final minute. Sharpless' free kick was saved by Pappas with 20 seconds remaining and Avonworth worked the ball across midfield and into the attacking third, but was unable to get a shot off before the game ended.
Pappas denied the Trojanettes four times while North's Andrea Bean had six saves.
“We knew Avonworth was going to come in strong,” said North senior Daniella Newara. “They are really good in the midfield, but so are we on defense. Our back line is strong.”
Newara was part of that defense along with Lindsey Pawlawski, Ava Billmann, Tess McMichael and Elle McKenzie.
The Trojanettes (13-2-1) will begin play in the state playoffs Saturday against District 9 champion Clearfield.