ALVERTON — Olivia Cernuto was able to get behind the Ambridge defense in the second half, and the sophomore cashed in with a pair of goals in Southmoreland’s 3-1 victory over the visiting Lady Bridgers in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA girls soccer playoffs at Russ Grimm Stadium.

Cernuto gained control of the ball along the right sideline, dribbled her way through several defenders and drilled a shot to the far post past goaltender Rachel Guthrie for her first goal and a 2-0 lead at 30:26 of the second half.

Cernuto’s second goal started with a steal and a 20-yard sprint through the middle of the field for an uncontested shot on the near side to extend the advantage to 3-0.

“Olivia’s two goals were the difference,” said Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak.

Kylie Queer spotted Southmoreland the early lead on a goal assisted by Cernuto at 10:04 of the first half.

“Kylie, getting that first goal, gave us room for a mistake. That was essential,” said Pajak.

The game was rough-and-tumble at times with Ambridge trying to slow down the Lady Scots with physical play.

“They were a real physical team. That threw our timing off. Ambridge did a good job beating us to the ball (in the first half),” said Pajak. “We had them settle down at halftime and adjust.”

Southmoreland keeper Kaylee Keys made several big saves in both halves, but made a couple game-savers in the second half on shots from the Lady Bridgers’ Rachel Guthrie.

Guthrie fired a shot from deep to the left of Keys with 22:30 left in the game. Keys dove and managed to get her right hand on the shot, deflecting it wide of the far goal post.

“That was a great save. Kaylee did a good job coming off her line,” praised Pajak.

Guthrie broke down the slot 15 minutes later and launched a high shot that Keys handled. Keys also made several strong saves in the first half to keep Ambridge (4-6-1) off the scoreboard.

Guthrie did manage to slip the ball past Keys at 14:29 of the second half on a ricochet off a loose ball that somehow found its way inside the near post.

The Lady Scots (12-1-0) will host Avonworth (12-1-1) on Saturday at noon in the quarterfinals. The Lady Antelopes defeated Deer Lakes, 3-1.

“We have to get rid of our early game jitters. We have to play better. We willed through it. This was not our best effort,” said Pajak.

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