ROSTRAVER TWP. — It couldn’t have started any worse for Brownsville, as Steel Valley scored 28 seconds into Monday’s WPIAL Class AA first-round playoff match at James Weir Stadium on the campus of Belle Vernon Area High School, but the Lady Falcons didn’t let it affect them in rallying for a 3-2 victory.
“We don’t panic,” Brownsville coach Cedar Brunache said. “I also want to congratulate Steel Valley. They are a very good team and well coached. No. 21 (Kelsey Salopek) on that team, I’m not sure her name, is a very great player, and she gave us a bit of a fit tonight.”
Brownsville (10-6) advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals to play No. 2 seed North Catholic (11-4) at a site and time to be determined.
“We are going to be prepared for North Catholic,” Brunache said. “Based on the standings, they are a great team, but if we played the game just on paper, we would already relinquish and give them the win. We are going to bring our best efforts. We lost to a great Quaker Valley team at this field last year, so it was great to be able to redeem ourselves tonight.”
“We have had tough matches like this before, and we learned that you just have to keep pushing and pushing,” Brownsville senior captain Chloe Wright said. “Last year, we let down for a second and had a really heartbreaking loss in the first round of the playoffs. We played at this field last year in the playoffs, so a much better feeling this time around. Tie games can go anyway, so we didn’t want this way to go into overtime.”
Brownsville’s Tessa Dellarose, a sophomore who is headed to the University of North Carolina after her high school career concludes, tied the match with a reverse kick at 23:26 after receiving a pass from her sister, Talia Dellarose. Tessa, who has 49 goals this season, had seven of the Lady Falcons’ eight shots on goal in the first half. Teammate Gracie Stetson had the other shot on target, which was a free kick from 25 yards out at 25:35.
Tessa Dellarose scored on a rebound at 35:36 of the second half for a 2-1 lead after she was stopped on the initial shot by Lady Ironwoman keeper Casey Semenko.
“I know our team is strong mentally and psychically, and I know that we can come back from anything, so I didn’t have a worry about the first goal,” said Tessa Dellarose in reference to trailing early in the match. “On the first goal, I saw it go over the goalie’s head, and I was just hoping to keep it in somehow. I really didn’t expect it to go in. On the second goal, she made the save, but I just kept going because you never want to give up on a play.”
Brownsville thought it had a two-goal advantage after Maralee Dugan scored, but the goal was waved off due to a foul.
Talia Dellarose scored what turned out to be the winning goal when she fired a bullet from 40 yards out at 23:08 for a 3-1 lead. The ball trickled into the middle of the field before Dellarose buried the shot.
“I saw the ball bouncing and I saw a little bit of miss communication between the other girls, and I was like, ‘This is an opportunity,’ so I just came forward and took the shot,” Dellarose said. “I think when they start playing physical, we know that we have to move the ball a lot quicker to continue to be safe on the field. We were kind of in playoff mode last week because we had to beat Mount Pleasant to get in the playoffs last week. I am so proud of all our girls. They come out game ready, and it shows on the field.”
Steel Valley (11-7) cut the deficit to 3-2 when Krystal Phouthavong scored at 20:13 of the second half, but the Lady Falcons were able to hang on.
The Lady Falcons had a chance for a three-goal advantage when Stetson’s free kick from 38 yards out hit the cross-bar. Stetson, a junior who was Brownsville’s leading scorer her freshman year, has switched to defense.
“I know if I can get it out of the back, I can get it to Tessa,” Stetson said. “I wasn’t positive it was going to go in on the free kick, but it would have been nice for that one to go in. I am just doing the best I can to help our team win.”
The Lady Ironwomen had a chance on the other end after Stetson’s free kick, but Lady Falcons freshman keeper Kami Franks made the save.
Steel Valley marked Tessa Dellarose for most of the match, which is nothing new for her, as teams have deployed the tactic in most contests this season.
“You just have to deal with it and play through it,” said Dellarose in reference to teams marking her in most matches.
Despite giving up the early goal on a floater by Steel Valley’s Diana Craycroft, Franks made two saves in the first half and six overall.
“Kami (Franks) is an athlete, so when she messes up, she gets down on herself, but we just made sure to tell her that you’re good and we are going to get it back,” Wright said. “After that second goal went in, I told Talia, ‘Talk to her and tell her she’s fine.’ She is a good keeper, especially for her first year. We are really happy with how she played.”
Brownsville had 17 shots on goal and Semenko made 14 saves. The Lady Ironwoman had a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.