ROSTRAVER TWP. — Belle Vernon was out to prove the naysayers wrong, and although it didn’t start out well, the Lady Leopards were able to rally with three goals in the final 15 minutes to defeat Ambridge, 3-2, on Monday in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs at James Weir Stadium.
Belle Vernon (15-3) had lost in the first round of the playoffs the last three years, and head coach Tracy Lovett was glad to see her team get over the hump and advance to the quarterfinals. The Lady Leopards play Oakland Catholic (13-4-1) on Thursday with the site and time to be determined.
“This was the first time we’ve gone past the first round of the 2015 playoffs when I coached with Paul Sasko,” Lovett said. “I have been wanting this so much. I have his bracelet on today and I can’t help but feel like he was here. I didn’t want this season to end. We have three girls with over 20 goals this season.”
The Lady Bridgers (10-6-1) scored 1:07 into the match and extended their lead to 2-0 with 8:20 remaining before halftime that was carried over into the second half.
Ambridge used a defensive strategy for most of the second half, but an adjustment by Lovett got Belle Vernon going and Morgan Einodshofer broke the ice with a goal at 14:48 to cut the deficit to 3-1.
“I told them going out after halftime that the next goal is the biggest in the game,” Lovett said. “At that point, momentum changes, the game shifts and we start to gain control. Ambridge starts to break down. I heard them arguing with each other, and they weren’t doing that in the first half.
“We played our last exhibition game against Seton LaSalle, and it was just like this one in terms of the strategy they employed, so that really helped us tonight.”
The Lady Leopards tied the match with 4:10 left when a ball that was boomed by Adeline Guess from 45 yards out hit off a Lady Bridger and went into the net.
“She (Guess) is coming up big and did it again for the second game in a row,” Lovett said. “She is a key player and has been a key player all year. She plays year round and is very skilled.”
Belle Vernon took advantage of a set piece and scored the game winner with :37.6 seconds remaining when a corner kick by Einodshofer bounced around the box before coming to Chloe Morgan, who blasted the shot past Ambridge keeper Brooke Lively and the BVA faithful roared in appreciation.
“I knew we were going to have to get goals from other players,” Lovett said. “I knew they would be keying on our leading scorers, but all the girls on my team can score. We always work on set pieces.
“I really think the fans here and all the support from them, the band, the cheerleaders and the community really helped us tonight.”
The Lady Leopards didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half, but finished with seven. Belle Vernon keeper Grace Henderson made five saves and Lively stopped four.
The Lady Leopards had a 3-2 edge in corner kicks.
Gretchen Oslick and Sofia Chickos scored for the Lady Bridgers.