One might think avenging a last season’s quarterfinal loss to postseason rival, and defending WPIAL champion, Penn-Trafford would quiet the Fox Chapel girls soccer team’s hunger pains.
Wrong. The 3-2 win over the Warriors in Saturday’s season opener was just the appetizer.
“Winning that game made me personally more hungry and made some of my teammates more hungry, too,” said senior goalkeeper Kate Feczko, who had six saves against the Warriors. “We came out there (against Penn-Trafford), and we got into our huddle and the first thing we said was, ‘OK ladies, we know what happened last season,’ and they have a chip on their shoulders because of what happened last year.”
When Fox Chapel (1-0) faces Butler (1-0-1) on Wednesday, things will be different this time around as both are in Section 1-4A and they will see each other twice this year.
Fox Chapel begins the season against the final two opponents it saw in the 2017 postseason, and the Golden Tornadoe is next on the menu. There’s recent history between the teams.
The Foxes rolled through the 2017 regular season, finished atop the Section 3-4A standings and were pushed to the brink of elimination at home against Butler in the first round. The Foxes needed penalty kicks to score a 2-1 win over a tough Butler squad.
“This is a huge game for us since its a new section,” said senior attacker Maura Curry, who notched a goal against Penn-Trafford on Saturday. “I think teams are going to doubt us a little bit.”
Even though the Foxes have made their runs in the WPIAL and PIAA postseason brackets, there’s been a thought Fox Chapel benefited from playing in one of the weaker Class 4A sections.
Curry said the change in section and playing against some of the WPIAL’s top teams day-in and day-out almost certainly will be a challenge. She said it’s just as much of a physical challenge as it is going to be a mental one.
The Foxes also will face Pine-Richland, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, North Hills and Shaler in section play for at least the next two seasons.
“We know all the teams in the section, and the only teams we hadn’t played in a while is Shaler and North Allegheny,” Torres said. “We’re familiar with the opponents from a nonsection perspective, but now we’re gonna have to fight for one of four playoff spots in the section and it puts a greater emphasis on the section.”
Fox Chapel regularly has scheduled tough nonsection opponents to fill out its schedule.
“Our goal this year, since we moved into a new section, is to get up to speed and as game ready as we could,” Torres said. “We understand that every night is going to be a playoff atmosphere.”
With the help of first-half goals from Blair Echnat, Curry and Pitt recruit Sarah Sinnott, Fox Chapel jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead in the opener before the Penn-Trafford came back in the second half and made it a game. Fox Chapel learned two things about itself: It’s talented on offense, and it can buckle down on defense.
“The second half, Penn-Trafford came out really strong, and they tested our defense,” Feczko said. “I’m really glad it went like that, and I’m confident in our defense and offense.”
The game was a subtle reminder of the way the Foxes went about their business last season: jump out to a big first half lead, let the opponent back in the game in the second half and hang on for dear life until the end.
Torres said he thought about changing things during the second half but decided to let his players struggle a bit and play through adversity
“We lost a little bit of the possession in the second half and put (on) a little bit more pressure,” Torres said. “I didn’t want to go into a formation change in the second half, and I wanted the girls to work through it.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.