Tuesday, November 2, 2021, TRIB-LIVE
Fox Chapel secured the No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A field hockey playoffs for the second year in a row.
And for the second consecutive season, the Foxes finished second in the WPIAL.
Penn-Trafford (16-0) slipped past Fox Chapel, 1-0, to win the title Saturday at W&J’s Cameron Stadium and claim a sixth consecutive WPIAL title.
“The girls played with great heart and skill and executed the strategies. We had some great opportunities but weren’t able to capitalize on them,” FC coach Emily Humiston said. “Regardless of the outcome, we are still very proud of the skill they demonstrated and the fight they put out on the field.
“Our expectations at the beginning of the season were to make it to the championship game to fight for a gold medal but also to use every practice and every game to do something better than the last time they did it. We made quite a few strategic changes through the season, and every girl has been open to trying something new and finding ways to achieve our overall goals.”
Fox Chapel’s starting lineup in the WPIAL finals featured junior Anna Drum and seniors Izabella Stern and Jessica Balk at forward; with two seniors, Olivia Pelcher and Alden March, and two juniors, Mercer Murton and Aly Solomon, at midfield.
On defense, Meghan DeLuca and Sydney Kennedy, both seniors, and junior Caroline Bonidy set up in front of goalkeeper Mira Tramontina, a three-year starter who posted six shutouts this season and 12 in her career.
Among the team’s reserves were seniors Isabella Stern (D) and M/F Isabella Geraci (M/F).
After a slow start, Fox Chapel won six of eight games prior to the WPIAL playoffs. The Foxes ended up 8-8 overall and 7-3 in section games
“Coming off of a runner-up award last year, I was expecting to make it to the (WPIAL) championships again,” Tramontina said.
“Our team has grown a lot. Last year, we only played in section games and we did very well. This year, they put more out-of-section games on our schedule and went through some hard losses, but we also learned from those games.”
The 5-foot-2 Tramontina is a multi-sport athlete at Fox Chapel. She also competes in lacrosse and is a diver on the girls swim team. She began playing field hockey in seventh grade.
“I played defense up until my freshman year when we needed a goalie. I decided that I would step up and learn (the position),” Tramontina said. “My season has gone well. I definitely didn’t start the season the best I could. I was rusty and slow at the beginning, just relearning all of the movements after being off the winter and spring.
“As the season progressed, I saw a change in myself and the team. We all got back into the groove one game at a time.”
Tramontina serves as captain on all three squads, and participates in several clubs at FC including Best Buddies and Student Ambassadors. She has a 3.97 GPA and plans to attend a four-year college.
She finished with five saves against Penn-Trafford in the championship game.
“Penn-Trafford is a great team,” Tramontina said. “They have some very talented players who know how to play the game. They’ve worked and earned all of their wins this year.”
P-T sophomore Ava Hershberger scored the game’s only goal with 2 minutes, 49 seconds left in the second quarter. It was her 39th goal of the season.
Despite the tough loss, Tramontina said the Foxes turned in their best overall performance of the season.
“It was obvious through the game that our defense was working hard to keep the ball out, which they did wonderfully,” she said. “Our offense kept pushing the ball any chance they could, which was especially noticeable in the fourth quarter when we kept driving to the goal.
“Overall I’m very happy with how we played. Everyone played to their best potential.”
The Warriors have become Fox Chapel’s chief nemeses, having blanked the Foxes twice during the regular season by scores of 1-0 and 2-0. FC also lost to Penn-Trafford, 2-1, in the WPIAL finals in 2020.
“We have been right there keeping up with Penn-Trafford,” Humiston said.
“We know they have a handful of very talented players, but we do too. Being the underdog can be a very powerful motivation tool.”
Fox Chapel blanked No. 3 seed Upper St. Clair, 2-0, on Oct. 26 in the first round of the playoffs behind Drum’s two goals.
No. 1 Penn-Trafford edged No. 4 Latrobe, 1-0, in the semifinal-round nightcap at Penn-Trafford.
The seniors on the FC squad have basked in the playoff experience the past two years. The juniors hope to make it three finals appearances in a row.
Players setting their sights on the 2022 postseason include Drum, Murton, Solomon, Bonidy, Eden Brush (F), Marley Pistella (MF) and Leah Kenyon (D).
All are juniors and will be joined in 2022 by this year’s sophomores, which include Nora Siri (GK), Annalese Bartolacci (M), Amelia Costello (M), Chloe Kim (D/F) and Mira Busch (D). Ava Persichetti (M/F) is a top freshman prospect.
Drum, with nine goals, and Bartolacci, with five, led the Foxes in scoring this season. Both clicked for five goals in section games.
“Our expectations are always very high,” said Humiston, who is assisted by her father, David. “We have returning starters and some skilled underclassmen with great potential and will be sure to take advantage of the offseason to continue to develop their skills.
“We are very proud of how far the girls have come this season and how hard they have worked. We went through some difficult games, but we used them to identify where we could improve rather than let them set the tone for our season.”