East Xtra: 'Surprise bonuses' helping Norwin girls rise in the rankings

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The No. 4-ranked Norwin High School girls' soccer team is all about the unexpected bonuses.

"They're further along than I thought they would be at the beginning of the season," said third-year coach Jeff Palm. "The team is continuing to improve from an already high point."

In 2011, Norwin had a 16-4 record and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals where the Knights' season ended in a loss to Upper St. Clair. This season, the Knights are a great mix of experienced veterans and new talents. Norwin is ready to begin its season tonight at Baldwin.

Junior goalkeeper Cayla Imbarlina is a key example of Norwin's 2012 "bonuses."

"She saw some limited time as a freshman and was out last year due to an injury," said Palm.

Nonetheless, Imbarlina did not allow any goals in Norwin's two preseason scrimmages against Mount Pleasant and Pine-Richland. Palm is excited about Imbarlina's solid abilities, even after missing a season.

Norwin's defensive backs will make it extra tough for opponents to score on Imbarlina this season.

"We lost our center back from last year due to graduation," said Palm "But our outside backs, Marissa Antrilli and Abby Churchfield, have had their positions locked down since their freshman years."

Antrilli is a senior who is already committed to play her college soccer at California University. Churchfield, a junior, is among several Norwin players who play club soccer on the Century United team. This club is known for producing players such as Peters Township standout Veronica Latsko, a junior who has already committed to the University of Virginia.

Freshman forward Micayla Livingston is among Norwin's latest offensive advantages.

"She's going to turn some heads," said Palm.

Junior forward Kara Batey will join the Knights' lineup this season after having sat out her sophomore season while rehabilitating an ACL injury.

"She practiced with us during her recovery time, but now she's fully healed and ready to go," said Palm.

Even as Norwin will be showing some surprises on the field, the Knights' veterans will be an essential part of the charge. Midfielders Rachel DelleFemine and Sierra Vecchio are back this year.

"Both of them are very talented players who control the middle of the field for us," Palm said.

DelleFemine, a senior, typically scores about 20 goals per season for Norwin. Vecchio, a junior, has a different role.

"[Vecchio] is not a goal-scorer. She basically controls the middle of the field, working the ball from the back to the front. She's a very good distributor," said Palm.

To add to Norwin's list of 2012 windfalls, Palm has been stressing added focus on teambuilding this year. They've gotten together for fundraisers and other off-the-field activities. As to their top-five ranking, the Knights aren't letting it affect their play.

"I try not to read too much into [the ranking]," said Palm. "I look at the other teams that are on it and almost all of those teams are on our schedule. So I'm glad we get to play those teams, but I try not to focus on the ranking."

The bottom line is that Norwin is going to use its resources (both new and pre-existing) to achieve its goals.



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