North Xtra: North Allegheny girls soccer team is the cardiac kids

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Last year the North Allegheny girls' soccer team played in 13 one-goal games, many of which ended up in overtime.

Barely a third of the way through the regular season and it looks like there will be more nail biting this season for the Tigers.

North Allegheny was pushed to overtime in its first two section games. It defeated Shaler Area, 2-1, in double overtime and Pine-Richland, 3-2, in one overtime.

The overtime games might not be easy on coach Danielle Baginski, but she does not mind the comparisons to last year, considering her team made a run to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.

"I swear every time we play we go to overtime, I wouldn't expect anything less from my team. They like to go into overtime," Baginski said, laughing. "But eventually they pull it out. Hopefully we have learned from our mistakes and move on and do better."

North Allegheny (5-1, 3-1) owns non-section wins against Allderdice and Canon-McMillan while it lost to Seneca Valley and defeated Butler Area in Section 2-AAAA. NA was scheduled to visit Hampton on Wednesday.

"We started off really well and everyone is really excited," Baginski said.

North Allegheny's lone setback came against Seneca Valley, a team it struggled with last year in the regular season. Seneca Valley won, 4-1, in a game that was tied 1-1 right before halftime when the Raiders scored a goal to take the lead for good. Last season North Allegheny was outscored by Seneca Valley, 9-1, in the regular season but in the WPIAL quarterfinals it was North Allegheny springing a 5-1 upset.

Against Seneca Valley North Allegheny was forced to play without defensive leader, senior center back Emily Lyon. A junior varsity goalie a year ago, Lyon was forced into the field this year after wrist surgery.

"We really missed her [against Seneca Valley]," Baginski said. "She is kind of our leader. She is a tough player."

The Tigers had to replace 12 seniors but they have experienced in plugging in new players from an injury-plagued 2011 season.

"We had a lot of injuries with our seniors and we had those kids as freshmen and sophomores starting on varsity last year," Baginski said.

Junior goalie Madison Martin, junior defenders Christine Palmeri and Gabrielle McFarlane and sophomore defender Hannah Stoff are some of the players who received significant playing time last season. Palmeri started in the midfield a year ago before being moved to defense this year.

Sisters, sophomore Eleni Carr and senior Maria Carr, are two other players Baginski relies on. Maria is a returning starter while Eleni is a first-year player who missed last season with an injury.

"They are very different players," Baginski said. "Maria is more of a methodical player where Eleni thinks a little faster and takes the ball right at the [opposition]. Maria will pull it back and is more of a power forward where Eleni is a finesse forward. Having Eleni there this year has made Maria a better player."

Baginski is also high on sophomore center midfielder Savana Yurick.

The midfield is anchored by senior Maddie Layman, junior Megan Van Kirk and junior Alexa Mermigas.

Layman, Palmeri, Maria Carr and Martin are the team captains.

The Tigers are back in action on Saturday at the Hampton Invitational when they face Franklin Regional. hssoccer


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