With seven returning starters and one incoming transfer with starting experience, the Penn-Trafford High School girls soccer team is loaded with talent, experience and goal-scoring ability.
The Warriors have nearly their entire midfield and defense back from a team that won the Class AAA Section 1 title with an 11-1 record last season.
The team's prospects were further bolstered with the addition of Italia Biondi, a transfer from Greensburg Central Catholic. She is a junior forward who was third in scoring for the WPIAL and PIAA Class A champion Centurions.
"It is huge adding her," coach Rick Nese said. "Judging by opening weekend, she was our most consistent and strongest player on the field."
It did not take Biondi long to make an impact. She scored a goal in a season-opening 3-0 win against South Park. In Penn-Trafford's second game of the season, a 1-0 loss to Bethel Park, Biondi had a goal called off because of offside. The Warriors (1-2) also lost a 2-1 decision Tuesday to Pine-Richland.
Penn-Trafford was well aware of Biondi's ability. In a non-section game last season Biondi scored two goals against Penn-Trafford in a 4-0 Greensburg Central Catholic win.
The jump from Class A to Class AAA has been no problem for Biondi. At Greensburg Central Catholic she would see a steady diet of Class AAA competition in non-section action.
"She plays at a high level," Nese said. "She is a goal-scorer, plain and simple. She has a great pace about her and she is relentless in her pursuit to try to win balls back when we don't have possession. She gets goal-scoring opportunities as a direct result of her work ethic."
Biondi and senior forward Jordan Beretta start atop the 4-4-2 formation in what is a new-look Penn-Trafford attack. The team graduated last season's top goal scorer Miranda Wallace. Beretta also scored against South Park as did Kristina Wallace, the younger sister of Miranda Wallace.
In the midfield, Penn-Trafford returns junior center midfielders, Casey Aunkst and Kristen Swope, junior outside midfielder Wallace and sophomore outside midfielder Maggie Mastrogiacoma. Mastrogiacoma can also play forward, she was second on the team in scoring last season.
Senior Michelle Ruoff will also start some games in the central midfield depending on the matchup.
On defense, senior Morgan Casario, junior Natalie DiPaolo and junior Karina Wallace all return and senior Kayla Novosel will also start after seeing significant playing time last season. Karina Wallace is Kristina's twin sister. In net is senior Kayla DiPaolo, Natalie's older sister.
"She is going to be one of the top goaltenders in the WPIAL," Nese said. "She is athletic, technically sound and she is brave."
The Section 1 race should be one of the most competitive in the WPIAL. Norwin, which finished second last season to Penn-Trafford, returns a majority of its starters and the Knights are ranked No. 1 by the Post-Gazette.
"It is going to be tough," Nese said. "Norwin didn't lose much and they have such a big program they can plug girls right in. It is going to be tough as usual, you can't take any breaks.