East Xtra: Plum sizzling out of the gate

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Last season it took the Plum High School girls soccer team until the 12th game of the season to record its sixth win -- this season the Mustangs cut the wait time in half and did it ASAP, winning six games in the fastest possible way ... in six games.

Plum carried a 6-0 overall record and 2-0 section record into its section showdown Wednesday night at Fox Chapel.

With a dynamic scoring attack led by senior forward Aaliyah Odom and sophomore center midfielder Ashley Amato and a stout defense anchored by senior Adalee Jacobs and junior Alexandra Gipson, the Mustangs have the look of a section title contender.

"The girls are playing well right now," coach Mike Proviano said. "All the work that we had put in during the offseason is paying off. They got off to a good start. We are moving the ball, putting the ball in the net and playing some good team soccer."

Plum opened its season by winning the Indiana tournament, defeating Hollidaysburg and Indiana by a combined 11-1.

"We have been rolling about 20 girls out there," Proviano said. "We have been playing a lot of players, trying to keep them fresh. The two games we played in Indiana, it was over 80 degrees. We've been using everyone and everyone has been contributing."

After the Indiana tournament, Plum opened section play with a 3-0 win at Oakland Catholic. In non-section play the Mustangs won, 2-1, at former section rival Franklin Regional and won, 3-1, against visiting Shaler Area.

Plum returned seven starters this year from a nine-win team a year ago. Plum went 6-4-2 in section play and was a distant third place behind Gateway (11-0-1) and Fox Chapel (10-2). Plum hopes to close that gap this year. In Proviano's four seasons at Plum, the Mustangs have yet to knock off the Foxes.

"Hopefully we can change that," Proviano said. "Fox Chapel, even though it lost to Hampton, is still the team to beat."

To close the gap in the section, Plum will rely heavily on the duo of Odom and Amato up top. Odom leads the team with eight goals and Amato has seven (through six games). Odom is the forward on top of the team's 4-5-1 formation and Amato plays right behind her in the midfield.

"Aaliyah has a lot of speed up top," Proviano said. "Ashley plays in the hole right behind her. Ashley is more of a playmaker. She can shoot and score from anywhere inside the 20. Aaliyah is a different player, both have great speed but Aaliyah is a flat-out finisher."

Odom led the team last season with 16 goals. Franklin Regional saw just how dangerous the scoring duo can be this season, Amato and Odom each scored their sixth goals of the season in a 2-1 Plum win at Franklin Regional.

The Plum backline features two of the top defenders in the area with Jacobs and Gipson. The duo are returning starters and both were selected to play for the Stars 'N Stripes U17 team that played in tournaments this summer in Sweden and Denmark.

The duo were selected for the team after an MLS assistant coach from Dallas, Ed Puskarich, spotted them during his annual summer training session with the team. Puskarich is originally a Peters Township resident.

Jacobs plays strictly defense while Gipson rotates between outside defender and outside midfielder. Gipson leads the team with five assists.

"Both have been tremendous," Proviano said.

The other returning starters are senior midfielder Amanda Zimmerman, sophomore outside midfielder Alyssa Proviano, sophomore goalie Chelsea Hubner and sophomore outside midfielder Nicolette Casarcia. The team was also bolstered by the addition of Maggie Krueger. The midfielder transferred to the school from the Philadelphia area.

Plum continued its section schedule Wednesday when it played host to Woodland Hills at 7 p.m.



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