North Xtra: North Allegheny learning how to close out an opponent

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Starting a game was not often a problem for the North Allegheny girls soccer team last season ... it was finishing games where the Tigers would struggle.

Coming out of halftime, North Allegheny would sometimes appear flat last season and allow teams to claw their way back into games.

Through the first few weeks of the 2013 season, coach Danielle Borkowski -- her surname was Baginski last year -- has noticed a change, her team is coming out of halftimes with a killer instinct.

"They know they can't come out flat this year, we are doing the opposite this season," Borkowski said. "We come into the second half with a 2-1 lead and we keep the lead and put more points on the board. Last year they didn't do it, this year they are finally realizing that we can do this."

This new "second-half mentality" has been evident in North Allegheny's early season results. The Tigers won three games against District 10 teams, Borkowski's old stomping grounds. She formerly coached at McDowell in Millcreek just outside of Erie.

North Allegheny won, 2-1, at McDowell, defeated Villa Maria Academy, 5-0, and Mercyhurst Prep, 6-1.

The McDowell game was an early season challenge for North Allegheny. After a two-plus hour bus drive, the team played the game in hot and humid conditions.

"That was a challenge for our kids," Borkowski said. "To play in that heat and humidity after that bus ride, it could have gone either way."

In WPIAL action North Allegheny blasted Shaler Area, 7-0, in its Class AAA Section 2 opener and it won, 2-0, at Pine-Richland. On Saturday North Allegheny edged Franklin Regional in a non-section game at Hampton.

The Tigers defeated Butler Area, 2-0, Monday night and shared the section lead with Seneca Valley with a 7-0 overall record, 3-0 in section play. They were scheduled to play Hampton Wednesday night.

The group of seniors on the team were freshmen when Borkowski came to the program for the 2010 season after a brief stint at Norwin.

"These seniors are the kids I came in with," Borkowski said. "They really like each other, they are all friends and they have a good time with each other."

The Tigers have to replace their leading scorer from last season, Maddie Layman, who graduated, but they do return eight players who started a majority of the time last season,

Senior Maddie Martin is a returning starter in net.

"[Martin] is a leader," Borkowski said. "She positively reinforces the kids, she is the field general and she sees everything."

Sophomore Alexa Mermigas and senior Megan Van Kirk are returning starters in the midfield. Mermigas plays as an attacking midfielder and Van Kirk is an outside midfielder.

"Alexa can play wherever we need her," Borkowski said. "Alexa is like a lot of our kids, they just want to be on the field. Megan Van Kirk is really fast, and nobody knows how fast she is."

Martin, Mermigas and Van Kirk are the three senior captains on the team.

Senior Gabby McFarlane is a returning starter at center defender as is junior Emily Lyon. On her cup team, Lyon plays in goal but she plays a field position for North Allegheny. Lyon is a junior captain.

"Our defense is really solid this year," Borkowski said.

Junior Savana Yurick is a returning starter in the midfield. Borkowski said she has some of the best foot skills on the team and she has become more of a vocal player this year as a junior.

Sophomore forward Amanda Miller can join Mermigas and Yurick in the North Allegheny attack depending on how many forwards the Tigers are using at the time.



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