Incoming Gateway High School girls' soccer coach Kevin Sanders was sad to see Franklin Regional leave his team's section.
As a former assistant at Gateway, Sanders was familiar with the rivalry that existed between the two programs and how the teams prepared one another for the postseason.
The Gators still got a chance to play the Panthers in a non-section game to open the regular season and Sanders was not sad to see how his team performed.
Gateway knocked off Frank-lin Regional, 3-2, on Sept. 1 to solidify itself as the team to beat in Section 3-AAA.
"It stinks that we lost Franklin Regional [in the section grouping]. It sounds stupid to say you lost your section champ, but for us Franklin is a true rival in soccer," Sanders said. "We played good physical games."
The non-section contest this year was another good physical contest. Gateway scored just a few minutes into the game but Franklin Regional tied it at 1-1 about 10 minutes later. Gateway would score right before halftime to take a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.
Senior center midfielder Carly Seneca, sophomore forward Maggie Hilton and senior midfielder Danielle Kravits all scored goals for Gateway. Sanders says his team's performance against Franklin Regional in the 3-2 victory was more impressive than what his team did four days later in a 6-0 win at Woodland Hills.
"I thought we played better against Franklin Regional," Sanders said. "It was a real good test for us coming out of our two scrimmages. We made some mistakes but I thought we were strong in the middle and they were strong on the outside."
The outside remains a question for Sanders. Due to attrition from graduation and injuries, he has been forced to shuffle his lineup.
Sophomore Lizzie Pendice moved from outside midfield to outside defender to shore up a defense that was ravaged by injuries. She is the younger sister of former Gateway standout, Tina Pendice, an All-WPIAL selection her senior year and currently playing for Penn State-Behrend.
"Lizzie had a fantastic summer, she is doing good things for us," Sanders said. "She came out of camp as our number one outside mid but we had to move her to outside defense. We still have a big question to answer: Is that outside midfield going to get solidified? We don't know if we can be that team we need to be with our outside midfield situation."
An area that is much clearer for Gateway is its attacking situation where Seneca, an All-WPIAL player leads a scoring attack. Seneca scored five goals through the Gators' first three games, including a hat trick against Woodland Hills.
Hilton and fellow forward junior Emily Stevens are also part of the attack along with freshman Kayla Trozzi, who comes off the bench.
The progression of Hilton, Stevens and Trozzi has forced defenses to stay honest and not focus solely on shutting down Seneca.
"Carly hasn't really seen the so called 'junk defense,'" Sanders said. "We have been moving her around a little bit more. With Hilton's progression in the offseason and Emily Stevens and our freshman off the bench, they all have a different skill set and you can't just focus on Carly."
After defeating Penn Hills, 3-0, on Monday, the Gators will take a break from section play -- but not a break on the field -- when it visits Penn-Trafford tonight. The Gators resume section play on Monday on the road at Oakland Catholic.