Great goal-scorers find a way to score, even when facing a great defense.
That is exactly what Plum senior forward Aaliyah Odom has been able to do.
Fox Chapel's defense may be the best Odom plays against all season and Odom may well be one of the best strikers Fox Chapel plays against all season.
The Foxes conceded just five goals in 12 section matches and two of them came off the foot of Odom. In fact, for the entire season, Fox Chapel surrendered only eight goals in 17 matches.
Odom is the leading scorer for the Mustangs with 25 goals in 17 games and she has been a big reason why Plum is postseason bound. Plum finished the regular season 14-3, including a 9-3 mark in Class AAA Section 3 good for second place behind Fox Chapel (16-1-1, 11-0-1).
"She can fly, just absolutely fly," Plum coach Mike Proviano said. "She is not piling the goals up against the weaker teams, she is scoring against big-time teams."
Odom has generated collegiate interest from NCAA Division II programs, including Slippery Rock and California University of Pennsylvania, as well as from Division III Westminster. Proviano has been surprised there is not more interest by some colleges.
"Some colleges say she is too small to play there and I just laugh," Proviano said of Odom, who is 5 feet 3. "I say, 'Is she too fast?' I have been coaching high school for six years and soccer for 20 years. Schools passing her [in recruiting], I can't even believe it. To me it is mind-boggling."
Odom has held up this season, playing some of her best soccer against the bigger more physical teams.
"Fox Chapel is as big and physical as anyone," Proviano said.
Odom has been a consistent presence in the Plum lineup the past four seasons. Teams in the section have obviously taken notice of her.
"In our section, teams know how to play against her," Proviano said. "They try to lay off her and hang back because she is so fast."
Odom has been given a big boost this season by the play of sophomore midfielder Ashley Amato. She ranks second on the team with 16 goals.
"What we have now, that we didn't have before is a player like Ashley coming in behind Aaliyah," Proviano said. "Aaliyah can hold the ball and lay it off to Ashley to start the attack and work inside out."
The play of Amato along with junior midfielder Alexandra Gipson has allowed Odom to flourish.
"[Gipson] has a lot of speed, too, and she works the ball in nicely," Proviano said. "Ashley is just coming into her own. Here is a girl who played defense her whole life since she was 5 and last year I realized I didn't have a need on defense. I needed to score more goals and I moved her up and she has been so solid while learning the position."
Plum's section losses were against Fox Chapel (twice) and Penn Hills. In a 3-2 defeat to Penn Hills, Plum only allowed three shots. Penn Hills scored on a penalty kick and Plum had a goal called back.
"We had a rough loss against Penn Hills, we are hoping to get back on track heading into the playoffs," Proviano said. "We are excited right now for the playoffs."
The ability to play against bigger and more physical teams will be a key to how far Plum can advance in the playoffs. Last season Plum ran into a big, physical Seneca Valley team in the first round and lost, 3-0.
"Fox Chapel is one of the best teams in the WPIAL and it definitely helps us playing against them," Proviano said. "They are a physical team and the playoffs are real physical. We ran into that last year with Seneca Valley. They outmuscled us to a 3-0 win.
"We learned from that. Hopefully, we can build on our success [this season]."hssoccer
First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM