The Mohawk High girls soccer team huddled in front of the right goal on their home field and started chanting.
“I believe that we just won.”
The sound echoed over the cheering Mohawk crowd as the Lady Warriors pulled together a 2-0 victory over Neshannock to win the WPIAL Section 1-A title last night.
Asheli Freed sent a free kick from Doreen Clark into the top right corner of the net in the 43rd minute for the first goal for Mohawk (12-1-1 section, 12-2-1 overall). Mackenzie Shaffer added insurance in the 55th minute when the ball came free in front of the crowded net.
The victory secured the first section title in Mohawk program history, a game after the Lady Warriors locked up a third-straight playoff spot in a win over Riverside on Monday.
“I just know that these girls have worked extremely hard for this all season,” Mohawk coach Lisa Kwolek said. “We didn’t stop after last season, we started straight into weightlifting and got out as soon as it was nice outside. These girls haven’t had a day off except for Sundays.
“I came into this game today so proud of what they’ve done. Second place or first place, I was proud of them, but tonight it paid off because this is what they’ve worked for all year long.”
Aliya Gage made seven saves in goal for Mohawk. The Lady Lancers (11-1-2, 12-2-2) had their chances, especially as the game drew to a close, but Gage stepped up in the spotlight to preserve the shutout.
“I wouldn’t trade her for the world,” Kwolek said. “I tell her all the time that she’s the world-class goalie, I’d sign her up for the World Cup team. She’s an athlete, she will just not give up on anything. She’s hard core.”
Madison McHale turned away four shots for the Lady Lancers on the other side of the field.
The last time the two sides met, they played to a 0-0 draw. But the bounces went the Lady Warriors’ way and they were able to capitalize on those chances.
“We’re two very equal teams, very evenly matched and they’re a great team,” Kwolek said. “We knew tonight that we had to bring it and I don’t know where they got that, but they dug down deep and they brought it.”
The Lady Lancers, a year removed from winning the section title, finished second in the section and had their repeat hopes dashed in the final regular-season game.
"I thought both teams played hard tonight,” Neshannock coach Brian McCarthy said. “We came up a bit short tonight in defending our section title, but that doesn't define our season. We will build on the many positives from this season, and we look forward to competing in the playoffs.”
The sting from the loss hurts, but the Lady Lancers’ focus now shifts to the playoffs. Neshannock lost in the first round to Seton-La Salle last year.
“They were disappointed,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been there before so we know what it feels like to be on the winning side and now we know what it feels like to be on the losing side. But we can’t dwell on this, we have to keep moving forward. We’re not going to change everything. We’re going to get back to working on Thursday and practice.”
The same goes for Mohawk, which can celebrate now but will have to prepare for its upcoming opponent, which will be announced Wednesday.
“We have to regroup and that’s what I’m going to tell them,” Kwolek said. “They’re a skilled team, they can go far in playoffs but we have to regroup. They’ve completed their win here, they won the section. They wanted nothing more than a banner in that gym for Mohawk soccer with this year on it. They’ve accomplished that and now we’re going to focus, now the next step is the playoffs.”