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New Wave: Freshmen Help Karns City Girls Soccer Team Win PA West Open Tournament for First Time in Four Years

Front row, from left are: Cecelia Morrow, Sophia Bonetto, Taylor Miller, Ally Callihan, Paige Dodd and Shali Slater. Top row, from left are: Bella Shields, Emily Griffiths, Hanna Dailey, Savanna Prescott, Emma Dailey, Sarah Dodd, Lexi Neff and Trinity McFarland.

KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Playing without one of its best players and with a slew of incoming freshmen on the pitch, the Karns City girls soccer team found itself down 3-0 in a pivotal PA West Open Tournament match at Edinboro University.

The Gremlins needed at least a tie to move on to the championship. And time was running out.

But one of those freshmen, Hanna Dailey, scored on a free kick to cut the lead to 3-1 against Tri-City in the U20 Silver Division semifinals.

Dailey scored again a few minutes later. Then with just 15 second remaining, she was taken down in the box to set up a penalty kick, which she buried to produce the tie Karns City needed to move on to the final.

“After Hanna scored that first free kick, that was kind of a boost for us,” said Karns City senior Emma Dailey, Hanna’s older sister. “We were like, ‘All right, we gotta go.’ Then Hanna gets fouled again and puts that one in, and we’re just ecstatic.

“So there’s 15 seconds left and emotions are running high,” Emma added. “The next thing we know Hanna gets taken out in the box.”

The first one to hover over the freshman, who was sprawled out on the Edinboro University field after taking contact, was Emma.

“She’s laying there like half-dead on the ground and I’m standing over her saying, ‘You have to get up. You need to take this PK,’” Emma said, laughing.

Hanna did. And she came through.

“I think that’s really a game where she proved herself to everyone,” Emma said. “It’s where she said, ‘I’m here to play and there’s nothing that anyone’s gonna do about it.’ When she scored and the whistle blew, we were like, ‘This is awesome! This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.’”

Karns City moved on to the final and beat West Mifflin, 1-0, for the hard-fought tournament win.

It was the first PA West championship for the Gremlins in four years and bodes well for the future.

Other freshmen stepped up in the tournament as well. Karns City was without its leading goal scorer from last season, McKenna Martin, who was suffering from a severe sunburn.

Tournaments like the PA West one are important for the Gremlins. They become battle-tested, playing against teams predominantly from District 7 and almost all from bigger schools than Karns City.

That’s been even more important litmus test this year with as many as a dozen freshmen on the 2022 roster.

Karns City is senior- and freshman-laden.

“The nice thing is the teams we play are almost all WPIAL teams, like Fox Chapel and Freeport and Norwin,” said Karns City girls soccer coach Tracy Dailey, who is also Hanna and Emma’s mother. “It’s a lot of teams from Pittsburgh way and it’s great competition. It’s great to go out and see that you can compete against those teams.”

Playing in U20 is also an experience. Karns City has played against teams in the past with rosters full of college players and held its own.

The Gremlins’ freshmen played this summer against much older opposition.

Coach Dailey was excited to see them play so well.

“We have a good group of freshmen who have played all year round,” the coach said.

Some of those freshmen will fill some key roles for Karns City this season. The Gremlins are coming off another District 9 Class 2A championship.

Karns City has made winning D9 crowns a regular occurrence over the last two-plus decades. The Gremlins have won nine of the last 10 titles and 23 of the last 27.

This may be the most dangerous KC team yet.

“I have watched these freshmen play since they were little because they all played with Hanna,” Emma Dailey said. “I’m very excited. This is probably the year we have the most depth ever. Our bench will be very deep with all the skills and all the different players we have. We’re all very close, which is good for team chemistry. We all respect each other — the seniors respect the freshmen and that’s important.

“I think the tournament in Edinboro was really a test of all those young ones, because they were going up against girls who were bigger, faster and stronger than them. I think there’s a great opportunity for them this season.”

Hanna got an eye-opening experience this summer, especially in the PA West tournament.

She had never played such a physical brand of soccer before.

“It helped me adjust to the physicality of it,” Hanna said. “I definitely struggled with it a bit. But once I got a few games under my belt, I think I was a lot better than I used to be.”

Tracy Dailey said that was probably the most beneficial aspect of the tournament overall. Sure, it was nice to win, but the experience of playing an intense brand of soccer against top competition was even more priceless.

“I’ll tell you, it’s definitely preparing them for what to expect,” Coach Dailey said. “You can tell them what it’s going to be like until you are blue in the face, but until they go out there and get knocked around, they won’t really know. Now they know. Hanna said when she came off the field, ‘I couldn’t even run and they were hitting me.’ That’s the type of game you play in high school.”

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