One more time: C-M, PT play it again in soccer semifinals
Canon-McMillan’s Ivan Viveros, left, fights for possession with Peters Township’s Rylen Faloni in a match between rival schools earlier this season. The teams will meet again in a WPIAL Class AAA playoff game tonight.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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The dominance of Section 5-AAA in boys soccer continues. For the 13th year in a row, at least one team will reach the WPIAL finals and the section has produced six champions over that span.
The difference this season is the remarkable rivalry that will decide who will face either Upper St. Clair or Bethel Park in the title game. Peters Township and Canon-McMillan, two of the premiere soccer programs in the South Hills, will face off tonight at 8 p.m. at Chartiers Valley.
The Big Macs (16-2-2) will play the Indians for the third time this season with the last meeting fresh on the minds of Canon-McMillan. Leading 1-0 at halftime Oct. 8, the Big Macs allowed three unanswered goals in the second half to Peters Township – all the result of set pieces.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Canon-McMillan head coach Larry Fingers said. “The guys played so well in the first half, but Peters was super, super aggressive in the second half. That’s what made the difference in the game. They’re a very strong team.”
Peters Township has problems of their own on set pieces. While the Indians (15-3-2) have executed set pieces offensively, defending high school soccer’s most pivotal play has been a different story. On Oct. 10, with a share of the section title on the line, Peters Township allowed six goals to Upper St. Clair – five on set pieces.
“Since then, it has been a point of emphasis for us,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “(the Big Macs) are still the defending champs. They are still the champs until we knock them off.”
While both teams possess several scoring threats, including the Big Macs’ Josh Kruczek and the Indians’ frontline of the Mastrangelo brothers, the intriguing matchup will be in net. Canon-McMillan sophomore goalkeeper Christian Snatchko has 13 shutouts and he made several critical diving saves in the closing seconds of the Big Macs’ quarterfinal match against Fox Chapel.
The Foxes pressured Canon-McMillan until the clock struck zero, including a barrage of shots that Snatchko snagged in mid-air. The Big Macs’ keeper situation was not as clear-cut at the beginning of the season. Senior Alex Hanigan, who worked as the backup last season, competed with Snatchko and three other goalies in preseason workouts. Fingers had the tough decision of playing the inexperienced Snatchko or to go with Hanigan. Fortunately, Hanigan agreed to switch to defense; allowing Snatchko to take over in net. The move paid off.
Peters Township has senior leadership in net with goalkeeper Max O’Hare, who has not allowed a goal in the WPIAL playoffs, leading the Indians to shutouts against North Allegheny and Seneca Valley. The senior challenged Seneca Valley’s forwards on several scoring chances and neutralized attempts on corner kicks by catching the errant ball in front of his net.
“(Experience) is just knowing where to go and where to be,” O’Hare said. “I can count on my team to be where they need to be. It’s really just one big family.”
For the second year in a row, three teams in Section 5 have advanced to the semifinals. Last year, Kruczek scored the game-winning goal in the title game over Upper St. Clair to bring the championship to Canonsburg. The winner of tonight’s rivalry matchup will advance to the finals, which will be played at Highmark Stadium on the South Side of Pittsburgh either Friday or Saturday.
“Our program always has a bulls-eye, to anyone we play against,” Dyer said. “We have been in the semifinals now for a long time, many years. We always have a bulls-eye, but they have the biggest bulls-eye. They’re the champs. We’ll be gunning for them as much as they’ll be gunning for us.”