HEIDELBERG – The Peters Township girls soccer team’s streak of WPIAL championship game appearances continues.
It took 110 minutes and penalty kicks, but the Indians defeated Bethel Park, 2-1, in the Class AAA semifinals at Chartiers Valley High School Monday night.
Bethel Park dominated time of possession, but the Indians rose to the occasion when it counted. For the second time in five days, Peters Township’s playoff hopes rested on penalty kicks.
Indians senior goalkeeper Megan Parker stifled Bethel Park’s shooter with a diving save on the Black Hawks’ first attempt. Peters Township junior midfielder Laurel Carpenter followed with a strong shot that beat Black Hawks goalkeeper Tara Nath.
Indians defender Carly Johns and Riley Partyka added goals, and a shot by Bethel Park’s Molly Gorges that hit off the crossbar clinched the victory for Peters Township.
The Indians are in the WPIAL finals for the sixth year in a row.
Peters Township (16-4-1) will play Seneca Valley, a 3-0 winner over Upper St. Clair in the other semifinal, in the championship game Friday (6 p.m.) at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh.
“They certainly took it to us physically,” Peters Township head coach Pat Vereb said. “We were more organized defensively and once we were a man down, we had to take it to penalty kicks. We just didn’t have any energy left.”
The first overtime continued the chippy play of the first 80 minutes. After Peters Township’s bench received a red card late in the second half, Indians senior forward Emily Franty was issued her second yellow card of the game – leaving Peters Township shorthanded and disqualifying her from the WPIAL title game.
The call by the officials left the Indians one player down with more than six minutes remaining in the second overtime.
It only took one scoring opportunity in the first half for Peters Township to capitalize with an own goal. Bethel Park senior defender Jessica Horgan gathered a loose ball in front of Black Hawks’ net and played it back to Nath. The errant pass went beyond Nath’s reach and into the back of the net, as the Indians took the 1-0 lead with two minutes remaining.
Bethel Park (17-3-1) narrowly missed taking an early lead with less than three minutes into the game. Senior midfielder Tatiana Ruzzini, who leads the Black Hawks with 26 goals, received an outlet pass and drew the attention of two opposing defenders. Ruzzini quickly passed to senior midfielder Chelsea Conway with a wide-open net. Conway fired a shot that hit the crossbar and deflected out of play.
The Black Hawks dominated time of possession in the first half with several scoring opportunities created by Ruzzini’s speed and playmaking ability. The pressure on the Indians’ defense set up four corner kicks, but Parker made critical saves as the Black Hawks turned strong defensive play into offensive pressure.
“(The defense) really stepped up,” Parker said. “They have an amazing forward and the defense played her well. They didn’t give her anything and shut her down.”
With less than 30 minutes remaining, the fouls finally cost Peters Township. Black Hawks junior midfielder Halle Hammer drew a foul, setting up a throw-in for Bethel Park. Hammer gathered the tosss, dribbled around two defenders and beat Parker on a shot from 25 yards that snuck in at the far post to tie the score.
While the Indians have a roster featuring a plethora of postseason experience, a trip to Highmark is a new experience that Vereb is looking forward to.
“Playoffs and tournaments are different,” Vereb said. “Even for the ones who have playoff and championship experience, (Highmark Stadium) is new to them. It gives us an extra incentive to play for.”