PT boys, girls have titles within reach
Peters Township’s Laurel Carpenter will need to play a key role if the Indians are to win a second consecutive WPIAL Class AAA championship tonight.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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Peters Township’s Riley Partyka juggles the ball during the game against Bethel Park.
Peters Township’s Troy Eskew wins a header in a WPIAL playoff game against North Allegheny last week.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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North Allegheny’s Steve Binnig and Peters Township’s Nicco Mastrangelo fight for control of the ball during the first half of the game Oct. 21. Mastrangelo is a key to PT’s offense.
Peters Township is home to two of the premiere high school soccer programs in the WPIAL.
The Indians’ boys and girls teams are playing for the WPIAL Class AAA championship tonight at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh. The task won’t be an easy one for either team.
The PT boys team will square off against Section 5 rival and defending PIAA champion Upper St. Clair at 8 p.m., and the PT girls will face Seneca Valley at 6 p.m.
The Indians (16-3-2) are all too familiar with the Panthers. In their last meeting, Peters Township dropped a 6-1 decision at Upper St. Clair Oct. 10 with five goals coming off set pieces. It was the Indians’ worst loss of the season. They alos lost a close match, 4-3, at home against the Panthers earlier in the season.
The Panthers (19-0-1) feature a dynamic scoring front featuring Joel Hart and Troye Kiernan, who have helped the Section 5 champions average a staggering five goals per game during Upper St. Clair’s undefeated season. The Panthers’ lone draw came against Canon-McMillan Sept. 10 after a second-half goal drew the game even.
“They are a monster right now,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “They’re a juggernaut. The good thing is that it’s not a best of three. It’s one game, eighty minutes. We’re going to figure some things out. They’re an incredibly dangerous team and one of the best teams I have seen in high school soccer.”
The Indians have the weapons to match Upper St. Clair’s offensive prowess. Junior forwards Nicco and Mario Mastrangelo use their unique chemistry to make plays, while constantly matching the other’s outstanding play. Nicco recorded a hat trick in Peters Township’s 4-1 semifinal win over Canon-McMillan Monday.
In no way are the Indians limited to the abilities of the two brothers. Sophomore midfielder Matt Massucci scored a pivotal goal in the win over the Big Macs – his second of the playoffs – while receiving his first start Monday.
“(Nicco) got the ball in good space though,” Dyer said. “He did the work, he scored the goals, but some kids put the ball in the right place for him. On the last goal, that’s a great serve from his brother to put him in space. Plus, we got a goal from a kid who hasn’t started all of playoffs, Matt Massucci. We needed to put him in that position, and he succeeded.”
Meanwhile, the Peters Township’s girls team has won two of the past three WPIAL Class AAA titles and three consecutive PIAA championships. This will also be the fifth consecutive WPIAL championship game appearance for the program. Despite the accolades and history of postseason success, the Indians were not sure they would be in position to defend both titles.
Peters Township’s top scorer and one of the perennial players in the WPIAL, Veronica Latsko, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. The Indians went 3-3-1 against teams that qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs after the injury, but responded when it mattered. Head coach Pat Vereb’s team has scored six goals in three games, including two wins that were decided by penalty kicks.
“They’re a very physical, athletic team,” Vereb said of Seneca Valley. “They play really hard and play the game at a frantic pace. It will be our job to slow the game down and sort of try to possess the ball and play the game the right way. I think we’ve almost played one extra game when you add the penalty kicks and the overtimes, so a lot of our girls who have not been in this position before are quickly getting acclimated to competing in a playoff environment.”
Seneca Valley (17-2-1) has not lost a game since Sept. 21, when the Raiders fell to North Allegheny, 1-0. Since then, they have registered six shutouts, including two this postseason against Canon-McMillan and Upper St. Clair. On Nov. 3 of last year, Seneca Valley lost in the WPIAL title game to Peters Township, 2-1 in overtime, and was knocked out of the PIAA playoffs by the Indians 1-0 in a rematch.
The Indians (16-4-1) have lost 10 players from last year’s state championship game, as well as Latsko to injury. As the team prepares to play under the bright lights of Highmark Stadium, Vereb believes nerves will not be an issue. Most of the players compete on high-level club teams and have a plethora postseason experience.
“Although a lot of our starters didn’t play in last year’s games, a lot of our roster was there,” Vereb said. “They have been around a lot of state championship or WPIAL championship games. They’ve been in the moment, so they aren’t overwhelmed by it. Once the game starts, they’ll settle down.”