Seneca Valley uses its head, edges PT girls for title
Seneca Valley’s Kalyn Serman, left, battles Peters Township’s Riley Partyka, middle, while Laurel Carpenter watches during the WPIAL Class AAA girls’ championship match in Pittsburgh.
Eleanor Bailey / The Almanac
PITTSBURGH – One year after losing the Class AAA WPIAL title to Peters Township on a late header goal, Seneca Valley flipped the script on the defending state champions.
Seneca Valley sophomore midfielder Caroline Miller scored on a header off a corner kick with three minutes remaining in regulation to defeat the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions, 1-0, Friday night at Highmark Stadium to win the WPIAL Class AAA championship.
“It’s amazing,” Miller said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. I can’t even describe it. After losing to them last year, it was amazing to get revenge.”
Peters Township played on its heels for the majority of the second half – losing possession to the Raiders in its own end time and again. Seneca Valley accumulated scoring chances on set pieces and finally capitalized on the team’s fifth corner kick of the game.
“I thought the first half was pretty even, and in the second half they kind of took control,” Peters Township head coach Pat Vereb said. “They’re so good in the air, they’re so physically strong. They just created a lot of pressure in our end. I really don’t think we were outplayed on the ground with ball as much as they are tremendous in the air.”
Raiders junior midfielder Alicia Hart’s corner kick was placed perfectly on net, where Miller was waiting. Miller struck the ball with her head; sending it past Peters Township senior goalkeeper Megan Parker with only three minutes remaining.
“They wore us out, basically,” Vereb said. “We struggled to get out of our end physically, and when you continue to give up corner kicks and throw ins, especially against a dangerous team, it will cost you.”
The first half was back and forth between the two teams, with the strongest opportunity in the 25th minute. Hart’s corner kick sailed to the far end of the goal. Miller was in position to give Seneca Valley the early 1-0 lead, but the ball bounced off her head and over the goal.
Both teams remained aggressive in the closing minutes of the first half, but defense trumped strong lead passes and set pieces.
The second half saw an immediate shift in momentum for Seneca Valley. The Raiders dominated time of possession and nearly capitalized on a corner kick 10 minutes in. Hart received a corner kick and shot a line drive to the front of the net. Parker snagged the kick around four opposing players to thwart the chance.
The tremendous save did not help the Indians’ offensive play. Forced to play without senior forward Emily Franty, who received two yellow cards in Peters Township’s 2-1 semifinal win over Bethal Park, the Indians’ offense could not gain ground. Errant passes on critical possessions were intercepted by the Raiders. In Franty’s absence, Vereb used defender Carly Johns and freshman Mia Toscano at forward.
It was more of the same for Peters Township, which has played all season without last year’s Observer-Reporter Girls Athlete of the Year and Virginia recruit Veronica Latsko, who tore a knee ligament, and Maddie Schwerzler, who broke her leg.
“Since those three kids weren’t in, we were moving people around and trying some new things,” said Vereb. “I’m still very, very proud that we took the game to the last four minutes.”
Latsko was named in the starting lineup of Friday night’s game. The senior, who is recovering from a torn ACL in her right knee, wore a soft brace on her knee during warm ups and did not play.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Peters Township forced a turnover and pushed the ball downfield. Johns split two defenders and received a pass – leaving her with only the goalie to beat, but the senior was pulled down to the field from behind. No foul was called and Seneca Valley gained possession. The Raiders scored 12 minutes later and sustained offensive pressure after the controversial call.
“It was rewarding, especially since we played so well against them early in the year,” Seneca Valley head coach Dave Sylvester said. “Pat is a good coach and they have a good program. I knew (Pat) would make some adjustments and that it would be tough. I hope Veronica gets healthy soon. She’s a good player.”