McMURRAY – On any given night in Section 2-AAAA girls soccer, anybody can win.
That statement got proven correctly Monday night, as first-place Peters Township fell to Upper St. Clair, 2-1, at home in a critical contest for the Panthers.
The Panthers (6-3, 7-3) avenged a 2-0 loss to Peters Township Sept. 8 and are now among the top three teams in the section. Moon is currently atop the section with a 7-1-2 mark after a 3-1 win over Canon-McMillan.
“This is a huge win for us,” USC coach Dave Gray said. “Every time we play Peters it’s going to be a battle. It was a typical Peters-St. Clair matchup and just a really back-and-forth match.”
The Indians are 7-2 in section and 9-2 overall.
“We didn’t capitalize when we were at our best in the first 20 minutes of the game,” Peters Township coach Patrick Vereb said. “We did everything right, but we just couldn’t get that opening goal. St. Clair and us are championship-level teams. Both schools have won a lot of titles over the years. They just got the better of the play tonight.”
Peters Township’s Hannah Stuck had an early breakaway just three minutes into the contest, but the USC defense was able to prevent a shot attempt after a defender bumped Stuck off track and corralled the loose ball.
The Panthers scored the opening goal at the 24:46 mark of the first half when Jane Madson found space and launched a shot from 26 yards that found the back of the net.
“We are huge rivals with Peters and to give them their second section loss was big,” Madson said. “It’s always a physical game when we play Peters. On my goal, I gave the ball a little touch and then kicked it with my laces. It got some air and kept on rising above the keeper.”
Both teams traded scoring chances over the next 10 minutes, but it was the visitors who were able to get their offense going when Emily Rocco crossed the ball in front of the net and Landy Mertz converted the scoring chance with a beautiful goal from in close.
USC led 2-0 at halftime and held a 7-3 advantage in shots.
“It was critical to get that first goal and play with the lead,” Gray said. “We are just calmer when we have a lead. We possessed the ball and I think we were able to slow down their scorers. I liked our spacing and I thought we were able to keep their scorers in front of us. It was fantastic and I really liked the play of our back line.”
In the second half, after registering some early chances, Peters Township was finally able to cash in when Regan LaVigna shot the ball from an awkward angle and it was able to sneak inside the post with 30:14 left in regulation.
Natalie Daube had the assist on the goal.
Things got a little bit chippy in the late stage as several fouls were called and Peters Township had two yellow cards in a span of a minute to slow down its momentum.
The Indians had one late surge in the final minutes, but the USC defense stiffened. LaVigna rang a shot off the crossbar and then Stuck just missed a header from in close for Peters’ final scoring chances.
“We didn’t really change anything at halftime,” Vereb said. “We played with more desperation and we understood that it was an 80-minute game. You have to be patient and wait for your moment. If you are scared of being down 2-0, you are not going to win a lot of championships. We were not intimidated by the deficit, we just ran out of time.”
“I have a feeling we might cross paths again in the playoffs.”
Juls Gianni secured the win in net for the Panthers with two saves, while Peters’ Emma Sawich suffered the loss in between the pipes with four stops.