PITTSBURGH – Standing shoulder to shoulder with silver medals around their necks, the dejection, shock and despair that exuded from the young faces of the Peters Township High School girls soccer team was poignant.
Only a few minutes earlier, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that it would be WPIAL gold shining brightly in front of the Indians’ bleach-white jerseys.
That changed in a matter of seconds.
Trailing throughout the majority of the match, Seneca Valley scored on a free kick with only three seconds remaining in regulation, then used that momentum to score off of a corner kick less than two minutes into overtime to defeat Peters Township, 2-1, in the WPIAL Class 4A championship Saturday evening at Highmark Stadium.
“Of all of the untimely things to happen in the last minute of the game,” said Peters Township coach Pat Vereb, still in utter shock. “You really can’t ask more of your team.”
The free kick at the end of regulation was a result of a Peters Township hand ball at the top of the box. Creating a distraction by running a pair of players from right to left, then left to right, on the free kick, Breana Valentovish connected on a ball that took one hop and went into the lower left corner of the net, tying the match at 1-1.
Then, immediately after earning possession in overtime and getting a corner kick, Seneca Valley’s Lauren Sileo attacked the net to head home the game-winning goal on a ball played in by Mia Zec only 1:40 into the first overtime.
“We did everything we needed to do to win the game,” Vereb said. “Just a random, unfortunate situation on the free kick, then giving up that corner. From a mental side, it’s hard to bring the momentum back your way. It’s tough to regenerate yourself when you think you’re five seconds away from getting a gold medal.”
Peters Township (16-4) advances to the PIAA tournament to play District 10 champion Erie McDowell Tuesday at site and time to be determined.
It was the fifth championship for Seneca Valley (16-2) and first since 2014.
Thirty-two year coach Mark Perry, who is in his third season with Seneca Valley, knew how difficult an overtime session would be for Peters Township after immediately giving up the game-tying goal.
“That would be very hard,” Perry said. “We tried to use that to our advantage. They were still in shock because they were seconds away from celebrating. It’s definitely one of the crazier endings I’ve been a part of. When you score with less than five seconds, and less than two minutes into overtime, it’s like, ‘Where was this during the first 79 minutes?’”
Seneca Valley (16-2) had opportunities but Indians’ sophomore goalkeeper Emma Sawich made a handful of spectacular saves, including a pair within two minutes of one another to keep the game scoreless midway through the first half. Sawich jumped and punched a Valentovish shot destined to find room under the crossbar over the net and out of play with 21:30 left in the first half. A minute and a half later, Sawich made a diving save on a ball that found a tangled mess of feet in the box before a sneaky shot.
It was the best scoring chances for Seneca Valley the entire match.
“The back line (of defenders) and Emma kept us in games throughout the playoffs. They played as good as they could today. The goals were on set pieces, so it wasn’t during the run of play.”
Peters Township broke the scoreless tie when Chloe Trapanotto led Casey Brier with a pass to put her in on goal. She slid the ball under the Raiders’ goalkeeper with 5:44 left in the first half.
Brier was the second freshman to score in two games for Peters Township – Jillian Marvin scored the only goal to send the Indians to the championship match – as they tried filling the void left by leading goal scorer Regan LaVigna, who missed her second straight game after suffering a lower-body injury against Butler in the quarterfinals. LaVigna, a Youngstown State recruit, was in a walking boot and with crutches on the Peters Township sideline.
The Indians only had two seniors in their starting lineup.
“Their goalie made some great saves, and we didn’t capitalize on some chances,” Perry said. “We just had to keep plugging. We just kept attacking as much as we could. In a game of this caliber, you have to be desperate. I thought in the second half we were desperate.”