Nicholas Tolomeo | Post Gazette
There was a changing of the guard this season with the Peters Township High School girls’ soccer team after seven seniors, all starters, graduated from last season’s PIAA championship team.
And after the new-look Indians were able to win a second-consecutive PIAA title on Saturday, there may be a changing of the guard in PIAA Class AAA girls’ soccer.
Peters Township’s second consecutive PIAA championship came against District 1 champion Pennridge.
Before last season, teams from District 1 had won 12 of the previous 13 PIAA Class AAA championships. Eleven of those championships were won against WPIAL teams and in those games District 1 teams outscored WPIAL competition by a combined margin of 28-2, a staggering total considering how competitive most state championship contests are.
“We showed that we can win states two years in a row with a completely different group of kids,” senior defender Brooke Smith said. Smith and senior forward Madison Creehan were the team captains. They were around last season when Peters Township won its state title with a 1-0 decision against District 12 representative Archbishop Wood of Philadelphia. This year it had to go through a perennial power from a perennial power district in Pennridge.
“It shows how far the program has come in five years,” Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said. “We just have that mentality that we are going to compete for championships. It also says a lot of Western Pennsylvania soccer. We are getting tired of hearing that we are the underdog and the better level of soccer is played out east. The statistics show otherwise.”
In the PIAA final it was sophomore forward Veronica Latsko who fought off two defenders and beat the Pennridge goalie on a highlight-reel goal in the first half to account for the only scoring. The Indians defense held off a furious Pennridge second-half attack to make sure the lead stood up.
“The goal was very, very typical of her tenacity and her will to win that separates her from the majority of players,” Vereb said. “Her work rate is so high and she just has that willingness to get it done.”
Peters Township finished the season 20-3-1. It won the Section 4-AAA title but it was unable to retain its WPIAL title after losing, 3-2, to Upper St. Clair in the championship game.
Instead of being a district champion, the Indians had to settle for knocking off district champions. In the state playoffs it beat City League champion Obama Academy, District 6 champion State College, WPIAL champion Upper St. Clair and District 1 champion Pennridge.
“The major difference this year, was last year there was so much build up and expectation for that senior class to graduate with a championship,” Vereb said. “They were able to come through.
“This group was so young and naivety when they started – they worked their way through it. It is like watching another group of kids open their Christmas presents, there was such an excitement level with this group of kids.”
This was nearly the state title that never happened. The playoff run for No. 1 overall seed and defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Peters Township was nearly over before it started.
After a first-round bye, Peters Township faced Moon in the WPIAL quarterfinals. With 18 minutes to play the Indians were down, 2-0.
“It clearly looked like the season was over,” Vereb recalled. “We thought we were going to be turning in our uniforms the next day. We basically just threw the kitchen sink at the them.”
Latsko came through with two goals in the waning minutes to tie the game and after a scoreless overtime session, the Indians won on penalty kicks.
“To have it all on the line with 18 minutes left, really shows the character of this group,” Vereb said.
A defense led by sophomore goalie Megan Parker, center backs Smith and junior Abbie LaVigna and outside backs, junior Morgan Creehan and freshman Carly Johns, shut out every opponent in all four rounds of the PIAA playoffs after allowing three goals in the WPIAL final.
“We made some critical mistakes and gave the game away in the WPIAL championship,” Vereb said. “We just refocused ourselves and said ‘We’re going to win the bigger medal on the bigger stage and see if we can repeat.'”