Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
As passes got pushed through the midfield and toward their goal in the first half Wednesday night, all Canon-McMillan’s players could do was scramble to clear any loose ball.
The strategy was effective in stopping any quality shots, but each time the Big Macs handed Peters Township a scoring chance – one the Indians take advantage of at a rate better than most teams in the WPIAL.
Fortunately for Canon-McMillan, it limited the damage, grabbed momentum in the second half and never looked back.
Peters Township capitalized on just one of 12 corner kicks, and Canon-McMillan freshman forward Addie Roman came off the bench to score the game-winning goal in overtime to defeat the Indians 2-1 in a battle of unbeaten teams.
After the Indians controlled play for four minutes of overtime, a deflected ball soared 15 yards from their net, ricocheted off Canon-McMillan junior striker Aideen O’Donoghue and laid idle in front of Roman, who fired it into the net to win the game for the Big Macs (6-0, 8-0).
“I honestly just saw the ball laying there after it went off of Aideen,” Roman said. “I just kicked it and it went in. It was a relief. I want to show these guys I can play with them, and they’re my best friends, so I wanted to help us win.”
After his team gave up seven corner kicks in the first half, C-M head coach Dave Derrico shifted personnel to win more battles in front of the net. Canon-McMillan worked on corner kicks the past two practices, but it did not matter.
Forward Regan LaVigna, one of three freshman starters for the Indians, gave Peters Township (5-1, 7-1) the early lead when she took advantage of the fifth corner kick of the first half, heading the ball in from Mariah Vucich in the 19th minute.
It was a similar narrative to the three meetings between the two teams last fall. In each, including the Big Macs’ WPIAL quarterfinal win, the winner was decided by a goal off a set piece.
“I told the team at the half that it was only one goal and I’m confident we can score two or three,” Derrico said. “They key was keeping it close. If it’s close, I know we can come back. Their offense is all about set pieces, so we expected it, but it was about intensity and effort.”
After the Big Macs earned the first corner kick of the match in the second minute, they did not have another one until the 33rd minute of the second half. They generated chances early in the second half before tying the score 1-1 in the 12th minute, when junior Cheyenne Trest forced a turnover in the midfield, sprinted up the field with the ball and fending off a defender along the way.
Trest then directed a touch pass to O’Donoghue, who one-timed it past Indians goalkeeper Reilly McGlumphy for her 10th goal of the season.
“I’m very pleased with my team with the exception of the final 20 minutes of the second half,” Peters Township head coach Pat Vereb said. “We dominated the first few minutes of overtime, but they have good finishers.”
Both teams entered the match tied for first place, and they had outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 94-5. They looked evenly matched for much of the first half with nice passing through the midfield and several outstanding defensive plays, but the Big Macs could not generate set pieces and allowed plenty.
Canon-McMillan junior striker Sabrina Bryan almost tied the match in the seventh minute of the second half when she gathered a pass from defender Ashlyn Whipple, collided with McGlumphy and had an open net, but by the time she found her footing, the ball was cleared by a defender.
The Big Macs also came close to grabbing the lead in the 35th minute of the second half when Whippple’s corner kick was headed into the arms of McGlumphy by senior Allie Thomas.
The momentum was enough for Canon-McMillan and after losing key players from last season, it was a freshman who sent them to a key section win over its biggest rival.
“(Addie) is a bull in a china shop,” Derrico said. “She may be inexperienced, but she has the ability and she’s strong. She’s hungry to score in every situation. That was a big goal for us.”