Bob Orkwis | TribLive
All the offense in the WPIAL Class 4A girls soccer championship match between top-seeded North Allegheny and third-seeded Peters Township took place within a span of 22 seconds in the second half, so it was no surprise that the contest went into overtime.
In fact, the game Thursday night at Highmark Stadium needed a shootout to decide the winner, and the Tigers prevailed 2-1 to capture their third title in four years.
Lucia Wells, Sophia Palermo and Riley Cerqua scored for North Allegheny in the shootout, Bella Spergel and Christina Sefer found the net for the Indians and freshman goalkeeper Molly Kubistek made two saves, but it was three misfires that cost Peters Township. Two shots were sent high and wide and a third hit the crossbar as North Allegheny won 3-2 on penalty kicks.
“The girls (in the shootout) have worked on it before and have all been in those moments before,” said Tigers coach Chuck Kelley. “We just told them to trust themselves and pick a spot that they were going to go to.”
Ella Neupaver had the best opportunities in the first half, as the junior took three free kicks for Peters Township. It was the first chance that was the closest, as the shot narrowly missed, landing just on top of the net.
The game’s first goal came in the 58th minute when Peters Township took advantage of a misplay. Bliss Plummer fed the ball to Spergel, who was all alone in front of Tigers goalkeeper Natalie Rak.
Rak made two stops but couldn’t control the rebounds, and Spergel nudged the ball into the net for her third goal of the playoffs and 12th of the season.
The Tigers quickly tied the game when Wells netted her third goal of the playoffs off a feed from Anna Bundy. The Pitt recruit received the ball in the right side of the box and sent a right-footed shot inside the far post for her 28th goal of the year to make it 1-1.
“Thinking about that sequence, we could have cleared that,” said Kelley. “Natalie (Rak) made a good save on the first one. This is how we’ve been all year, a team scores on us and there is something that the girls want to prove, and they go out there and do it.”
Wells took a pass from Jadyn Coy in the 69th minute and got off a good shot, but Kubistek denied the senior forward with one of her seven saves.
Wells had another opportunity three minutes into the first overtime, which was again denied. Then Peters Township had two great opportunities that were stymied by defender Elianna Vitale. The sophomore cleared the first with a bicycle kick and stopped the second ball from going over the line with a sweeping save.
“She’s a great defender,” Kelly said of Vitale. “There were a lot of players during the game that had those moments when we needed them to stand up for us. She was fortunate enough to be in front of the goal on those, but they all contributed to this win for us.”
Junior Abigail Stager had two chances late in the first OT that were handled by Kubistek.
Both teams had corner kick opportunities in the second 15-minute overtime that were denied, with the Tigers getting back-to-back chances late, but through 110 minutes, the score stayed tied at 1-1 until the penalty kick shootout gave the Tigers their third girls soccer title.
According to Kelley, North Allegheny’s program has built itself up to championship expectations.
“The players each year come out with the attitude that they want to be the best team out there,” he said. “We’re not comparing ourselves to anybody in the past. For me, I’m grateful to be part of a program and a community that wants to strive to the highest peaks.”
Both North Allegheny and Peters Township will compete in the PIAA tournament.
The Tigers (20-1) will face the fourth-place finisher from District 3 at a site in District 7, while the Indians (11-2-2), will travel to face the winner of the subregional between District 6 champion Mifflin County and District 10 champion McDowell.
The state playoffs begin Tuesday.