Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Peters Township entered its second round matchup against Seneca Valley with an offense that has scored 11 goals in four games. The trend continued Thursday night at North Allegheny High School as the Indians defeated No. 2 Seneca Valley, 2-0.
The first half was filled with scoring opportunities for both sides as each offense found passing lanes and created opportunities using creativity. Peters Township senior goalkeeper Max O’Hare made several critical saves in the half’s closing minutes, but it was junior forward Mario Mastrangelo who gave the Indians an early 1-0 lead.
Indians junior midfielder Ryan Ponchione received a throw-in and dribbled around a defender for several seconds before firing a cross pass in front of the Raiders’ goal. Mastrangelo struck the ball perfectly with his head, as it bounced off Seneca Valley’s goalkeeper’s hands and into the back of the net. The goal was the first the Raiders (15-3-1) have allowed since Oct. 10, when Seneca Valley defeated Butler, 4-1. The Raiders had only allowed seven goals in 18 games before the quarterfinal matchup.
“We talked about maintaining our discipline, keeping our shape and upping our effort,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “I think we chased the ball too much. We played them straight up and they were similar to what we have seen. The environment played a role in the first goal. A cold, wet ball slipped through his hands.”
Offense trumped defense as the speed of Peters Township’s offense tested Seneca Valley’s defenders early and often. The Indians continued their aggressive style of play with perfectly timed slide tackles and strong play on the back end; defending passing attempts and preventing strong scoring opportunities.
The Indians continued to pressure Seneca Valley in the second half with set pieces setting up several scoring chances. Less than six minutes into the half, junior midfielder Sean Harrison’s throw-in was almost headed into the net by junior forward Nico Mastrangelo, but the ball missed the open net by less than a foot.
Peters Township secured the win with 12:30 remaining, when Mario Mastrangelo made a perfect lead pass that allowed senior midfielder Troy Eskew to split two defenders. Eskew fought off his two pursuers; putting a shot past Seneca Valley goalkeeper Colton Smith for the goal.
“(Set pieces) are fantastic,” Peters Township head coach Bob Dyer said. “They have been a point of emphasis for us and today in high school soccer, they are critically important. More than half the goals are scored off set pieces.”
The Raiders did not register a shot on goal in the second half until 11 minutes remaining in the game, when a shot hit off the crossbar and O’Hare smothered another attempt. The Indians’ swarming style of defense did not allow Seneca Valley to find open passing lanes or room for a strong shots on goal.
The Indians (15-3-2) advance to the semifinals of the Class AAA WPIAL playoffs where they will meet a familiar foe Monday night: Canon-McMillan. On Oct. 8, Peters Township defeated the Big Macs with three unanswered goals in the second half – each scored by Mario Mastrangelo. The Section 5 rivals played to a scoreless tie Sept. 19. Victories by both Canon-McMillan and Peters Township extend the streak of at least one Section 5 team reaching the finals for 14 consecutive years, winning six times.
“As a senior, if you lose, you don’t have another chance,” Eskew said. “It’s do or die in the playoffs so it’s an amazing feeling. (Canon-McMillan) has been performing well this season and we are both gritty team so that’s what makes it fun.”