Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Peters Township boys soccer coach Bob Dyer preaches discipline and execution on set pieces. During practices, the Indians set aside a chunk of time to work on the formation and execution of corner kicks, free kicks and throw-ins.
Along with outworking opponents and winning the “50-50” balls, Dyer demands perfection from Peters Township.
His team delivered Thursday night.
The Indians scored two first-half goals – both on set pieces – en route to a 4-0 victory over Bethel Park in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals at Elizabeth Forward High School.
No. 3 Peters Township (16-2) advances to the semifinals where it will face No.2 seed Central Catholic Monday at a site and time to be determined. The Black Hawks’ season ends with a 9-10-1 record. It was PT’s 15th shutout.
“It’s something we stress and practice offensively and defensively,” Dyer said of set pieces. “I know three of the four teams left in the playoffs are very good at them and that’s what it takes to win.”
The Indians’ formula is simple, but tough to combat – outwork opponents by collapsing on offensive players, get the ball deep in the opponents’ end and, of course, perfect set pieces.
After narrowly missing a goal off a throw-in, senior striker Nicco Mastrangelo gave Peters Township a 1-0 lead. Senior defender Sean Harrison’s throw-in bounced 10 yards in front of the net in the 15th minute. The awkward bounce had defenders scrambling, but Mastrangelo quickly found the loose ball and kicked it past Bethel Park goalkeeper Cory Wiard.
“We knew exactly what to expect from them, but we had too many matchup problems,” Bethel Park coach Mike Galietta said. “One thing we couldn’t afford to do was give up goals early because we started chasing and gave them more chances.”
Eight minutes later, the Indians increased their lead on another set piece. A foul gave senior midfielder Wes Ward a free kick from 19 yards, which landed near senior Ryan Ponchione, who quickly shot it into the open net for the two-goal lead.
The defending WPIAL champions have outscored opponents 60-4 with three of those goals coming from top-seeded Upper St. Clair. The Indians have carried their dominance into 2014 behind a quick attack up top and a defense that limits the opponent’s opportunities and creates turnovers.
“Our defense is very underrated,” Dyer said. “As they always say, offense wins games and defense wins championships. We stress it.”
Peters Township’s relentless play in the second half paid off for a 3-0 lead in the 57th minute when senior defender Jake Valley’s 25-yard lead pass allowed Ponchione to outrun the defense. Staying onside, Ponchione slowed down and tracked the ball. The goalkeeper left his net to challenge the loose ball, but Ponchione softly lofted the shot over the keeper’s head and into the net.
“Jake was directing me by giving the classic finger point of where to go,” Ponchione said. “I followed his lead and he made a perfect pass.”
Senior striker Mario Mastrangelo sealed the win in the 67th minute when he outran a defender to gather a lead pass. With the goalkeeper exiting the net to grab the ball, Mastrangelo slid and kicked the ball behind for the 4-0 lead.
“I feel we are clicking at a perfect time now,” Ponchione said. “I feel like we are ready to take on anyone.”