Lance Lysowski | Observer Reporter
Clutch goals separated Peters Township’s girls soccer team from a section title and a high seed in the WPIAL playoffs, but it’s nothing new. Since losing former Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year Veronica Latsko to an ACL injury more than two years ago, the Indians have been searching for offensive punch, and that will continue into the 2016 season.
After upsetting fifth-seeded Pine-Richland in the first round, the lack of offense finally caught up to the Indians.
Fourth-seeded Seneca Valley scored two goals in a little over two minutes early in the second half and never slowed down defeating 12th-seeded Peters Township, 4-0, in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal match at Canon-McMillan Wednesday night.
The Raiders (16-3), who are the two-time defending WPIAL champions, advance to the semifinals against top-seeded Norwin Monday at a site and time to be determined. It is the first time since 2002 that either the Peters Township’s boys or girls teams have not reached the semifinals.
“We probably had the better of play in the first half, but if you don’t capitalize it will catch up to you,” Peters Township head coach Pat Vereb said. “Not getting those goals has probably been our Achilles’ heel all year. We just don’t have the goal-scoring punch to take it to the next level.”
After a physical first half in which both teams were tentative on offense, the Raiders sustained possession and it paid off when sophomore midfielder Morgan Hoffman headed a cross into the net for a 1-0 lead in the second minute.
A little over one minute later, Hoffman stopped a ball from going out of bounds near midfield and made a quick lead pass to senior midfielder Sarah Anderson, who outran the ball, stopped and quickly made a shot from 15 yards for a 2-0 lead.
The Raiders put the game out of reach when Madeline Seibel punched a rebound in for a 3-0 advantage with 21:25 remaining. Midfielder Megan Majeski added another goal.
Peters Township junior striker Mia Toscano had an open look at the net three minutes later, but her hard and low shot was stopped. The Indians had two chances with less than eight minutes remaining, but Seneca Valley goalkeeper Jessica Pollaci made saves on hard shits from within 10 yards. It was the eighth postseason meeting between the programs with Seneca Valley holding a 5-3 edge, including two WPIAL title matches.
“Their teams are always fast and physical, but the difference is we were able to counter by scoring in the past,” Vereb said.
“After we went down 2-0, we pushed players up to get that goal and when you do that, it can either be 2-1 or 4-0.”
Neither team allowed more than three goals in a match all season and that defensive approach was obvious in the first half. The Raiders and Indians only had one shot each and the former had the only two corner kicks.
Peters Township almost struck first in the 16th minute when sophomore Breanne Latsko made a run on the ball down the sideline, made a cross inside the 18-yard box, but senior Erin Helbig’s turning kick went wide of the net.
Just over a minute later, Toscano’s shot rang off the football goal post’s cross bar.
The Raiders did not need an adjustment in the second half. Instead, head coach Dave Sylvester wanted to attack the Indians’ young defenders.
“They’re a good team and believe me, us and Peters have a long history going back to the 2009 title game,” Sylvester said. “We know their players are well-coached. I did’t expect this, but I did think we were a little better when I saw their first-round game.”
Sylvester’s forwards found space and finally broke through with the decisive first goal and never looked back.
“They do very well playing balls in the air and once we woke them up with that first goal we allow, it’s difficult to come back,” Vereb said.